The official student newspaper of St. John's School.

Sidewalk Holes

For 26% of disabled Houstonians, even a walk presents danger. These Houstonians are struggling without accessible streets, unable to enjoy the things they love, including hanging out with their friends and family.

Recently, I was on a walk to Walgreens with my aunt, who is in a wheelchair due to a spinal cord injury. The sidewalk had a huge pothole in the middle, and since she could not get around it in her wheelchair, she had to roll onto the busy street to navigate around the pothole. I am alarmed that Houston does not have accessible streets for people like my aunt, but I am also sad she has to deal with these kinds of hazards—she shouldn’t have to worry about something as simple as going to the grocery store. She should have the same opportunities she used to have before her disability.

According to the National Association of City Transportation Officials, “Wheelchair users can lose control and possibly tip over as the front wheel loses contact with the ground followed by the opposing back wheel.” Citizens with vision impairments cannot see that there are differences in heights on driveways, and could veer into the street without knowing it. Pedestrians with vision impairments may not detect the difference in slope of the driveway flare and veer towards the street and may enter the street without realizing it.

The statement from the Americans with Disabilities Act is that “For ADA compliance, the minimum sidewalk width is 36 inches (3 feet), though sidewalks can be wider. If sidewalks are less than 60 inches (5 feet) wide, passing spaces must be constructed every 200 feet.”

The huge holes in the streets and other dangers could cause someone to have a very serious injury. Yet our city of Houston isn’t able to follow the laws that have been put in place for our citizens.

According to the Houston Chronicle, major roadways including Old Spanish Trail, Braeburn Valley Drive and Montrose are not accessible at all. These streets are peppered with broken glass, cracks and holes. These conditions are extremely dangerous to cyclists, babies in strollers, and especially wheelchair users, and they could cause a serious accident. It is important to take extra caution near curb cuts, cracks in the streets, and road and look out for those with mobility and visual impairments. After learning about the inaccessible streets in Houston, I started to understand how much these obstacles can make people lose interest in something they used to love to do.

My dad and I were going in the car to my tennis practice, and there was a woman in a wheelchair, stuck in the middle of the street. She could not cross the sidewalk because it was too bumpy for her powerchair, so she was stuck behind a pothole in the middle of the road. She was just sitting there, about to be hit by a car. I really understand how this makes life difficult for people with disabilities, and I know that something needs to change. This is really upsetting to me because I don’t want anyone to feel like they can’t do something because of city planning that needs to be fixed

So I’m telling you, go email the city council and talk to businesses that you can’t get into because of the hazardous sidewalks. This change will help so many people hurt every day by the dangerous sidewalks and streets. Speak up for your friends, family, and people surrounding you to create a more inclusive Houston.

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