Accessibility issues in Charlotte pose challenging risks for those living with disabilities

About six miles from Uptown, one man says he has to utilize techniques he’d use on rural farm roads to walk from one block to another.
Parts of Charlotte are nearly impossible to navigate because of the lack of sidewalks and for people who can't drive or face a disability, it's a problem.
Published: Mar. 31, 2022 at 6:17 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 31, 2022 at 8:14 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Imagine not being able to safely get around your neighborhood, in danger every time you leave your house.

For Bradley Blair, a blind man, navigating Charlotte can be challenging - sometimes impossible.

“I would never live in this neighborhood as a blind person,” Blair said.

Blair and WBTV reporter Lileana Pearson walked down Oakdale Road in Charlotte together. About six miles from Uptown, Blair says he has to utilize techniques he’d use on rural farm roads to walk from one block to another.

“What else are you going to do?” Blair said.

That particular road is filled with crumbling, disappearing, and blocked sidewalks. The lack of visible marked street crossings had a mother holding the hands of two small children, dashing across the road between cars.

“I would generally assume in most cities that if I find a crossing point on one side of the intersection that there will be something across the street when I get there. In Charlotte, that expectation is often disappointed.” Blair said.

As of 2017 - 34 percent of sidewalks were missing along Charlotte side streets and 54 percent on main roads.

Blair, who relies on walking and catching public transportation said without the help of a sighted person he would never choose to visit this community.

“What you don’t have is your own autonomy to make your own decisions,” Blair said.

As of 2017 - 34 percent of sidewalks were missing along Charlotte side streets and 54 percent on main roads.

According to the Charlotte WALK plan - a document designed to improve walkability in the city --the lack of infrastructure is attributed to the city’s boom in population and car-centric design.

The city wants to change that.

“It’s the right thing to do,” said Terry Bradley, the City of Charlotte ADA Coordinator.

Bradley says the city has plans in place to tackle community accessibility.

First, through the Americans with Disabilities Act Transition Plan.

Part of this plan would identify physical barriers like the lack of sidewalks and bus stops and address how accessibility can be achieved.

“It’s a civil right that everyone has to ensure access to services,” Bradley said.

Second, through Charlotte’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan where a major focus is the ability to access goods within ten minutes by either walking, biking or skating to your destination. These are also referred to as “10-minute neighborhoods.”

“All Charlotte households should have access to central amenities, goods, and services within ten minutes. That’s whether you’re using a mobility device, walking, or whatever transit you choose,” Bradley said.

But until either of those plans go into effect, people like Brad will need to wait for the city to catch up.

“I want to see some more buses, I want to see more bus stops, more drivers, more access for everybody. It’s not just a special nitch disability interest it’s everybody wins.” Blair said.

Both the ADA transition plan and the 2040 Comprehensive Plan are taking steps to become a reality.

While there is no set date, officials tell WBV that the ADA transition plan will go before the city council in the next six months for the beginning stages of approval.

Meanwhile, the policy-map which accompanies the 2040 Comprehensive Plan and provides guidance on the type of intensity and development that is appropriate for the city was adopted this week by the Charlotte city council.

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