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New Arby’s has Required ADA Access Route

For a couple of years now I’ve showed project after project lacking a federally mandated ADA-compliant access route. The biggest culprits are often fast food joints with drive-throughs taking priority over the pedestrian (see post on recent Starbuck’s locations). Shopping centers are no exception and it wasn’t until I began highlighting the flaws at Loughborough Commons did they make changes to the original access plans. To date there is still not proper access to the Lowe’s. Granted a person in a wheelchair doesn’t come off the street to take home drywall but smaller items like light bulbs are still in need when you are disable.
I think the city’s former commissioner on the disabled used to just count the number of disabled parking spaces and give projects an OK if it met the required number. But I can assure you that not everyone arrives by car which means if they are not bicycling they are walking or using a wheelchair. And the ADA access route provides equally good access for those who are able bodied and those that are not. Those who are out pushing a baby stroller will appreciate the provisions as much as the person in a wheelchair.

So when the Arby’s on Lindell was rebuilt following the fire at the construction project next door (see post) I was not optimistic about what sort of pedestrian access they would provide. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the final outcome:


As you can see above it doesn’t take much — just a way to get from the public sidewalk to the main accessible entrance. Clearly here the pedestrian was given due consideration.

Given the urbanity of the apartment project next door it would have been nice to see the Arby’s be less suburban in nature — closer to the street, fewer auto drives, etc but at least they got the pedestrian access right. So if we are going to continue to build more suburban structures in the city, such as this Arby’s, we need to ensure they all have pedestrian access to the public sidewalk as this does.  Anything less is unacceptable.


National ADA Symposium and Expo Assistive Technology Consumer Fair Monday & Tuesday

May 11, 2008 Accessibility, Events/Meetings Comments Off on National ADA Symposium and Expo Assistive Technology Consumer Fair Monday & Tuesday

I would have been interested beforehand but now that I am disabled I’m very interested in the National ADA Symposium and Expo Assistive Technology Consumer Fair to be held Monday & Tuesday:

May 12-13, 2008
Downtown St. Louis, America’s Center

Paraquad and ADA Great Plains Center are pleased to announce the National ADA Symposium and Expo and the Assistive Technology Consumer Fair are collaborating on this joint event.
The Assistive Technology Fair will educate and empower consumers of assistive technology devices, equipment, products, and services to promote community participation and independent living.  This is the only show of its kind in the Midwest.
There is a wealth of products and services that enable people with disabilities to live life to its fullest.  The AT Fair provides community members with information on disability-related services and opportunities to try new products.
The AT Fair is free to the public and will be held in Hall 1 of the America’s Center from 12:00pm-8:00pm Monday, May 12th and from 9:00am-4:00pm Tuesday, May 13th.
The AT Fair is hosted by the Enabling Mobility Center, MS Society, Paraquad, and the Spinal Cord Injury Support Group.

For more information see atfair.org.  Come out and see everything from vans with slide out ramps to can openers for those of us with only one good hand.  Once you see some the products that are out there you begin to realize how much you take for granted.


Curb ramps useless when blocked by illegally parked cars

Sunday was such a nice day I decided in the afternoon to make my way the 9-10 blocks from my house to City Grocers at 10th & Olive.  Knowing of at least one curb ramp issue ay 16th & Locust I took the power wheelchair Eastbound on Washington Ave.  Everything was fine and dandy until I turned on 10th Southbound:

A block South of Washington at St Charles St I encountered this white Pontiac in my path.  To an able-bodied person they’d just walk around but when you are in a wheelchair your options are more limited.

I thought about ramming the side of the vehicle with the chair but then I realized that would probably do more damage to me than the car.  My cane on the other hand could have done a number on the car without hurting me.  But I thought if the owner came out I would be a sitting target.   Plus I am not really the type that would damage another’s property — even if they are insensitive and need a good lesson in where not to park.

The sensible thing would have been to call the police.  But it was a nice day and I didn’t want to get all worked up.  I also presumed the dispatcher would have been less than enthusiastic about the problem.  I let it go and back tracked to Washington where I then crossed to the other side of 10th.

The rest of the journey was pretty uneventful, I got a large canvas bag full of food.  Leaving the store I looked up 10th and saw the car was still parked there.  So I headed Westbound along the sidewalk on the South side of Olive.  To my surprise at 11th there was no curb ramp at all.  Oh the other three corners all had ramps but they were of no use to me.   So again I doubled back from 11th to 10th and took 10th to Locust.  Locust was fine until I got to 13th St (by the Shell building) where my options to continue Westbound basically ran out.  I was able to take 13th up to Washington where I was able to continue the remaining blocks to home.

