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Dying In the Streets: Wheelchair Users Face Tragic Choices Nationwide

by Mary Johnson

The story of 40-year-old St. Louis resident Elizabeth Bansen, who was was struck and killed by an SUV on Nov. 2 as she drove her wheelchair in the street from a corner store near her home, is, tragically, far from an isolated incident.

On Sunday a Carmel Valley CA woman was hit and dragged by a vehicle as she traveled along the street. At the time of this writing, news reports had not identified the woman.

Two weeks ago, Thomos Lacy of Kountze, Texas died after being thrown several feet from his motorized scooter by a vehicle in what police have called a hit-and-run accident. The driver was intoxicated, say news reports.

In October, a Jacksonville, FL, man was killed while driving his wheelchair in the street -- the vehicle's driver wasn't at fault there either, said police. (Read story.)

Last January, Garden Grove CA resident Anita Plunkett was hit by a car while crossing an intersection, while across the country in The Bronx, Juan Jimenez was mowed down by a late-model black Mitsubishi sport-utility vehicle.

In February, Patricia Hofer was struck by a black pickup truck on West State St. in Rockford IL while wheeling down a dark street. There are no actual sidewalks in the area, and it was raining," police told reporters. The driver was not cited.

Last summer, 76-year-old Addison Whipple of Fullerton CA was killed when he was struck by a minivan while traveling along Almond St. in his motorized wheelchair. The driver was not charged. A year earlier, Hubert McDonald, on his way to the Veteran's Administration in Fayetteville NC, driving down the street in his wheelchair, was hit and killed -- ironically, by a driver who was also a wheelchair user.

From the February 12, 2005 Orange County (CA) Register:

Recent wheelchair-user deaths
Died: Jan. 20
Details: Young was strong-arming her wheelchair up Broadway Street in Costa Mesa at night when a motorist passing through an intersection at Westminster Avenue struck her, throwing Young about 100 feet.
The motorist, a 27-year-old Newport Beach man, told police he never saw Young. He was not cited.
Died: Nov. 6
Details: Nguyen was struck and killed while walking his wheelchair across the middle of a street in Westminster in the predawn hours. Police are still looking for the driver, who they say should have seen Nguyen crossing Hazard Avenue west of Stratir Place.
Died: Oct. 20
Details: Gilmore, a student at Cal State Fullerton, was hit while piloting his motorized wheelchair under rainy skies through a marked crosswalk on Nutwood Avenue at Titan Drive in Fullerton. The driver, a 22-year-old Placentia woman, was not cited.

Wheelchair users nationwide risk their lives daily by being forced into the street because their communities, despite the Americans with Disabilities Act, have not bothered to install curb cuts or maintain sidewalks.

In St. Louis, Bansen was unable to travel on the sidewalk near her home, so she took to the street.

"Much of the sidewalk along Bansen's three-block route is either broken or choked with weeds," wrote Jeremy Kohler of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "Curb ramps are absent in key places, blocking access to the few passable stretches." (Read Path of resistance from the Nov. 10, 2005 St. Louis Post-Dispatch).

But that story didn't come for a full week after Bansen's death. Early reports said police did not know why she had been driving in the street on St. Louis's "busy Delmar Boulevard."

Wheelchair user Kerri Morgan was frustrated by early reports of Bansen's death. "It was driving me crazy. In the reports in the radio, TV and newspaper about this woman in the middle of the street, why would she be in the middle of the street?" Morgan told KDSK-TV News that she figured it was the bad sidewalk. But that issue didn't surface until later.

Finally, angry disability rights activists began to speak out about the death.

"If this was something that the public cared about, Lisi Bansen wouldn't have had to wheel in the street," Colleen Starkloff, of the St. Louis-based Starkloff Disability Institute told reporters. "Our policymakers need to be aware of this and they need to get on it right away so we don't have people dying as they try to go about their day-to-day business."

No one had filed a complaint about the lack of curb cuts along Bensen's street, said police. Starkloff called that response 'a poor excuse."

