JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Your tax dollars are at work on street resurfacing projects throughout the city of Jackson, and thousands are being spent to install new curb ramps for wheelchair accessibility on sidewalks, as required by law.
But as Three On Your Side found out, some of the new ramps might be a waste of money.
If you look closely, you'll notice something very wrong with the brand new curb ramps at the intersection of Mcdowell and Terry Roads.
"I mean where are you supposed to go? I don't get it," said Dr. Scott Crawford, as he attempted to navigate one of the new ramps in his wheelchair. "What were they thinking?"
Crawford, a disabled advocate, showed us how the new ramps are totally useless and dangerous, because they do not align with the roadway. He said no wheelchair could make the steep drop off from the street to the new ramp.
Crawford said, "What I want to know is who planned this? Who built this? And who inspected it after it was done?"
WLBT found dozens of new curb ramps all around town that either aren't installed properly or connect to sidewalks that are not usable, and in some cases, connect to nothing at all.
We found one of the most outrageous examples of a curb ramp that goes absolutely nowhere on Terry Road, leading to an empty overgrown lot. Another one is directly across the street, with no sidewalk in sight.
The new ramps are going in as streets are resurfaced. Each one costs around $800 to design and install.
We found one with a concrete post sticking out of the ground and another that leads to a tree. Federal law requires the city to provide continuous sidewalks with disabled access as streets are resurfaced. Here's a website with more details: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/civilrights/ada_qa.htm#q2
We showed pictures of new ramps to Jackson Public Works Director Thelman Boyd. We asked him how these ramps could possibly be considered accessible. "Accessible is making sure the handicap ramp is installed," he said.
We asked, "So just the fact that it's there, that's all you want to see?" "No," Boyd said. "That's not all I want to see, but I just want to meet federal guidelines."
Boyd said two project managers are overseeing the work, and more will be done throughout the city with $50 thousand a year dedicated just for sidewalks and meeting ADA requirements.
Advocacy groups have studied and outlined the areas where the work is needed most, even presenting detailed reports to the city. They say their help has gone ignored.
Mary Troupe, Director of the Mississippi Coalition for Citizens with Disabilities, said, "For years we've been told we don't have the money to do the curb cuts. Well, now we have the money, but we don't have the common sense to know how they're to be done and where they're to be done."
When asked why the groups are being ignored, Boyd said, "They're not being ignored. I can assure you of that, and we're looking at other ways to bring the handicap community in to provide input."
Input seems desperately needed. Without accessible ramps and sidewalks, wheelchair users must ride in the streets. That proved fatal for James Smith. He was hit by an SUV March 19th, 2009 while riding in his wheelchair on Medgar Evars Boulevard.
Crawford says wheelchair users around Jackson risk their lives every day. "That's a choice you have to make," he said. "That, or give up your independence."
Crawford is among a group of ten Jackson residents to file a federal lawsuit against the city of Jackson, for not complying with federal ADA requirements, including accessibily at JATRAN bus stops. The justice department is now working on finding a resolution in that case.