In all of this the basic message is that without curb ramps on all the corners, or a car blocking a ramp, it becomes increasingly harder to navigate through the city.  In the end it was doable –  just required a bit of backtracking on my part.  Added to my memory now are those routes where lack of ramps make getting from A to B a challenge.


Sidewalk Dining, Keeping a Clear Pathway

Friday night a friend and I decided to meet for dinner not far from my place.

We decided upon beso, downtown’s newest restaurant. How new? Friday night was opening night. This is the narrow place a couple of doors West of the burned-out Copia, in a space that was the short lived-restaurant, Red. beso had a few minor glitches as you might expect but overall it is a welcome addition to the scene. We sat outside and the tables were arranged so as to keep a clear path open on the sidewalk. Across the street at Bridge & Tunnel Pizza the tables were also arranged so as to respect the pedestrian passing by.

Above, at beso, diners enjoy dinner while a pathway was kept clear for pedestrians — those walking, those of us using wheelchair and those pushing baby strollers. Even without Copia this block seems destined to have valet parking. While we were eating the valet had only a small space and frankly nobody seemed to use it.

Flannery’s down the street has larger tables and chairs arranged in a single row. Here I was able to take the path near the buildings and get by just fine — even with people seated. It wasn’t generous near the entry but it was doable.

Unacceptable was the situation at Solace and Sugar (formerly KYO) at 14th and Washington, shown above. All pedestrians were forced to the outer edge of the sidewalk. A man pushing a baby stroller followed right behind me just trying to get through as well.

Sidewalk dining is one those things that makes living in an urban setting so great. However it needs to be respectful of the needs of all pedestrians using the same space. Clearly it is possible for some establishments to have sidewalk service without forcing pedestrians to hug the curb.

The city must have some sort of guidelines for those establishments that obtain cafe permits. But who is left to enforce the rules. Like the numerous valet stands that basically raise a middle finger to the idea of fairly sharing the public right of way, nobody seems to exist at city hall to monitor the situation.

As a property owner in the downtown community improvement district I pay additional taxes for increased services. Helping monitor the increasing number of sidewalk cafes and valet stands would certainly be an improvement. Perhaps this is already being done which would help explain why most of the cafes I encountered left sufficient space. Or simply that the operators of those establishments are more considerate than others.  The problem likely exists in other parts of the city with sidewalk dining.


Navigating the sidewalks in a wheelchair

Today, my first full day back from physical rehab, I attended a Society of Professional Journalists luncheon down the street.  So I ventured out in the power chair from my place at 16th & Locust over to Lucas Park Grille at 13th and Washington.

Not a huge distance but one that would have been pretty difficult in a manual chair.  Curb ramps were in place on all the corners except one.  The ones that did exist, however, were often broken or had a huge edge at the point of approach.  Again the power chair was able to handle the situation but not everyone has such a chair.  Also I have to say that using a manual chair vs a power one can be rewarding — like riding a bike vs driving a car — one requires physical exertion but with that you get a sense of accomplishment.  You seem more connected to your environment.

At a casual glance we look around and see curb ramps and thus assume the environment is accessible to the physically disabled.   The real question we need to ask is how functional is the environment?  Poorly installed or damaged curb ramps reduces functionality, at times to zero.  Cities all over the country pay a small fortune to upgrade their intersections with curb ramps but when they don’t work as intended it simply becomes another waste of taxpayer money.

On the other side, when curbs and such are done right, disabled members of the community can lead independent lives rather than wasting away in costly nursing homes.    In that context, investing in accessible
infrastructure is very cost effective.

A fellow patient from MRC also returned to his home near South County Mall yesterday.  Despite being close to both a good number of employment and shopping choices his options for getting there are very limited.  His neighborhood of single family detached dwellings has plenty of paving for driveways but not sidewalks.  Getting to a point where he could catch a bus is nearly impossible.  He’ll need an expensive van with a lift to be mobile not because of his inability to push his wheelchair but because of the poor pedestrian nature of where he lives.   So while I may have issues with a ramp here or there at least we have sidewalks!

We all make choices about where we live and I must say I am very pleased with mine.