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American Wheelchair Users Face Accessibility-Related Issues Even in Major Cities
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American Wheelchair Users Face Accessibility-Related Issues Even in Major Cities

There's no dearth of jobs and all sorts of other opportunities in leading US cities including Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and New York. While there are myriad of things to see and do in these high-strung places, people with disabilities are often unable to access transportation, office buildings, and even sidewalks in some cases. Despite the existence of the federal legislation that is supposed to protect disabled people, a considerable number of Americans are restricted to where they can travel or live thanks to a shortage of handicap-accessible accommodations.

The issue affects people with disabilities across the United States. Regardless of whether in big metropolises or small towns, Americans who are disabled face various challenges when trying to get somewhere because they either use a wheelchair or scooter to get themselves from one destination to another.

It can be recalled that ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) came into existence to address an alarming challenge: a large-scale discrimination against persons with disabilities. Those who live in major cities know those main barriers to equal access have not been taken care of yet.

According to a March 2017 survey of 554 U.S. residents with disabilities, 20% of those came across an obstacle to either a building, transportation or a service at least once a day. Nearly 12% claim they encounter some sort of barrier several times per day.

In big cities such as New York and Washington, D.C., a considerable number of people resort to using public transportation. But disappointingly, even in U.S. capital, where the ADA was actually signed into law, people with wheelchairs sometimes have to risk their lives to even get to their bus stop.

Wheelchair users in D.C. area sometimes have to travel on the street due to the absence of crosswalks or curb ramps. In the same way, heavy snow during winter makes sidewalks impassable for people with wheelchairs and scooters.

In the case that crosswalks are available, reaching the button can pose some serious challenge. 

Washington, D.C. is not exactly the worst big city in terms of handicap accessibility, grabbing the 57th spot on WaletHub's list of best and worst places for people with disabilities.

Meanwhile, New York City was given the 130th slot on the list. That spot is justified on several grounds, including that of disability advocate and lifelong New Yorker, Sasha Blair-Goldensohn.

Blair-Goldensohn met with an accident eight years ago and he was compelled to use a wheelchair in order to delve into the NYC streets.

Back in March, he wrote an opinion piece titled 'New York Has a Great Subway if You’re Not in a Wheelchair' for the New York Times. He deemed New York’s subway as the least wheelchair-accessible transit system on any main American city, with just 92 of their system’s 425 stations accessible.

In other words, less than one in four stations can be utilized by people in wheelchairs, provided elevators are working, but much to their dismay they usually conk out.

As if that weren't enough, accessible New York City buses do not run after specific hours, and Access-A-Ride, NYC paratransit service usually does not arrange late-night transit.

Although disabled people are supposed to have safe access to transportation, it is near to impossible to track down an accessible means of transport even under ideal conditions.

This is a major concern for over 535,839 New York City residents who battle with an ambulatory disability. Aside from facing several challenges when it comes to getting from one place to another in the Big Apple, wheelchair users are also much restricted in terms of where they can live.

On the bright side, there are cities that have been tagged as disability friendly. Americans with disabilities should not have any sort of restrictions in terms of where they want to live.

Regrettably, it looks like people with disabilities in the United States will have to continue fighting for even those protections given to them under the ADA.

It is imperative for U.S. citizens to work together in the bid to ensure these fundamental rights are enforced.

(Image: Steve Johnson/flickr)

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