CHICAGO (CBS) — In downtown Oak Park near Lake and Forest, signs say the sidewalks on both sides of the street are closed. Some people are just walking around the construction, but residents who use wheelchairs say it’s not the easy for them.
Susan Becker and Suzen Riley, who both use motorized wheelchairs, say the year-long construction project has been life-changing and not for the better.
“I started out an hour early and I got stuck twice, and the fire department came and helped me,” Becker said.
“I don’t see an alternative route and across the street it says the sidewalk is closed, but it doesn’t look like anybody’s paying attention to the sign,” Riley said.
The Village of Oak Park said they are acutely aware of the accessibility difficulties created by the construction and the Public Works Department has worked with private contractors to provide “clearly marked safe alternate pedestrian routes” around the construction. Those are required by the ADA standards issued by the Department of Justice.
But Gary Arnold, program director for the Progress Center for Independent Living, says some of those alternatives aren’t clear and he wishes residents with mobility limitations had more input on the routes.
“I think what we’d like to see more of is really communication and outreach to come up with solutions and alternatives to make sure that passage is not just safe but efficient and usable,” Arnold said.
“The Village of Oak Park is committed to ensuring access to all. We continue to ask for everyone’s patience and understanding as these improvements move closer to completion,” a village spokesperson said, in part.
In the meantime, Riley and Becker say they’re sad they might be missing out on the fun downtown because they just can’t get to it.
“(I’m) saying prayers that I will be there and the cars won’t hit me,” Becker said.
The village says this project is still several weeks from completion. Anyone with specific concerns is encouraged to contact the Village’s ADA coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org.