The driver, Arnold Booker, told police he did not see Bansen.

Bansen's death is just the latest in a continuing litany.

No national statistics are compiled on the numbers of wheelchair riders' deaths caused by inaccessible sidewalks. No national group monitors these incidents. And far too many communities ignore legal requirements to install and maintain sidewalks, virtually ensuring that sooner or later some wheelchair rider, forced into the street, will meet with an accident or death.

In March, 2001, Fresno, CA wheelchair user Elias Gutierrez was killed when he was struck by a car as he was traveling in his power wheelchair next to the curb on Palm Avenue near Cornell. There were no curb cuts available to allow him to get onto the sidewalk. For more than a year, the 60-year-old activist had been complaining about the lack of sidewalks with curb ramps in the areas where he had to travel, saying he was being forced into the streets to travel to shopping and to visit friends. "It's our worst nightmare," Fresno disability activist Ed Eames said. Gutierrez had "become the victim of this city's wanton lack of concern with the issue of making sidewalks a safe haven for people in wheelchairs," said Eames.

The evening of Gutierrez's death, Fresno television stations broadcast the image of an overturned wheelchair on the sidewalk of Palm, and a single shoe in the street.

In communities where there are activist disability groups drawing attention to the issue, as in St. Louis and Fresno, some attention is paid to the issue. Perhaps, even, curb cuts become a priority. But in most U.S. communities, the deaths pass with little outcry.

And in what can only be called a bigoted double-whammy, wheelchair users often risk arrest for traveling the streets in their wheelchairs. Local communities' responses to the "problem" of wheelchairs in the street is not to provide curb ramps and safe sidewalks but to cite and ticket them for operating an unlicensed vehicle in the roadway.

in October, 2003, 14-year-old Bryce Wiley ran afoul of the law in Laurens IA when he drove his wheelchair in the street -- local law prohibited "personal transportation vehicles" -- and planned to fine him $15 until publicity got them to drop the charges. (The town, ironically, got its 15 minutes of fame in the movie "The Straight Story," about Laurens resident Alvin Straight, who drove his riding mower across Iowa to visit his dying brother.) Bryce Wiley was in the street, it turned out, because the town had not bothered yet to install curb ramps to its sidewalks.

In Alabama that same month, Betty Ingram ran up against police in Muscle Shoals as she wheeled down the highway; the next month, Denise Gilmore told of similar harassment in California.

Yet a Meadville PA man who sued his city over the lack of curb cuts was reportedly harrassed by fellow citizens, who evidently did not approve of his taking the city to court.

Perhaps the most famous case of someone harrassed for riding a wheelchair in the street because of missing curb cuts and bad sidewalks was Kelly Dillery of Sandusky, Ohio, who was repeatedly cited -- and arrested -- in the late 1990s for driving her wheelchair in the street. Disability rights advocates rallied to her cause. A lawsuit was filed against Sandusky, charging that the city violated Title 2 of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The city appealed, asserting that Title 2 was "not enforceable as a private cause of action." The Sixth Circuit finally overruled the city's appeal, telling Sandusky that "Title II does not merely prohibit intentional discrimination. It also imposes on public entities the requirement that they provide ... meaningful access to public services. (The case was Ability Center of Greater Toledo, et al., v. City of Sandusky). More on the case from The Ability Center.

Disability groups continue to sue communities over a lack of curb cuts -- a suit was filed against Vacaville, CA in the spring of 2004; the previous year, the U.S. Supreme Court had refused to hear an appeal from Sacramento over a lower court decision that required it to make its sidewalks accessible.

And just a few weeks ago, the Michigan Paralyzed Veterans took Detroit to court over the same problem -- missing or poorly constructed curb cuts. (Read more.)

The problem is that these suits are spotty and infrequent. There's no nationally coordinated effort to require cities to install curb cuts and maintain sidewalks. And in many cases, even when a lawsuit is won, it's a long time before a city gets around to putting in the curb cuts, or doing them correctly. Money is always the excuse.

