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.

  • Impassable sidewalk in Rincon Hill for wheelchairs (or many baby strollers, for that matter) on the north side of Harrison Street between Fremont and Main Streets. On the north side of Harrison Street, in front of the US Postal Service’s Embarcadero Postal Center, there is a fenced off stairwell (unusable)that leads down to Beale Street below. Because of that stairwell, parents pushing their babies in a good number of types of strollers and all wheelchairs are unable to traverse Harrison Street from Main to Fremont Streets. A parking meter makes the passable space even more narrow, forcing parents to do tricky things with strollers to pass by to get down to the waterfront or up to their homes further up on Rincon Hill.

    ON the south side of Harrison Street, there is no continuous sidewalk between Main and Fremont at the point where Caltrans property begins (333 Harrison Street, approximately) to the Harrison Street exit ramp off of the Bay Bridge. Again, this puts people in harms way and does not provide wheelchair (or safe baby stroller) access to the sidwalk.

    I’ve noted it to the Planning Commission, DPW (who plans on repaving Harrison Street from Main to 8th Street soon without any pedestrian safety improvements), SFCTA, and others – I can understand that money is not plentiful, but come on … at least remove the stairwell on the north side of Harrison Street’s sidewalk to allow for strollers and wheelchairs to pass without problems or safety issues. I think the problem is that the USPS is outside of the City’s jurisdiction and the State (on the south side) is as well, so I don’t know what the resolution is … any advice to rinconhill@gmail.com is appreciated!

    So, yep … we’ve got a ways to go to comply with ADA …

  • zsolt

    That’s not a “curb cut to nowhere”. That’s a ramp for at least two great parking spots. I can’t believe the drivers of St. Louis are not snatching them up right away. SF drivers surely would have already.

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