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Dodge/My Turn: Transportation discrimination

As a 66-year-old disabled woman, I’m appalled by Eveline MacDougall’s Sept. 25 letter, “Sidewalk Speeders.” How ludicrous, abusive and just plain insensitive it was to indicate disabled people aren’t trustworthy to control their only mode of transportation. I use an electric wheelchair and consider myself a very safe driver. In fact, over the past 10 years, I’ve yet to run into or cause bodily harm to anyone.

The disabled deserve the respect they’ve striven for and earned. Being disabled is difficult enough. I’m a productive part of this community with several wheelchair-bound friends. As I ride along sidewalks, the near misses I observe are those who don’t watch out for the disabled. Able-bodied pedestrians block sidewalks engrossed in their own conversations, plugged into their headphones, and are so busy texting, they don’t see or hear those in wheelchairs! They don’t think to look for the disabled any more than they think to look out for baby strollers.

These are just a few examples of the insensitivity and apathy society has developed toward those among us whom are less fortunate. Barriers are created for our disabled citizens and yet blame is placed on the disabled for their failure to meet your standards.

If you only knew how many times I’ve almost been struck by cars, while edging out into a crosswalk, never mind all the wheelchair-bound individuals who HAVE been struck while in crosswalks by the able-bodied!

To imply a “speed limit” be implemented suggests a town or city would be an example of a knee-jerk law, one having a disparate impact on a class of individuals (the disabled). Then to enforce such ridiculous laws on our disabled citizens, including veterans; how disrespectful and repressive!

To avoid lawsuits, towns would wisely have to initiate the following: walkers, individuals pushing baby carriages, and drivers of maintenance carts cannot exceed 4 mph. All people on sidewalks must be prohibited from running, walking while talking, walking while using cell phones, walking while eating, walking while drinking, walking while chewing gum and walking or running while listening to music. New speed limit and other warning signs must be posted. Police will be provided with pedestrian speed-radar guns and pedestrian intersections will be equipped with cameras.

But please be advised, allowing children to play hopscotch on a public pathway is “blocking” a public pathway and defacing public property when using chalk! Careful, you just may get ticketed for that! Are we really going to set an example of becoming the county’s wheelchair-unfriendly city? Must we continue this negative charade that only ends with more indifference? What is this teaching the younger generation? Intolerance and how to bully! Too many people do not have a clue of what it’s truly like to be disabled, stuck in a wheelchair or scooter, even though you may have a “friend” who is!

It isn’t that the disabled want more power for their wheelchair, it’s because they need extra power for different situations, such as going up steep terrain or getting out of a ditch. But please understand that each wheelchair and scooter is programmed for the ability of each individual and their skill to safely use their medical devices, as such medical devices are only programmed to go a set limit of speed — while a person running, walking fast or power-walking can easily exceed those speeds!

Also, it’s against a person’s civil rights to demand they ride their medical equipment in the road, for ANY reason! But if they choose to or feel they must ride in the road, it’s up to that individual to do so. Usually riding in the road is due to no sidewalk, the sidewalk is too bumpy, is under construction, or the sidewalk is blocked. As this brings us to one other issue, all sidewalks and curb-cuts must be cleared of snow and ice within 24 hours after a snow storm and kept cleared. This means cleared completely!

Thank you for caring!

Cynthia L. Dodge, an access specialist, lives in Greenfield.

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