Meanwhile, people continue to die. And most commuities, like St. Louis, have no idea why disabled people drive their wheelchairs in the street, or realize that disabled people are dying nationwide while city councils wring their hands over the requirement for curb cuts.

See also: (Wheelchair "scooter" users nationwide have pressed their communities for sidewalks and safer highways)

Mary Johnson edits Ragged Edge.


I live near St. Louis and the minute I heard the preliminary story about the death of the gal in the wheelchair I told my husband "I'll bet that there weren't any curb cuts in the sidewalks." The next day, the news reported that was the case.
Since then I've heard nothing. It's pathetic. I've written all of the local news agencies about the way they cover disability issues. Only once have I gotten a reply. It's sad but I'll keep at them.
When we picketed at the state capitol about Medicaid cuts, the story was buried below some lame story about dogs. I called the TV station on it and reminded them that their priorities were messed up. They apologized but once again, they're burying these kinds of stories.
It's a dirty job but I'll keep at them. We all have to.

Two words: Common sense. When the driver or street design is negligent, then fault is properly relegated to the motorist or government. But, in many of these cases, the wheelchair user is the negligent party. The same issue crops up with bicycle riders. Feeling 'special,' they often disobey traffic laws and get injured or killed as a result. I think an education campaign for wheelchair users would do a lot more good than gigabytes of whining when a person in a wheelchair gets smushed because he or she was not using common sense.

As for the curb cut issue, it is a trade-off a person makes when he chooses to live in an undeveloped or rural area, like unpaved streets. The responsibility is usually on developers and homeowners to pay for such improvements, not governments. Neighborhoods often refuse. A mobility impaired person can practice self-help by living, working and doing business in areas with improved sidewalks and roads.

Dear Ms. Gordon,
I am appalled at the attitude that you take in your comments related to the issue of curb cuts and the fact that a person "chooses" to live in an impoverished area. My guess from your response is that life has been pretty good to you, and you grew up on the "nice" side of town. Regardless of whether or not that you have experienced a disability in your lifetime is a mute point; as long as you have been able to make the "choice" to live in a "nice" neighborhood, then you are doing everything possible to take care of yourself, and for that you should be eternally grateful.
Amazingly enough, many of the individuals who "choose" to live in poverty, are not able to just stand up and brush themselves off and decide to move across town where the law-obiding people respect the traffic laws (such as crosswalks). Many of the individuals I work with EVERY DAY experience major daily achievements such as independently picking up a prescription at a local pharmacy, or purchasing their own groceries without having to rely on "able-bodied" people for transportation. This doesn't even include finding a job! For some people, just getting around day-to-day on an independent basis is a huge struggle, much less being able to make the choice to live (and AFFORD to live) where the roads are nicely paved.

Regarding June Gordon's remarks:

One word: nonsense.

There are lots of impassable sidewalks, missing curb cuts, in cities that are well developed. Sidewalks that do have access sometimes have that access taken away, such as the situation here in Boston, where serviceable concrete sidewalks are blasted up and replaced with awful bricks.

I know someone who moved into her apartment in order to benefit by the access along Huntington Avenue, and now that access has been taken away. She has tried practicing "self-help" by protesting, going to meetings, etc. I wonder what "choice" she should make now.

Many people who live in rural or undeveloped areas become mobility impaired. It will even happen to June Gordon, unless she gets hit by a bus first.

Arguments that treat "choice" as if everyone had lots of money, lots of housing was available wherever people wanted it, and information was equally available to everyone, are amazingly naïve and self-serving.

People with disabilities have the civil right to access, and it is being denied to us. People are getting killed in the streets.

June Gordon said in part:

"But, in many of these cases, the wheelchair user is the negligent party. The same issue crops up with bicycle riders. Feeling 'special,' they often disobey traffic laws and get injured or killed as a result."

Really? Many?? Which ones? Please point them out in the stories above, including mine and also in those of the 'dead' er as you put it in your 'common sense self helping' language the "smushed" (that you must get a kick out of--you little rascal you!) so that I too can have my eyes opened like yours.

