Demanding Safe Passage for Americans with Disabilities

Navigating the streets and sidewalks of the United States can be a
challenge even for an able-bodied pedestrian or cyclist. For people who
depend on wheelchairs to get around, the challenges are too often
insurmountable — nearly two decades since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Fortunately, the problem is beginning to get some more attention, in part because of the actions of advocates like those at the National Complete Streets Coalition, who are working to implement complete streets policies around the country and at the federal level.

4064803384_4ff0854ec4_b.jpgCurb cut to nowhere, near the spot where a driver killed a St. Louis woman using a wheelchair in the street.

But in too many American towns and cities, the disregard for people with disabilities is rampant. Today on the Streetsblog Network, we’ve got a post from Steve Patterson at Urban Review STL. Steve, whom we profiled
a couple of months back, had a severe hemorrhagic stroke almost two
years ago, and has been using a wheelchair to get around his downtown
St. Louis neighborhood. But even before his stroke, he was concerned
with the number of sidewalks that are impassable for wheelchair users,
forcing them into the street.

Yesterday, he marked a sad anniversary on his blog:

Four
years ago today Elizabeth Bansen was struck and killed by an SUV
as she returned home from the market two blocks east of her apartment.
Although the accident occurred around 6pm, the driver didn’t see Bansen
in
her wheelchair on the street.  On December 6th 2007 I posted on the
jury finding the city negligent in Bansen’s death since the sidewalks
were not passable.…

Yesterday I drove over to see the
couple of blocks along Delmar to see if the sidewalks between the
housing and the market were corrected.  Sadly, the situation is exactly
like I found it in December 2007.

In
Jackson, Mississippi, the situation is just as bad. There, one
persistent man — Dr. Scott Crawford — has worked to draw attention to
the pathetic condition of the local sidewalks.

We first heard about Crawford nearly a year ago through Transportation for America,
when he sent them some pictures documenting the lack of access to bus
stops for people with disabilities. Crawford’s advocacy got attention
from local news outlets. And just a few days ago he was featured in a major USA Today story about how the nation’s crumbling and inadequate sidewalks are putting wheelchair users at risk across the country.

Crawford,
who is a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit focused on forcing Jackson to
comply with the ADA, is a good example of how local advocates can move
the debate on an issue of vital importance. He’s a real inspiration.

  • Great story – illuminating a very troubling point. I have become a bit obsessed with noticing a very high amount of lack of curb cuts in the city of Los Angeles, making travel pretty impossible for those in wheelchairs and very challenging for those pushing strollers (among others) – I too would like to see this issue get more attention.

  • Erik G.

    An alliance of pedestrians, bicyclists and wheelchair users utilizing the teeth in the ADA, could do some important things for the future of sustainable transportation.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Portland's program will make several types of adaptive bikes available for short-term rentals. Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland via Better Bike-Share Partnership
STREETSBLOG USA

Portland — And Soon, Detroit — Bring Bike-Share to People With Disabilities

|
Riding a bicycle is too often thought of as an activity that's off-limits for many disabled people. And that has continued to be the case with the bike-share systems getting off the ground in several American cities, which provide standard bicycles meant for the able-bodied. But that's starting to change, thanks to a yearlong effort in Portland that's the first of its kind in the United States.