Sunday, July 25, 2010

News-Press: Finding no Sidewalk, he found the answer

The News-Press Sunday edition, 7/25/10, featured stories about the 20th Anniversary of the Americans for Disabilities Act (ADA). Included in this series of articles were several that remind us of the importance of complete streets for people with disabilities.

Dave Lane wanted to ride his wheelchair from his
doctor’s office to Cape Coral Hospital. But after
wheeling himself through a crosswalk on Del Prado
Boulevard he found himself stuck.

There was no more sidewalk. The only way for Lane
to reach the hospital was to ride his wheelchair
along the busy highway.

Lane, who has multiple sclerosis that limits his
ability to walk, filed a complaint with the ADA
Advisory Board of Southwest Florida. After
discussing the issue with the hospital, the board’s
director, Kevin Berry, said the hospital has plans to
build a connecting sidewalk to its entrance.

Construction could begin as early as Oct. 1, Berry

“When they were developing the sidewalk system
there, somebody dropped the ball,” Lane said. “You
can’t run your access and then dump it into a street.
If you have a disability, what are you going to do?
You can’t go into the street with your wheelchair.”

The aborted sidewalk is just one reason Lane, 63, is
thankful for the American with Disabilities Act. Lane,
a quadriplegic, believes Lee County’s accessibility is
better than many Northern cities.

“I used to live in Ohio and let’s just say I’m very
happy to live in Florida,” Lane said. “Because of ADA
legislation 20 years ago, all of our newer
construction in Florida has been developed to
create more access. There are a few places that need
work and need (wheelchair) ramps and at that point
we need to attack and improve the situation.”

— Chris Umpierre

Public transportation
LeeTran offers a special van service for people with disabilities, but some residents say more routes should be available to the disabled community.
LeeTran’s van service, called Passport, is a reservation-based system in which anyone with a documented disability can be driven to any location in the county.
People who live three-quarters of a mile from a fixed LeeTran route are eligible. A one-way trip costs $2.50.

Passport makes about 106,000 trips a year, or 400 a day, said Peter Gajdjis of LeeTran. Bonita Springs’ Kathleen Saunders, who is visually impaired, is one of 2,000 people registered for the service.
“I love it. It’s a very nice system. It takes me everywhere,” Saunders said.
The system is one of the reasons why Pierce, who is blind, moved to Lee from Sarasota, which doesn’t have a van system for people with disabilities. Collier County doesn’t have such a system, either.
“I used to get taxi rides in Sarasota. Here, I can have a van pick me up,” he said.
Pierce said Passport is one example of how much conditions have changed for people with disabilities in the past two decades.
“ADA is helping to make life a level playing field for people with disabilities and that’s all we want,” Pierce said. “We just want equal access.”

Lehigh woman is part of D.C. conference

After seeing some people with disabilities left
unaccounted for after Hurricane Charley's rampage
through Southwest Florida in 2004, Linda Carter
decided to do something about it.

The Lehigh Acres resident, who has spinal injuries
and uses a wheelchair, formed an organization that
educates people with disabilities how to prepare for
a disaster, making five presentations a month.

Carter's work helped in her selection to participate
in this week's National Summit on Disability Policy
in Washington to commemorate the 20th
anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Carter is one of 500 participants, nine from Florida,
who will brainstorm future ADA legislation, Summit
spokesman Mark Quigley said. To continue reading the article, click here.

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