It suddenly dawned on me that you must know what "feeling special" feels like since you've been the only one, even after reading all the news articles, that has mentioned that particular feeling. Please elucidate how that must feel.

Also, was it your 'self help' classes or your 'common sense' or a combination of the two that taught you that word? You know...."smushed?" Or did you get that from an 'education campaign for the non wheelchair users' to get on here wasting gigabytes of whining when a person in a wheelchair gets smushed because he or she was trying to live their life and stand up for their rights in an oppressive society that most often, as June Gordon describes it 'feeling special,' blatantly disobeys the Federal Laws of the ADA. Resulting in lawsuits, although not often enough, or ending up on sites like this showing themselves most disrespectful of the dead.

Sincerely and not smushed yet--whew! (see I'm learnin'!)

Denise Gilmore

Looking down the nose of an SUV from a wheelchair is, sadly, not an experience limited to rural areas - which, btw , I reserve the right to live in if I want to. It is, however, terrifying. It happens because there are no curbcuts, they are badly placed, constructed or maintained, and on and on. It happens because the majority of the world has never sat and thinks it will never sit on a wheelchair cushion.
I have worked to improve curbcuts in different areas, including where I live. If I visit an area, I feel a sense of responsibility to report safety issues and follow through. I refuse to limit where I live or work because those who can walk and do not share this issue don;t want to be bothered by it. I dont feel guilty that it costs money or it takes peoples' time. I feel that I am helping others with disabilities by speaking up. Near death experiences that result from trying to cross a street are an unnecessary occurrence. Tragic deaths like these are a disgrace and a slap in the face to people with disabilities.

In the 1990's, the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association (EPVA, now known as United Spinal Association) in NYC sued the City of New York over the lack of curb curbs and the lack of a plan to make them. The lawsuit languished for 8 or so years during the Giuliani administration and was settled about 3 or 4 years ago after Michael Bloomberg became mayor. But many intersections are deemed to be "complex" and may never be done. In addition, when streets are milled (scraped) and repaved, the Dept. of Transportation often does not make the new paving meet the curb cut that is already there, creating a little step.

I have two friends who have been hit by cars and trucks several times already as they were legally crossing a street, especially a side street by a vehicle carelessly turning into it. I live with the fear of having that happen to me, adding to my naturally occuring disability.

Regarding June Gordon's comments - in my sister Lisi's case, it wasn't a matter of 'choosing' to live in an area with or without curb cuts. Some - but not all - of the intersections in her neighborhood had curb cuts. At the intersection at which she was killed, one side of the street had a curb cut, the side to which she was going did not. The sidewalk on one side of the street was deteriorated to the point of being impassable for someone in a wheelchair.

The facts simply don't support your premise that disabled people are travelling in the street by choice. Furthermore, the idea that mobility impaired people can select the areas in which they live, work and do business and thereby help themselves demonstrates a real lack of understanding or imagination. Mobility impaired people live where they can afford to live, work where employment is available to them and do business in the same places that everyone else does. Some have the affluence and the mobility to be choosier about where they live and shop than others, but most disabled people don't occupy a particularly privileged sector of the economy. To suggest that disabled people are a powerful market force and that by 'voting with their feet' (or perhaps their wheels) entire neighborhoods and business districts will be transformed is patently ridiculous.

To say that someone in a wheelchair who travels from one place to another in the street - because that is the only option available to them - lacks common sense is incorrect and insulting. In Lisi's case, she was crossing the street so that she could either use a sidewalk that was passable or travel in the street facing traffic - both of which demonstrate an abundance of common sense.

Both the driver and the city bear responsibility in this case. The driver was approaching a red light on a broad, flat street where you can see for many blocks. He somehow ran down a tall woman in a bright orange wheelchair within a couple of car lengths of the traffic light. He says that he didn't see her. Would he have seen a person walking, a bicyclist, a dog, a police officer? We'll never know. Maybe his attention was diverted by something else. Maybe people in cars just don't see people in wheelchairs.

