Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wheelchair Accessible Path Installed around Cobblestone Street in My Neighborhood

As I mentioned in my September post entitled Our Love Affair with Cobblestone Streets and Brick Sidewalks, for years there has been a cobblestone street impeding wheelchair access to the Casco Bay Bridge, which connects Portland and South Portland. I took up the cause in May 2013 with this video posted at

I spoke with the city manager and he liked my idea in principle, but wanted to make it a walkway through the adjacent Thomas Knight Park instead of over the top of the cobblestones. This wasn’t ideal, but it would still be a huge improvement.

In April of this year, the city manager informed me that funds had been allocated for this project, and it should be completed during the 2014 construction season. I announced this at

They cut it close – winter is almost here – but the ADA compliant path is now installed! I am going to enjoy my new access immensely next summer, as are all the other wheelchair users in the area.

The effort took 18 months from inception to completion, but it's extremely satisfying to see an idea like this come to fruition.

What did I learn in this process?

Here are my tips for campaigning on access issues where you live:

1. Speak up!

Keeping it to yourself or only complaining to friends does no good. Find out who gets things done in your community – a councilperson or city manager – and speak or write to them. Be friendly, and find something to compliment them on, and then present your case for improved access. Make it about the community, not just about you. Be as specific as possible. Offer to meet city officials in person, ideally at the site of the proposed accessibility project.

2. Follow through!

If city officials commit to considering your issue, follow up with them regularly. Be polite but firm in your tone. If you are not getting results, speak with other city officials, community organizers, or disabled advocacy groups. Don’t give up if one or two people are not cooperating.

3. Look at the details!

Be certain that the proposed solution is acceptable to you. Don’t assume because somebody says they can fix a problem that the solution is actually a good one. If possible, be present during construction. Again, persistence matters.

4. Celebrate your victory!

Write thank you letters to everyone involved. See if you can get the local newspaper to write a story. This will encourage city government and property owners to cooperate with requests like this in the future, and it will encourage other disabled people to speak up.

Note: You earn bonus points if you noticed two things about the last video. First, yes, I am in balance mode in my iBOT wheelchair. Second, yes, my ride down the new trail is displayed at double time. The iBOT doesn't go that fast in balance mode!


  1. I believe you can get anything done with your sweet personality,Love Carole

  2. That's wonderful news. I hope you spend many, many years enjoying traversing across it!

  3. Triumphant! You did a good thing that will help many enjoy this area. Good job!

  4. Yay Mitch! And it isn't just for wheeled users--When I was doing community theatre, and we built a boardwalk across grass to the tent we were performing in--we discovered that many of the seniors were using the boardwalk because it was just so much safer for them. Anyone who is balance-challenged is going to love this path. Cobblestones are lovely but dangerous to the likes of us!
    And hey, I could hear the leaves crunching under your wheels - what a great sound!

  5. Good work, Mitch! Enjoy the path you blazed!

  6. Thanks for everyone who will enjoy the smooth ride to the park! I know the cement sidewalk will be more permanent and require less maintenance, but I find asphalt to provide a much smoother, joint-free ride. Your skills as a great communicator benefit many people.

  7. Thank you all for your supportive comments. Daphne, those leaves you heard crunching were probably under Kim's feet not under my wheels :-) Sandra, you are correct. Asphalt is the best ride for a wheelchair user.