January 30, 2008 in City

Wheelchair users need safe, clear sidewalks

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Rajah Bose photo

George Hollis, 61, recharges the battery on his wheelchair at the Spokane Transit Authority Plaza on Tuesday morning.
(Full-size photo)

If you need help

Whom to call

“In unincorporated Spokane County, low-income elderly, disabled or people with medical conditions can call (509) 477-3600 for assistance digging out their mailboxes and driveways.

“People with disabilities can arrange Spokane Transit Authority paratransit rides by calling (509) 328-1552.

“Spokane community centers can connect people in need with organizations that can help. Call during business hours:

»

East Central Community Center, 500 S. Stone St., (509) 625-6699.

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Northeast Community Center, 4001 N. Cook St., (509) 487-1603.

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West Central Community Center, 1603 N. Belt St., (509) 326-9540.

“To report power outages or downed lines, call Avista Utilities at (800) 227-9187; Inland Power & Light at (877) 668-8243; or Kootenai Electric Cooperative at (877) 744-1055.

As George Hollis navigated his electric wheelchair to a Spokane barbershop on North Monroe Street, he hit a bump in the snow that toppled him.

Lying half on the curb and half in the street, the 61-year-old said later, he tried to wave down motorists for help. No one stopped.

Hollis then summoned two young men walking by: “Can I get a little help here?” They laughed at him.

Snow-covered sidewalks like the one that upended Hollis are common throughout Spokane despite an ordinance requiring property owners to clear them. City officials say the focus now is on clearing streets, not citing residents for failing to shovel.

Everyone needs to be mindful of others during these snowy days, city spokeswoman Marlene Feist said.

“We live in a community, and we all need to get along and help each other out,” Feist said. “If people can help, that’s really the best way to get through this.”

Hollis finally got a bit of help when an STA bus driver stopped. Mike McLean, an STA driver for 37 years, with help from Don Pierce, another driver who was riding along, dusted Hollis off, put him and his chair on the bus and took him downtown.

“I’m just so thankful for his humanitarianism, because a lot of people just drove by,” Hollis said. “With these conditions, someone could hit me without even trying to.”

Even downtown, sidewalks are only partially cleared. Many neighborhood walkways are covered in snow. But “people are not being ticketed for not clearing their sidewalks,” Feist said. “Is using our streets crew to ticket people not clearing their sidewalks the best use of their time? No. We have everybody out clearing the roadways with plows and laying down de-icer.”

If someone were injured on a sidewalk in front of a home or business, the liability would land with adjacent property owner, Feist said.


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