Is it 'common sense' to blame the person in the wheelchair - the victim - for the city's failure to provide curb cuts or a reasonably maintained sidewalk? Is it common sense to blame someone crossing the street with the light for being run down by an inattentive driver?

Does it demonstrate common sense to blame the victim for not living in a more affluent, newer area of town where better infrastructure is provided for people with disabilities?

Common sense is that a community should provide safe sidewalks and intersections for ALL of its residents, not just those who can walk or those who live in the more affluent areas.

Common sense is operators of motor vehicles paying enough attention the road ahead to avoid collisions with stationary or slow moving people or objects.

Finally, common sense is not blaming the victim.

Ms. Gordon's comments, although close-minded and uneducated, I imagine are typical of a lot of people's responses to articles like this one. Those stupid gimps, why don't they just get out of the road? What makes them so freakin' special?Why don't they live in better neighborhoods? Why don't they complain about sidewalks so they'll be fixed up?

Most people in wheelchairs have lower incomes. There's hardly a way around it, with discrimation and financial barriers making life extremely difficult. Lower income people are going to live in areas with lower income housing, which are going to have crappy roads and sidewalks. The places they go to shop are going to have crappy sidewalks and roads too. From my experience as a wheelchair user, the best of neighborhoods often have access that is barely acceptable. Even a perfect looking curb cut could have been too steep for this woman killed to have gone up.

People who use wheelchairs risk their lives in the streets all the time, through no fault of their own. I have a wheelchair ramp for my van that is too long for most handicap spaces to allow me to exit it. That means I have to park at the end of a lot and get out into the street sometimes. A lot of times I have encountered an absence of curb cuts, sometimes in swanky areas, and have had to use the street. I use the street every day at my job to get from my administrative building to a courthouse downtown, because the sidewalk in front of the courthouse has a crumbling and too steep curb cut. If I try using it, I get stuck leaning back in the air, unable to move. If I get killed in front of the police station, does that make me stupid? Should I get another job?

Asking for people to just make some curb cuts that won't kill people with disabilities - apparently it is just too much to ask. Viewpoints like yours make me feel like there are a lot of people out there that would rather see us dead than go to the trouble of shelling out a few dollars.

Two elephants in the room here are accessible housing and public transportation.
Unless a person has enough money to modify their house, acessible housing is often limited to segregated public housing for people with disabilities in poor neighborhoods.
St. Louis has been fighting public transportation battles endlessly.
This complicates the issue further.
On the other hand, things get much more complicated as our baby boomers age. I saw a t-shirt with an evolutionary progression on it where the last image was the universal disability symbol.
More and more neighborhoods will be needing housing modifications, sidewalks, curbcuts, and buses.

....doesn't do a lot of good to have nice curb cuts,when the stores and everything are inaccessable. there looks to be only two places in our tiny Midwest town that are nominally accessable,and of those two,only the clinic really is,but it is out on the edge of town,while the pharmacy is accessable only if you are lucky enough to have a car/van and are able to snag the only handicap spot. if not,then you have to somehow push your chair along a rutted dirt alley,and across the "gravel" (golf ball sized),to get to the door,and then figure how to get the door open by yourself at the top of the ramp...not enough room and all the rest. oh,the city put in curb cuts,all right....but in most of the town the sidewalks are so broken that it isn't possible to push over the busted parts,and even with a service dog's help,i can't even go around my block for exercise. my husband and i were discussing taking out a loan for a scooter for me,but since there is no way to get into any of the shops here,whats the point? the only ones here who use the nice new curb cuts are the kids who rollerblade and bike ride on the sidewalks....

....Frustrated in the Midwest

I too am appalled at the attitude displayed by Ms. Gordon. I live here in So. St. Louis, and I was very unhappy to hear of the death of Lis.

Your comment : "A mobility impaired person can practice self-help by living, working and doing business in areas with improved sidewalks and roads."

