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Fresno pressed to fix streets
Read story from May 3 Fresno Bee

Fresno activist killed in street; city has failed to install curb cuts
April 28, 2001 -- For more than a year, Fresno wheelchair user Elias Gutierrez 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.

On Sunday, March 18, the 60-year-old activist 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.

"It's our worst nightmare," Fresno disability activist Ed Eames says of Gutierrez's death. "Elias has become the victim of this city's wanton lack of concern with the issue of making sidewalks a safe haven for people in wheelchairs."

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. Yet officials have not yet called for an increased program of installing curb cuts, says Eames.

What Eames calls the "totally inadequate" annual allocation to install curb cuts was begun only after another Fresno wheelchair user, Clayton Turner, was injured a few years ago; Turner's lawsuit against the city is pending, says Eames.

"Lack of resources, combined with lack of commitment, sets the stage for future deaths of disabled people," says Eames.

Fresno disabilty activists have demanded Fresno Mayor Alan Autry and city officials attend a May 2 meeting "to discuss solutions to this ever-present life threatening concern."

Last June, Fresno was named one of America's 10 "most livable cities" by the National Civic League. Danny Hernandez, Fresno wheelchair user and designer of Fresno's Oso de Oro Park, a national model for accessibility, was at the ceremonies in Louisville, Ky. when Fresno was given its award. "There's not one thing in that park I can't use," Hernandez told reporters.

The sidewalks of Fresno, however, are a different story.

Kelly Dillery of Sandusky Ohio was also forced into the streets from a lack of curbcuts. Read story

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