Anyone who knows me, has read my blogs, heard my podcasts has seen videos on my You Tube channel, knows that I have consistently been fighting for safe pedestrian access. I believe that everyone should be able to get around their community without having to worry about safety, regardless of their abilities.
From suburbia to the very heart of cities, infrastructure is based on having people drive everywhere by car. But as we know, when our abilities change, driving can become problematic or impossible.
I live in an area that offers a good transit system with buses and paratransit vans. Because of this I can move around throughout our county in my wheelchair without a car.
Because our county was designed and largely built up before the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed, many of the destinations here do not have safe pedestrian access from bus stops and sidewalks. Unfortunately, this problem exists in many (actually, MOST) other states, counties, and towns I have also visited.
I have contacted numerous shopping center managers and municipal offices in this area to discuss this problem, often with no luck.
But today’s success at Cypress Point shopping center is an excellent example of the value of persistence and creativity along with a lot of cooperation. After several years of non-success, I realized that because this particular shopping center also contains a post office, they are required to follow higher accessibility standards set for governmental use property. Access here falls, not only under the ADA, but also the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA).
While the ADA is administered locally, the ABA is administered from Washington DC by the United States Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board)
Even armed with this information I knew that change would not happen overnight. I contacted the Access Board and filed an official complaint. After this, a case number was given and an agent was assigned to investigate.
Providing true accessibility should mean that there would be a safe, ADA compliant pedestrian path from the sidewalk and nearby bus stop to the Post Office door.
Newly built shopping centers (built after ADA was enacted) are required to provide these access points. But older centers are generally not required to retrofit their properties because of the high cost of doing so. The exception to this is when a center undergoes major renovation or something like this, where a government use office is accepted into a property.
Over the course of six years, 2 different agents from the Access Board worked to coordinate with the management of the shopping center, the U.S. Postal Service, and the local municipality to procure the needed funding and permits. And persistence ultimately paid off.
I am so excited to report that that there is finally a safe route to my local post office. This will be a benefit to not only me but to numerous bus riders, local pedestrians, and even the motor vehicle drivers who won’t have to swerve to avoid hitting one of us.
The six years this took often felt like an endless path to just procure a modest pedestrian sidewalk. But today when I safely rode on it in my wheelchair, the comfort it provided was immeasurable.
I hope this story inspires others to never give up on fighting for what they believe in. With persistence, creativity, and cooperation, we can make the world a more accessible place for everyone.