Question to Ms. Gordon: If a person is born with a disability, should the parents move to an "better area" even though supporting that individual cost alot of money? If a person becomes disabled during their life due to an accident, or illness, should they move to a rural area? They have to wait 3 months before disability payment come in. That person has to deal with the everyday struggles including mobility issues.

I work in C. C. with individuals who have mobility issues and believe me, rural areas are no better. Here, some sidewalk do not have ramps, and some areas do not have sidewalks at all. Perhaps your unspoken words are that flags, lights, sirens and whatnots should be installed on the wheelchairs to make them more visable to individuals like yourself. But all this will come from monthly SSI payments (which will reduce their income)

Ms. Gordon, please practice an exercise, imagine your Liz in a wheelchair and you need to go somewhere. What would you do?

Another issue, because those individuals receive minamal SSI payments, the homes around you would become Federally Subsidized homes in order to become afordable to those disabled individuals. (Honestly, would you welcome your new disabled neighbor?)

Wow -- I feel grateful that I live in
a suburb of Cincinnati; Montgomery,
where there are consistent nice side-
walks and curb cuts. I dismiss Ms. Gordon's
antics as being ignorant bullshit.

We SHOULD be guaranteed the right to
curb cuts and decent sidewalks - no matter what!


This is to Ms. Gordon, and anyone else that shares her opinion. We were living in a "nicer" neighborhood and had a nice home, a good job, with great benefits, swimming pool in our backyard, the good life. Then in an instant, we were in a motor vehicle accident. I won't bore you with the details other than to say that is wasn't our fault. Even the accident report says this. I had health insurance through work, full coverage on my vehicle, all bases covered right? WRONG!

In an instant I found myself in a wheelchair with limited use of my left arm & hand. The medical bills to save my life soon maxed both my insurances, and left us with massive debt besides. Was my life "too expensive to be worth it"? Should they just have let me die? If you follow that thinking, how long before YOU are "just not worth it? My income due to my inability to work, has been reduced to Social Security, a considerable cut to say the least. Due to this we will soon lose our house, and due to the medical bills we cannot buy a house, let alone in a "better neighborhood". We will have to live wherever I can afford to. Why doesn't my wife get a job? you probably wonder? She's blind! Will you hire her? will you hire me being in a wheelchair & with only 1 good hand? Better yet, you live in a "better neighborhood" right? Got a room or two to rent? I am not writing this to insult you but to try to make people see that in the blink of an eye it COULD happen to you! Bet then your opinion would change danm quick! You see it on tv all the time People in their own homes have accidents. Falls, slips, etc. We're the way we are by accident, you're the way you are on purpose!

OK, I have to confess, my first reaction to Ms. Gordon's comment was as angry as everyone else's. However, I've found that anger, however well justified, rarely helps a situation. Instead of verbally smacking her around, let's try to educate her.

June (can I call you June, and please call me Dee), you obviously don't know anyone who spends most, if not all, of their time in a wheelchair. I can absolutely understand the logic behind your comments, and I know you're not being deliberately cruel. You just honestly don't understand the problem. No one who either isn't in a wheelchair or doesn't know someone well who is absolutely CANNOT understand how your life changes. For one thing, you're suddenly three feet tall again. Now, this wasn't as bad for me as it is for a taller person because I was only 4'11" to begin with LOL. Still, that alone presents its own unique set of challenges. You can't reach the less expensive brands at the grocery store because they're consistently on the top shelf, for instance. Want a case of soda? Forget it. You probably can't lift it to begin with, it doesn't fit in your lap along with a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk, and there's no place else to put it till you get to the checkout. Don't even consider trying to push a full sized grocery cart with one hand and control both the speed and direction of a power chair with the other. It's an adventure, but not the kind you'll ever willingly repeat. The bottom shelves aren't for you either, unless you're willing to risk falling out of your wheelchair in the middle of the store.

