After months of making repair requests, disabled residents are now encouraged by the work being done to fix sidewalks along Peachtree Road. There are still many damaged areas, but residents say they are hopeful the repairs will continue.
Patients of the Shepherd Center, a brain and spinal cord injury hospital on Peachtree Road, have expressed frustration in recent months that repairs were not being made to sidewalks they felt were dangerous. While there are several damaged sidewalks that still need repair, they are encouraged by the attention this is being given by the city. Some repairs are being made, the residents told members of the media during a meeting Oct. 30 to look at sidewalk damage.
“The repairs are good and I’m glad it is getting attention,” Jarvis Brown, a Shepherd Center patient, said at the meeting.
The residents are celebrating repairs the city has completed to sidewalks and ramps at the corner of Peachtree Road and Lindbergh Drive, which is in an area where they say most of the problems they see are located.
However, Brown said it still takes too long for the city to address the issues. It shouldn’t take months of requesting the same issue on ATL311, the city’s hotline for city services, for these issues to be addressed, he said. Wheelchair users have the right to be able to safely use city sidewalks, he said.
“It takes them a while and it takes longer than it should,” he said. “We have a right to be in society like everybody else.”
Jamie Shepherd, the Shepherd Center’s director of community services and risk management, said he is encouraged by the repairs and is hopeful they will continue.
“Shepherd Center is encouraged that the need for sidewalk repair is being addressed, and we are hopeful that the resolution of this issue will come soon and yield a more accessible environment for all citizens,” Shepherd said.
One patient of the Shepherd Center, who asked her name not be used, celebrated the work and thanked construction workers who were making repairs during the Oct. 30 stroll down Peachtree Road.
“The work being done at Lindbergh [Drive] and Peachtree [Road] is fabulous! We have been enthusiastically thanking the road crews and police officers every single time we go by,” she said. “Let us please keep the momentum of this kind of progress going for a more accessible and safe Atlanta for every pedestrian of every variation of mobility.”
Most of the sidewalks the residents cite as dangerous are along a commute to the hospital from bus stops and their nearby apartments. Some sidewalks are crushed, ramp entrances are too steep and signs block sidewalks. Some ramps are so steep the residents said their wheelchairs have tipped over into the road.
Three residents who are patients of the brain and spinal cord injury hospital planned to meet Carlos Collins, a Department of Public Works project manager, at the Shepherd Center to show him these problems along Peachtree Road. The residents had invited members of the media, including the Buckhead Reporter, and when Collins realized this, he called his supervisor.
Collins discussed the media’s presence with the supervisor who indicated on speakerphone that the meeting could continue, but Collins suddenly left without indicating he was leaving. Residents at the meeting tried to contact him, but he did not return their calls.
Christina Cruz-Benton, a city of Atlanta spokesperson, said he had to decline the meeting because city employees are not authorized to speak with the media.
“City employees are not authorized to speak to the news media without proper clearance from their department head and from the Mayor’s Office of Communications. Therefore, Mr. Collins had to respectfully decline the meeting,” Cruz-Benton said.
Despite Collins absence, the residents decided to continue and to show the members of the media the damaged sidewalks, which include some sidewalks crushed so significantly the wheels on the patients’ wheelchairs would get stuck.
“It was disappointing that [Collins] couldn’t come. We really would have liked him to see the damage. I think it says so much about they don’t realize how significant an issue it is,” said Sally Flocks, the executive director of PEDS, a pedestrian advocacy group.
Some sidewalk ramps at intersections are not flush with the ground and have an edge that is hard for wheelchair users to make it over.
A pedestrian light button at one intersection was set a few back from the road in grass, inaccessible for wheelchair-bound pedestrians.
A road work sign was placed on a sidewalk, which is not allowed under guidelines of the Americas with Disabilities Act. The large sign makes it hard for wheelchair users to use the sidewalk, and Brown clipped the sign with his shoulder when he passed by it.
James Curtis, a wheelchair user who attended the meeting, said he has been “frustrated by the finger pointing” between officials of the Georgia Department of Transportation and the city of Atlanta on which jurisdiction has the responsibility to repair sidewalks.
The city has previously said it is GDOT’s responsibility to repair and maintain sidewalks on state routes, including Peachtree Road. However, GDOT maintains that it is not its responsibility, and the city is now working to complete the repairs. “Sidewalk repair, even on state routes, is and has always been a city responsibility,” Natalie Dale, a GDOT spokesperson, said.
Laura Dobson, a Peachtree Hills resident, came to the meeting to assist wheelchair users. She said she developed a completely different perspective on sidewalk damage after seeing how it affects disabled pedestrians.
“My eyes are completely opened,” Dobson said.