By Alex Lippa
---- — Vincent Ouellette is Haverhill’s man behind the scenes.
As the director of human services for the city, he ensures that programs in the Parks and Recreation Department, Council on Aging and Haverhill Youth Football all run smoothly.
He never draws attention to himself and seldom receives awards.
Recently however, Ouellette was recognized for some of the hard work he does. The Northeast Independent Living Program awarded with the Americans With Disabilities Act Champion Award. The award honors a person who has significantly improved the lives of people with disabilities.
“I’ve always had a lot of respect for them,” Ouellette said of the independent living program. “I was flattered when I learned I would be recognized with the award, but it’s really on behalf of all the people in the city who have worked hard.”
Ouellette was primarily recognized for his work in making the city’s parks and playgrounds more accessible to people with disabilities.
“Vinny was very proactive in his awareness and sensitivity towards people with disabilities,” said James Lyons, the community development director for the independent living program.
Ouellette has been involved in securing grants to improve the city’s parks and playgrounds. The city has started working on a $1.2 million overhaul to Swasey Field which was mostly paid for by a state Gateway City Parks Program grant. The city also recently built Washington Landing Park on the Bradford side of the Merrimack River, which was paid for by a state grant.
“We brought on (NILP) to survey all of our parks and playgrounds,” Ouellette said. “We had a five-year plan to insure that everything is handicapped accessible. We’ve taken measures over the years and we keep in touch with the ADA to see where we are at and what we still need to do. I think the award recognizes what we have done so far.”
Ouellette was responsible for installing a ramp so handicapped people would have access to Plug Pond, which has Haverhill’s only public beach. He has also provided handicapped accessibility to the city’s playgrounds so all kids will be able to get on the swings and slides.
Although Ouellette appreciates the recognition that comes with the award, he prefers to remain out of the spotlight.
“‘I always like to stay low key,” he said. “An awful lot of people do hard work, especially in helping disabled people. A lot of people are doing wonderful work and they deserve the recognition as well.”
The award has been given annually for 18 years to the local individual, organization, or community demonstrating exemplary handicapped accessibility compliance.