OK, let's go to the post office. The counter is above your head, as are most of the post office boxes. Why a post office box? Well, because where I live they don't deliver the mail. That's OK, though, because it's a good reason to get out of the house, if only for a few minutes. Some days picking up the mail is the high spot of your day. Oh, and I can't take the van down to either the post office OR the grocery store because there are no parking places with enough clearance that I can let down the lift with the chair on it, or that I can reliably count on being able to get the chair back INTO the van. Puting a sign on a space that says "van accessible" doesn't automatically mean that it is, a fact that Walmart seemingly cannot comprehend. For instance, if I pull into one of the parallel spaces that are marked van accessible, if the lift faces the next lane, there is almost always a long line of catrs there waiting to be taken inside. If I'm facing so that the lift can go down toward the center of the lane, there's a better than even chance that someone is going to come zipping around the end of my full sized van and hit me. And I've driven 11 miles one way in a vehicle that gets a max of 10 mpg so with the price of gas I'm not there for only a loaf of bread, either, if I'm at Walmart. If I'm at the local store, I've gone four blocks, but mostly in the street because there is either no passable sidewalk or there are no curb cuts. Crossing the street to get to the store is fun too, because despite being the main street through town it's also a state highway that is a major thoroughfare and there are no traffic lights.

OK, let's assume that I get myself and the chair out of the van without a disaster, and am actually inside the store. The shopping cart thing is a no go, if you have ANY sense at all. Sooo, if you're alone and have several things to get, what are your choices? Well, of course, you find one of the store employees to help you, right? Of course, finding a Walmart employee at all is a true challenge and finding one who can help you shop is a greater feat than cleaning the Aegean stables LOL. Getting your things out of the cart, and after you pay for them, loaded into the van, is another whole adventure.

Assume you've accomplished all that, and have to go to the courthouse for something. Well, we actually have two courthouses here, an old one that is still used daily, and a new one that is ALSO used daily. If you need to go to the old one, the handicapped parking is at the top of the square, a four square block area which contains nothing but this building, and there's not a single van accessible space. That doesn't matter, though, because this building has, in the front, 15 steps to get up to. No way the chair will do that. OK, there's a sidewalk, let's go to the other end of the building where you CAN get in and go in that way. Of course, the sidewalk is a far greater slant than is comfortable so going down you feel as if you're going to pitch out of the chair on your face, and on the way back up you risk tipping the chair backwards. When you do get inside, you will see the bathroom, a snack machine, and the janitor's closet. There's no elevator, and not even a phone to call the court or even the clerk's office upstairs. Well, maybe you need to go to the new courthouse to, say, pay your property taxes. The handicapped parking is on the one lane route to the parking lot in the back, that runs beside the courthouse. It's one way, and the only choice you have is to unload into traffic trying to get to the parking lot. Let's assume you get inside OK, and you're sitting there at the counter, waiting to pay your taxes, again at a counter that you cannot see over. Don't pick the last few days that you can pay without penalty to go, because you will sit there until the people working there are ready to leave unless you're willing to get nasty about people shoving in front of you.

Hey, let's take our library books back. Oops, it's starting to rain, and of course because they just remodeled upstairs the upstairs doors, where the parking is (yeah, same access problem there too LOL!), are closed and you have to go down the ramp at the side of the building to the kids area in the basement, a full block, in the rain in an electric chair, so that you don't track water or dirt in on the new carpet upstairs. You take the elevator up, do what you need to, and will they open the top doors for you to leave? NO, because someone else might see the doors open and insist on getting in that way. So, you take the elevator back downstairs and ride a block in the storm up to your van, which is right in front of the front doors.

Now, at this rate, going to the store, the courthouse, the post office, and the library, which for someone who is ambulatory is a busy morning's schedule, has consumed your entire day. Not only that, but you're exhausted, not to mention soaked.

And the next day you start all over again. You use sidewalks that are so uneven and buckled that you constantly fear that you are going to land on them with a 250 pound power chair on top of you, IF you're lucky enough to have sidewalks, much less sidewalks that you can actually get on and off of without having to find a driveway for access because there are no curb cuts or they are not usable.

