However we get around town these days, we should be happy that the Center for Disability Rights is getting tough on unshoveled sidewalks. CDR is a group of, by, and for people with disabilities, and CDR staff and members frequently attack any impediment to full citizenship, whether it’s a legal matter related to the ADA or a physical barrier like snow and ice on the most basic of transportation facilities.
I’ve addressed the sidewalk problem for years – most recently in a December 10, 2006 post, which see below. That post was concerned with the relatively early, and basically lightweight snowfall that effectively shut off access to many otherwise well-used sidewalks. (I gave a limited pat on the back to the Memorial Art Gallery for “cleaning up their act” after many missteps, but after observing recent MAG performance this time around, I take it all back. They continue to shortchange the public walks, even as they lavish labor and salt on the drives and walkways within the fence. And MAG’s parent organization, the UR, is still doing a bad job with some of the public walks under its purview along Mt. Hope Ave.)
Maybe now that CDR is making this a very public issue, things will change. The group recently got Mayor Bob Duffy and other City Hall officials out on manual wheelchairs to see how the other half lives. The officials were all impressed by how hard it was to negotiate even a well-maintained walk – the unshoveled walks were no-go areas entirely. Media coverage highlighted the risks disabled folks encounter almost daily when forced to ride their wheelchairs on busy streets. (Check out CDR’s narrative and photos at www.rochestercdr.org/WheelingInTheSnowWithDuffy.html.)
Again, I have to say that this is not a trivial concern. Just as societies are judged by how they treat their vulnerable members, transportation systems (emphatically including pedestrian and wheelchair facilities) should be judged by how they serve the full range of users – and to what extent they insure mobility rights for all.