Friday, November 14, 2008

GetAbout to assess accessibility of sidewalks

A brigade of volunteers armed with checklists, tape measures and levels will take to the sidewalks of downtown tomorrow to evaluate a sample of the city’s walkways for accessibility to wheelchair users and visually impaired individuals.

GetAbout Columbia and the city’s office of Volunteer Services teamed up to recruit participants in a pilot evaluation exercise that GetAbout Manager Ted Curtis said is part of a larger sidewalk project that could lead to new city policies.

"Non-motorized transportation is not just biking, but walking and accessibility and how we work on all three," he said yesterday. "People see a lot of what we do with bikes on the streets, but we are also committed to enhancing walking and accessibility. … We want to come up with a strategy to better ordinances. When sidewalks are in or out of compliance, how do we let people know, and what enforcement is possible?"

The GetAbout Columbia project is funded by a $22 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration, awarded in 2006 to build infrastructure and standards for the use of non-motorized transportation.

Curtis said he wants to put together a strategy to address how sidewalk quality can be improved based on what other cities have done and work with the city to explore how local sidewalks can be improved.

One piece of the process is the sidewalk assessment, and the volunteer team will act as a pilot project.

GetAbout intern Kristin Re has helped organize the event. She said volunteers will receive training for about an hour tomorrow morning and then will divide into small groups, each responsible for evaluating a city block.

Curtis said GetAbout staff chose an area bordered by Hitt, Williams, Ash, Windsor, Anthony and Paquin streets to assess an area frequently used by disabled individuals who live in Paquin Tower and the Freedom House apartments.

The teams will have a checklist of "environmental barriers" to assess, Re said, which include overgrown hedges, the levelness of the walkway and how well it is maintained.

Meanwhile, GetAbout staff are working on legal and policy issues, such as identifying criteria for sidewalk standards and ways the city can encourage compliance. Curtis said sidewalk maintenance is the responsibility of the homeowner, and some cities have a more efficient system to assist them.

"The way it’s set up right now, if someone complains" about the condition of the sidewalk "it’s up to the homeowner to repair it," Curtis said. Other cities, for example, put homeowners in touch with contractors that have competitively bid on the work.

Leigh Britt, city coordinator of volunteer services, said about 40 residents and University of Missouri students have signed up to participate.

Source:
http://www.columbiatribune.com/2008/Nov/20081114News007.asp

This is what disability advocacy is all about!! Everybody who has pitched in on this ongoing issue give yourselves a huge pat on the back. :)

Keep on pushing for change and never give up the good fight no matter how bad it might look as in the end rest assured that things are happening behind the scenes and where those things are happening you will find the disability advocates working hard for you.

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