Despite upgrades to city infrastructure to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, those affected daily by accessibility issues say broken, cracked sidewalks continue to be a problem.
Richard Jackson, 51, risks navigating his power scooter down the road facing oncoming traffic rather than on sidewalks. Tree roots, broken concrete and other obstacles clutter the pathways and threaten his safety.
“If I hit a bump the wrong way, I can turn over,” Jackson said.
A resident of Maxwell House apartments on Greene Street, Jackson said he would like to see even more upgrades. Just feet from his building’s front door, the corner of Tenth and Greene streets lacks a curb cut and wheelchair ramp to allow a direct street crossing.
Jacqueline Humphrey, who oversees ADA compliance and equal opportunity employment for Augusta, said the city is following ADA guidelines even if residents perceive a problem in some spots. People can file complaints with the city, but she doesn’t know of any currently on file.
“If there is inadequate or no accessibility on an existing or newly built building, we will address those right away,” she said.
In recent years, road construction projects included adding curb cuts and wheelchair ramps as well as large areas of raised bumps that alert the visually impaired when they are approaching the end of a sidewalk and beginning of a road.
Traffic engineer Steve Cassell wouldn’t comment on specific questions regarding ADA compliance, but provided a list of 16 road projects since 2010 where accessibility was improved. Major thoroughfares include Walton Way from Gordon Highway to Jackson Road and segments of Wrightsboro Road, Windsor Spring Road, Reynolds Street and Laney-Walker Boulevard.
One advocate for change, Vietnam veteran Thomas Sauls, said the city has been slow to address an ongoing problem. With a sizeable population of military veterans in Augusta, he fears the broken sidewalks restrict many from enjoying the freedom they fought for.
“When it comes to health and welfare, I don’t just have a case for the vets. I have a case for everyone,” Sauls said, adding that he is losing his sight from diabetes.
But Donald Shapiro, a board member for Walton Rehabilitation Hospital and Walton Foundation, said many complaints about accessibility issues aren’t warranted. Although he agrees that a ride in his wheelchair isn’t always smooth, Shapiro has learned to adjust to the problems.
In front of his store, Hartley’s Uniform Shop on Druid Park Avenue, the sidewalk abruptly ends. When Shapiro wants to get lunch from a nearby restaurant, he crosses the street. Even then, he’s careful to shift weight to his back wheels on an uneven grade and avoid rocks that jam his wheels.