WENATCHEE – When Chris Gilman is walking her dog, she cannot leave her block. She has lived in her home near First Street and North Emerson Avenue for 40 years, and in her wheelchair the surrounding sidewalks are either impossible or too dangerous for her.
At 80, she has not seen herself driving her wheelchair van for more than five years and fears that the problems with accessibility will not be resolved by then. She cannot get to the bus stops near her home without going out onto the street where there is traffic.
“I’m so discouraged right now,” she said on Thursday. “I went for a walk this morning and it’s really hard to walk a little, and then when I go home I get annoyed that nobody really wants help.”
Problems like the ones in Gilman’s neighborhood are rife in Wenatchee, but the city is developing plans and a timeline to address them and make the sidewalk network accessible through its ADA transition plan, said urban engineer Gary Owen.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is federal law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life, including local government services. The ADA requires that sidewalks at pedestrian crossings and some traffic stops have curb ramps to make these areas safe for people using mobility aids.
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The transition plan, which will include many individual projects across Wenatchee, aims to bring the city’s pavement network into line with standards set by the ADA. The timetable for the implementation of the plan is still unclear as it depends on the extent of the barriers to accessibility and the resources available.
Jacob Huylar, the city’s engineering services manager, said the city hoped to finalize the plan in the next 12 months. It will initially focus on curb ramps and will be updated as advances on non-compliant ramps to focus on other accessibility issues.
Currently, the city has 1,717 identified curb ramps that do not meet all ADA standards, Huylar said, and those 1,717 do not include any street corners in the city that do not have curb ramps at all.
He said the cost of all projects included in the transition plan was difficult to quantify, but as a perspective, when the city replaced 185 curb ramps as part of its Pavement Preservation project in 2020, each ramp cost about $ 6,500.
“It’s a big deal,” Owen said of ADA compliance issues in Wenatchee and across the country. “That will not be resolved for a long time because there is not enough money for it.”
Huylar said projects included in the ADA transition plan will be funded by both grants and local funds. Funding sources for recent Wenatchee projects include the Community Development Block Grant, the Transportation Improvement Board, Safe Routes to School, and the Surface Transportation Program.
The city is currently evaluating the pavement network citywide to find out where things are not up to standard and plans to put together a committee of community members to help identify high priority areas, Owen said.
Until the city has the transition plan in place, sidewalk maintenance is a complaint-based system and the city is addressing accessibility issues on a case-by-case basis.
Joshua Hackney, community representative and assistant director of Central Washington Disability Resources, said that accessibility to traffic has come a long way since the ADA passed law in 1990, but things like sidewalks still have a long way to go. The best way to advocate for better accessibility is to speak to city officials, according to Hackney.
“One vote doesn’t always have weight, but when you have signatures and a lot of votes, then yes,” he said. “Where it starts is the voice, and when someone comes up to you and says, ‘Hey, I’m facing these barriers. I want to stand up for them and spread my voice. I want the community to know that’ barriers, with faced by people with disabilities. ‘”
Gilman said she would be interested in joining a committee to provide feedback to the city, but for now she is fed up with getting help and will believe the city’s plans to make her neighborhood more accessible when she sees results .
She said she had contacted the city several times but was struggling to find the right place to go to deal with her complaint and were told by staff that the problem was not their responsibility or that a code was not going to fix it can be. Owen, the town’s engineer, said their requests were unfamiliar.
“It’s just not worth it to me anymore,” said Gilman. “Once upon a time, but now it’s just that, well, that’s how it is, and that’s how it will stay.”
How to file a complaint
A complaint to the city about a problem with roads or accessibility can be submitted electronically at wwrld.us/2TV9vWV.
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