Yes, I live in a rural area in Southern Indiana. However, it was no better in San Francisco, or Oakland, or any metropolitan area where I've lived, either.

I really didn't mean to write a sermon. It's difficult not to, though. What I've described is nothing more than a normal, whatever that is, day in the life of a person in a wheelchair. Try to put yourself in our seats. That's really all we ask.

I am a person that was born with various physical congential disabilities.

I am stunned and angry at June Gordon's remarks! June Gordon's remarks leads me to believe that
the poster is a person WITHOUT disabilities.

People with disabilities do not want to "feel special". People with disabilities want to be included in mainstream society in everyday life which includes access to public places and sidewalks.

People like June Gordon should try to have empathy and should walk a mile in the shoes of a person with disabilities by spending 24 hours with person who uses a wheelchair. By doing this, then maybe people like June Gordon will have a change of attitude towards people with disabilities.

People like June Gordon should be given an "education campaign" on the daily life of people with disabilities.

June Gordon's phrase of "gigabytes of whining" is only the Disability Community standing up for OUR legal civil rights for access to public places and sidewalks that is guaranteed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

On January 30, 2006, a grandmother and her grandaughter both wheelchair users were crossing a street in Memphis to go to the grocery store. There were no curb ramps. The grandmother was killed

I am not "no one" anymore! {{No one had filed a complaint about the lack of curb cuts along Bensen's street, said police. Starkloff called that response 'a poor excuse."}}

On March 9th, I filed a complaint agains't the City of Cambridge MA with the Mass Architectural Access Board. The City has sidewalks, city services, that are in a continous state of disrepair due to the City's Sidewalk Inspection and Minor Repair program. This Program inspects for vertical displacement only. And makes repairs when vertical displacement is 1 1/2", which makes this program, itself, non compliant! In addition, the City's curb ramp measurement assessment does NOT include landings or level landings!

The City of Cambridge has over 3900 curb ramps, and claims that only 109 continue to be "in bad condition" and non compliant!

I kid you not, that is what is claimed by the most recent report In City Council re the progress of the City's compliance with the ADA!

What has been going on is the City will repave or repair, or even rebuild the curb ramp or sidewalk, and do it wrong! They fix it wrong. So after thousands of dollars in repairs, improvements, etc, the curb ramp remains non compliant and the sidewalk inaccessable! Thousands of folks are forced into the streets in the city of Cambridge everyday!!

I filed this complaint using one intersection as "an example" both to protect the taxpayer and to make sure that as we repave our streets and sidewalks, access is provided. Ooops, that is the law, isn't it?

The two main problems of this intersection are the recently repaved sidewalks and curb ramps are inaccessable due to the extreem cross slope, in some places 7%; and there are no landings on the curb ramps, you come up and run into a wall or fence, and the cross slopes are to steep to allow safe turning. These curb ramps do not line up with the sidewalks.

The complaint is Docket number C06 017, and you can certainly let folks at the MAAB know how you feel about this. Write to...

The Commonwealth of Mass
Department of Public Safety
Architectural Access Board
One Ashburton Place, Room 1310
Boston MA, 02108-1618
Fax 617 727 0665

I've been trying for nearly five years to get curb cuts in my neighborhood. I've had several near misses because I had to go into the street because one of a neighbor blocking the sidewalk with a parked vehicle or because of a lack of curb cuts. I live in a fairly nice neighborhood and am not at all reckless when I have to take to the streets. I'm well aware of the dangers involved. Unfortunately, I can only drive for myself, not the person with his/her mind on anything but his/her driving and who's barrelling towards me in a two ton SUV.

I usually try to avoid name calling, but Ms. Gordon's comments make her out to be naive at best and heartless at worst. Hopefully, she'll read what's been posted here, think about how mean-spirited she comes across and change her thinking.

After reading Kathy Podgers' post I just had to add that an award for "Worst Reasonable Accommodation" should go to the city of Boston and surrounding area for its poorly thought out and executed sidewalks, crosswalks and curbcuts.

Keep up the great work on your blog. Best wishes WaltDe

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