Local News

Durham wheelchair ramps lead to impassable sidewalks

Posted October 13, 2009

— Durham is building about 550 wheelchair ramps citywide, but advocates for the disabled complain that some of the ramps lead to sidewalks that wheelchairs can't navigate.

"They are in desperate repair," Jane Johnson-Chavis, executive director of The Arc of Durham County, said of the sidewalks. "It just almost seems like it would a hazard to someone walking."

Durham sidewalk, wheelchair ramp Advocates for disabled pan Durham sidewalks

The Arc of Durham County is a nonprofit that serves people with developmental disabilities and their families.

The ramps are part of a 2006 settlement between Durham and the U.S. Department of Justice following a complaint that the city wasn't complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The city is spending about $800,000 in bond money on 300 ramps, and the contract to build more complicated ramps is out for bids.

Cracks are common near some ramps, and a tree blocks a good portion of one sidewalk. A gap in the sidewalk near a recently installed  ramp on Hermitage Court is bigger than a ballpoint pen, and Johnson-Chavis said it would be nearly impossible for someone to get past it in a wheelchair.

"Hermitage Court's sidewalk definitely needs to be replaced," Durham Public Works Director Katie Kalb said, noting the city has a list of thousands of sidewalks that need work.

"We are just trying to get to the worst (and most traveled) first," Kalb said, adding that the Hermitage Court sidewalk would likely be repaired within a couple of years.

"I would say that you know you've got to start somewhere and we have to comply with the Department of Justice settlement agreement, and we know we have to fix the sidewalks," she said.

Johnson-Chavis called the situation "pretty surprising."

"I'm just a little disturbed that we put these ramps in without considering whether people would have access once they got on the sidewalk," she said.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • elyhim2 Oct 14, 2009

    It should be noted that in Raleigh the sidewalk repairs are the homeowners responsibility.

  • Bendal1 Oct 14, 2009

    The photo of a wheelchair ramp also shows how it is improperly constructed. Under no circumstances should the ramp run all the way up to the back of the sidewalk; if the sidewalk is that close to the curb, then extra concrete should be added to the back of the ramp so there's a flat location for wheelchairs to travel on.

    Otherwise, a wheelchair has to go down into the ramp and then try and get back out of it just to continue down the sidewalk, risking overturning or being trapped in the ramp itself.

  • ContinuityMan Oct 14, 2009

    Wow. This is a perfect analogy of how NC government works.

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Oct 14, 2009

    Here's a thought. A stretch, but a thought. What if someone started a volunteer mission to improve the life handicapped people, and especially those in wheelchairs. They could take on various projects to improve accessibility. And would be awesome if somehow the handicapped could assist in these projects that would improve their own lives. They would get a feeling of satisfaction, some exercise, and it would be all over the national news.

  • ConcernedNCC Oct 14, 2009

    "They are in desperate repair," Jane Johnson-Chavis, Maybe she meant "in desparate NEED of repair"?

  • 3779LRRP Oct 13, 2009

    Some streets like mine, and I have lived here 30 years, have no sidewalks. Stop whinning about a cracked sidewalk.

  • hp277 Oct 13, 2009

    I don't get all the whining over cracked sidewalks. Much of Durham has no sidewalks at all - that's where the money needs to be spent.

  • Myword Oct 13, 2009

    Raleigh's ain't much better. And sometimes they simply disappear in mid-walk. And what's with new houses in Raleigh not even having sidewalks? I thought that city code made new places put them in.... but anyway, it's not just Durham.

  • pinball wizard Oct 13, 2009

    I am all for making the world accessible for the handicapped. Durham needs to rebuild all of their sidewalks, NOW. Instead of paving the streets, they should help the greater good.

  • commandokidd Oct 13, 2009

    " A gap in the sidewalk near a recently installed ramp on Hermitage Court is bigger than a ballpoint pen, and Johnson-Chavis said it would be nearly impossible for someone to get past it in a wheelchair."

    Thinks that accounts for all of Durhams sidewalks as well, including the streets which some have big potholes in them.