By FRANK LEWIS
PDT Staff Writer
Jim Oliver has learned something he wishes he had never learned: Much of the world is not accessible for handicapped people. Until three months ago, Oliver had no concerns about accessibility. Because of symptoms from diabetes, however, he has since become limited to a power chair for much of his mobility.
“They need to fix some of the crosswalks,” Oliver said. “I’m finding out now, since I have been handicapped, before I didn’t pay any attention to it when I was driving a car. But now that I’m out in this (power chair), I see there are crosswalks that need to be fixed, and crosswalks that need to be crosswalks. They’re still regular sidewalks, and that is the problem I’m having.”
Oliver says it has been an eye-opening experience.
“Even to cross the street at intersections, when I have the right-of-way, those that turn right on red don’t watch me,” Oliver said. “It’s like when I do cross it doesn’t make a difference. They still turn on me. So I won’t cross at the intersection. I go down the street a little bit then cross the street.”
Just half a block up from where he lives is the intersection of 15th and Chillicothe streets, a crossing that covers four lanes, two in either direction, leading to restaurants such as Dairy Queen and Buffalo Wild Wings. When he approaches the handicap accessibility ramp, he begins to panic, worrying about all the traffic, and the way southbound drivers drive into the intersection to await the opportunity to turn, which means he does not have a straight shot to cross into that lot. So he makes the decision — he won’t cross there.
Another place that worries him is the intersection next to Sonic Restaurant, headed south on Findlay Street. There is no ramp.
“It doesn’t have a handicap crossing,” Oliver said. “It’s a regular sidewalk. So I have to go halfway down the street, wait for the traffic to go by. Then when there is no traffic I cross the street. I can’t cross at the red light.”
That crossing is from an alley, with no marked crossing lines, which means he is, in essence, breaking the law by not crossing at a marked crossing area. But in reality, he says he has no choice.
Another place he finds difficult to maneuver is a crosswalk by Tracy Park on the 10th Street side.
“It has the walk you can cross, but there is dip there, that if I go into it, I would get stuck,” Oliver said. “I was crossing one day and a man told me not to cross there. He already knew about the dip, but I didn’t know. He sure saved me.”
Oliver said all he has wanted is for someone at the city to listen to his concerns.
“I called the mayor a couple of months ago and left a message. At the time they were gone. I guess it was closing time, and I left a message and told him about it and left my phone number so I could explain it to him,” Oliver said. “But nobody has ever called me.”
“We definitely need to look into those,” Portsmouth Mayor David Malone said. “I don’t remember receiving a complaint about those.”
Portsmouth Service Director Bill Beaumont said he would look into those intersections. Malone said the intersections Oliver complained about are not the only ones with issues.
“In our city there is a whole bunch of intersections that don’t have the curb cut to handicap accessibility,” Malone said. “Through the years we’ll try to deal with that through Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). It will be something we’ll do through a process over the years, but we won’t be able to do every intersection at one time.”
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at email@example.com.