Putting Practice to Pavement

In October, we hosted two training sessions in Georgia on sidewalk safety and infrastructure thanks to the Georgia Department of Transportation. Participants at the Macon and Gainesville trainings sat through the usual lectures and workshops but also had the opportunity to put practice to pavement.  Participants took turns navigating the local sidewalk terrain in wheelchairs to see how accessible or in-accessible it truly was.

Three participants shared their thoughts on the exercise and how it changed their perspective:

Wheelchair-crossingactiveDonald Wilkerson

Q. Before the exercise, what did you think about the condition of existing sidewalk infrastructure? This doesn’t just have to be in Macon, but where you are living and working as well.

A. I really didn’t think much of it other than going by design standards

Q. What were you most surprised about? Was there a certain flaw that was extra challenging that you did not expect?

A. 1. Condition of sidewalk and ramps.

    2. The different challenges that were faced.

    3. The different textures of the ramps, and mostly grades.

Q. Was there a design aspect that you found made your wheelchair trip easy? Or one that WOULD have made the experience better?

A. Better design of sidewalk , textured sidewalk doesn’t work.

Q. How did the experience change your perspective?

A. It really gave me a better understanding of what to look for. I have also shared information with my city. I pay more attention to places we visit not , and how I would maneuver if I was in a wheelchair.

Q. How will it change the work that you do?

A. I have shared the class information with my local city, pay more attention to design and surrounding area of the sidewalk: the grades, material . This class should be required by all city and county officials.

Wheelchair-curbrampShawn Buckley

Q. Before the exercise, what did you think about the condition of existing sidewalk infrastructure? This doesn’t just have to be in Macon, but where you are living and working as well.

A. I thought the existing infrastructure was barely adequate for the handicapped. I have always thought that we should be more mindful of pedestrians either with wider shoulders (in rural areas) or with mandatory sidewalks in non-rural areas. Where I work on the outskirts of Thomaston, there are some walkers but both streets and state highways are poorly supplied with sidewalks.

Q. What were you most surprised about? Was there a certain flaw that was extra challenging that you did not expect?

A. The poor consideration of wheelchair ramps is surprising. It seems to me that the quality of ramps and sidewalks is poorly enforced, if not selectively enforced, depending on the inspector-contractor relationship.

Q. Was there a design aspect that you found made your wheelchair trip easy? Or one that WOULD have made the experience better?

A. There was not one that made it easy.

Q. How did the experience change your perspective?

A. It has made me conscious of the quality of pedestrian mobility.

Q. How will it change the work that you do?

A. By “it” I assume you mean “the exercise” which I took to indicate the walkabout on foot and by wheelchair. As a designer, I can’t say that the tour will help me. What will help is learning about medians and crosswalks.

Wheelchair-behindMonica Fogle

Q. Before the exercise, what did you think about the condition of existing sidewalk infrastructure? This doesn’t just have to be in Macon, but where you are living and working as well.

A. I always assumed that the presence of sidewalks served the intended. I didn’t pay attention to things that hinder – sand, cobblestones, grade, etc.

Q. What were you most surprised about? Was there a certain flaw that was extra challenging that you did not expect?

A. The wheelchair I used was self-propelled. It was difficult to maneuver even on what seemed to be flat grades and tended to pull me into the roadway.

Q. Was there a design aspect that you found made your wheelchair trip easy? Or one that WOULD have made the experience better?

A. The wheelchair trip wasn’t easy. The sidewalk infrastructure could have been better if it was more uniform – no breaks in concrete vs. cobblestone and no “lips” to cross, flat vs. steep grade, debris/sand in gutters at crosswalks, and there was a trash dumpster blocking one of the mid-walk crossings.

Q. How did the experience change your perspective?

A. Yes, the experience changed my perspective in paying more attention to the condition of sidewalks/crosswalks. Just because they are “there” doesn’t mean they are functioning smoothly.

Q. How will it change the work that you do?

A. It will change my work by being more conscious of the design of sidewalks and crosswalks.