The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) is twenty years old. Twenty years old, and (my town) is just starting to meet full compliance with the act. In the last few years there was a lot of discussion of curb cuts, and the need for the whole city to have ADA compliant curb cuts. I thought that the curb cuts would improve at that time. I don’t think they have, not in a meaningful way.
My neighborhood, while there are many compliant curb cuts, is still full of non-compliant, non-wheelchair negotiable curb cuts. Every once in a while, I see someone in a wheelchair, usually accompanied by someone walking, and invariably, they are going down the middle of the street. Not safe or legal you may be thinking, but it is the only space negotiable by wheelchair on the street or sidewalk. The sidewalks are not smooth, many curb cuts are not wheelchair usable, and the side of the streets are covered by parked cars.
The city does have an ADA commission. Perhaps you have seen its advertisement in last Sunday’s paper, requesting interested parties to apply for membership. I thought about joining, but I have too many other time committments. Besides, the commission’s “mission is to review city facilities for compliance with the ADA building standards and recommend improvements for the city funding.” (From the [city] website)
To me, facilities means city buildings and parks. That is an important mission, but I would also like to see some effort directed towards the sidewalks, particularly as we were promised action on the sidewalks a few years ago.
While I’m on the subject of sidewalks, I want to mention that snow shovelling is often inadequate in the neighborhoods. I know August is a little early, but I thought I would start getting the word out. Many people seem to think that clearing a narrow path, wide enough for a single walker, is enough. It is not, as all strollers are wider than a person walking, let alone wheelchairs. My strollers are both able to negotiate packed snow, as long as the path is the width of the sidewalk. I think most mothers of small children stop walking outside in the winter months, because they cannot get down the streets.
If you are disabled or otherwise inconvenienced by the non-ADA compliant sidewalks, please say or write something to the city or the newspaper. If everyone stays quiet and copes as best they can, then nothing will happen. If we all speak out when we cannot get about as we like, then perhaps something will be done.
This essay originally appeared in the (Idaho Falls) Post Register on August 4, 2010.