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Demanding Safe Passage for Americans with Disabilities

8:57 AM PST on November 3, 2009

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:

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

Yesterday I drove over to see thecouple of blocks along Delmar to see if the sidewalks between thehousing and the market were corrected.  Sadly, the situation is exactlylike 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.

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