I walk to the El at 6:55 AM every weekday. That’s my work regime. Wake up, get out of bed, etc etc. After a traumatic experience with the dental floss, I got to a late start and was about a block from home when I noticed something interesting. Ahead of me was a man in a wheelchair, waving his arm at a car blocking his path. The car was in the middle of the cross walk, and the fellow in the chair couldn’t wheel past. I saw others walking by them, and wondered what could be happening.
As I got closer, I realized the man was screaming at the car, hitting it and basically pissed as all hell. So instead of being a City Person and ignoring it, I walked up and looked at the car. Inside was a man, sound asleep, at the wheel on the running car. The wheelchair fellow was trying to wake him up so he could move. Since the wheelchair was on the passenger side, and the car was well sound proofed, Rip Van Lose-Your-License was sawing logs happily. I opted to help, walking around to the driver’s side and trying the door. It opened and I gently shook the driver’s head. His head flopped around and I panicked. Oh God! He’s dead!
I watch too much CSI, yeah I know. Wanna know what’s worse? I checked for a pulse (yes) and breathing (yes), and then shook him again. Finally he woke up and was startled.
Me: Maybe you should go home, sir…
Driver: How’d you get in here?
Me: Your door’s unlocked.
Driver: Oh. Was I asleep?
Driver: Oh. Huh.
The driver looked at me, then at the stunned wheelchair fellow, and then proceeded to drive off.
“Damn,” said I.
“No shit,” said the fellow.
And we went off our respective ways.
But since then I’ve been thinking about accessibility laws in Illinois. Ipstenit often bitches that the sidewalks are ill-kept and too narrow for most disabled people. But let’s start at the beginning.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Illinois Accessibility Code apply as both require freedom of access for wheelchairs. The ADA is a federal civil rights law for people with disabilities, comparable to civil rights law passed in the 1960s for other minorities. It covers employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, and telecommunications for the deaf.
All people with disabilities, visible and hidden, are covered by the ADA: persons with physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life functions (eating, breathing, caring for oneself, working, walking, etc.), persons with records of such an impairment (even if that record is inaccurate), persons regarded as having such an impairment. Certain exclusions from the definition of “individual with a disability” are specified, including homosexuals, current illegal drug users, and those with certain conditions (compulsive gambling, kleptomania, pyromania, sexual behavior disorders).
Hey, cool. I’m not disabled for being gay! I didn’t know that! Sorry. Sarcasm.
All public venues that are being built, rehabbed, or repaired must be accessible. There are certain buildings that are exempt (like Historical Landmarks, hotels, temporary housing, buildings with primarily religious or private functions). So your house doesn’t have to be accessible, but the Bank where I work does. Fine.
A little digging and I found that Illinois permits the use of Segways on public streets and sidewalks, don’t require a helmet and must abide by pedestrian laws.
Still, it’s simple that the sidewalks should be accessible. Guess what? They ain’t. And very little is done to fix them. In the defense of the road crews, we have a long, cold winter that cracks cement regularly. But that’s not an excuse. No one does much of anything to fix the sidewalks, and anyone with a brain can realize that the sidewalks are barely shoveled in the winter. It’s hard on me, and I have two good legs and am in decent shape.
The general rule in Illinois is that a property owner cannot be held responsible for injuries that occur as the result of the failure to remove natural accumulations of snow and ice. After a snowfall or an ice storm, a property owner is not considered to be negligent if a person slips and falls because the property owner failed to shovel or salt the walkway or sidewalk. This rule recognizes that property owners cannot guarantee perfect conditions on their property, particularly in a winter climate. On the other hand, owners can be held liable for injuries that are caused by unnatural accumulations of snow and ice on their property. Unnatural accumulations include snow piles created by snow removal and ice formed by artificial conditions, such as a fountain.
This means that if a sidewalk is icy, tough shit.
Jesus. We suck sometimes.