BEND, Ore. - This year, the city of Bend said it has improved 277 curb ramps to comply with disabled-access guidelines. The city has been under a federal mandate for years to make city streets more accessible, and some are dissatisfied with progress made so far.
Four of those sidewalk ramps were brought up to par this year because of requests submitted by disabled people.
More than $500,000 has been spent on improvements this year, according to city officials, including a community development block grant that paid for 73 of this year's curb ramp fixes. In an update, the city said it also installed 54 "detectable warnings," a section of bumps a blind or visually impaired person can feel with their feet or cane and know they are about to enter a roadway.
Thomas Norris says he is pleased with Bend's effort to keep an open dialogue with the disabled community, in the wake of a federal lawsuit over a decade ago that brought a settlement requiring improvements under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
"They're moving forward with us, and they're listening to us now," Norris said, "We just want that open communication to stay intact."
Not everyone is satisfied, though. Heidi Nelson, a mother of a disabled daughter, says she sometimes feels the city neglects her daughter's needs.
"We get the subtle message everywhere in Bend that you're not welcome," Nelson said.
Nelson said she wishes city officials would change that message. She said that would happen, if officials looked at it from a different perspective.
"They should probably spend some time in a wheelchair or a walker, going around town, feeling how it is to try and get in and out of businesses -- maybe not just for a couple of hours, maybe a few days," Norris said. "And that would really do some eye -opening, and it would become more of a priority."
Although Norris is pleased with what the city has done, he's frustrated with local businesses. Going out to dinner first requires logistical planning.
"Can I use the restroom? Can I wash my hands? Can I do all that?" Norris said, "That's where we find that it's really frustrating."
Overall, the Central Oregon Disability Support Network's Dianna Hansen said the city has made some improvements, but more work needs to be done to help people with disabilities.
"You know, it's ongoing, and I think with the new laws and the new standards that we have that going forward, there will definitely be an improvement on new buildings, new structures, sidewalks and curbs," Hansen said.
The city has more information about its accessibility program, including a barrier removal request form, visit http://www.bendoregon.gov/accessibility.