Passable for an able-bodied young man, perhaps...
Even a relatively small band of snow can render a crosswalk impassable for a wheelchair or a visually impaired pedestrian.
With the white stuff still falling during the March 6 storm that dumped a foot of heavy wet snow on the Charlottesville area, plows were out clearing streets, and by 4pm on Thursday, March 7– 24 hours after the last official snowflake fell– city residents and businesses were required to have cleared the sidewalks along their properties– or face fines. It would be days before many curb ramps were cleared of snow piled there by city plows, however, and pedestrian activist Kevin Cox, whose wife is blind, says the city's failure to ensure handicapped access to pedestrian right-of-ways is "particularly outrageous."
"I think this is a deliberate and defiant violation of the ADA," he writes in an email sent to City Manager Maurice Jones on Friday March 8, criticizing what he believes is a city policy that prioritizes road clearing over safety for the handicapped.
"If you're in a wheelchair, you're screwed," he says. "It's really tough if you're visually impaired.
Transportation director Judith Mueller did not return the Hook's call by posting time, but city spokesperson Miriam Dickler says the curb ramps fall under the same ordinance as sidewalks. The city, she says, ensures that curb ramps adjacent to city buildings and parks are cleared "as quickly as possible." Other ramps around the city are the responsibility of the property owners, who will face fines if they don't clear the ramps within the 24-hour window.
Cox, however, wants to see a change in snow clearing policy so that curb ramps are prioritized for clearing and the city takes stronger measures to make it happen.
"Other cities somehow or another manage to keep sidewalks free of snow," he says, noting that even after most snow had melted four days after the storm, curb ramps remained blocked because the snow had been piled so high on them. "Why install curb ramps," he asks, "if you're not going to maintain them and make them accessible?"