Originally published Aug. 5, 2013.
"I know I can get out of this chair," says Huntington Mayor Brooks Fetters as he rolls down the sidewalk of Market Street in a wheelchair, "But, there are people (in Huntington) who cannot. This is their life."
Fetters maneuvered his wheelchair around the downtown area of Huntington on Thursday, Aug. 1. He was joined by Anthony Goodnight, director of Public Works and Engineering Services and Huntington City Police Chief E.J. Carroll.
During what Fetters calls a "Downtown Walkabout" the men used wheelchairs and walkers on city sidewalks to help bring awareness to the challenges facing Huntington's handicapped community.
The walkabout began at the LaFontaine Center on Cherry Street and followed a route to the site of the Downtown Farmer's Market at the corner of Market and Warren streets, and then headed to the Huntington City-Township Public Library.
Many residents of the LaFontaine Center's Senior community accompanied Fetters on the walk, as well as Bob Burnsworth, a member of the Pathfinder Board of Directors and handicapped citizen since 1988.
Burnsworth and company pointed out to Fetters the many challenges faced when using a wheelchair or walker in downtown Huntington. The mayor was asked to roll his wheelchair up and down dangerous 4-inch curbs that have no handicapped access point, as well as attempting to enter many downtown storefronts at steep angles while holding open heavy doors.
"It is hard to get around," concluded Fetters after traveling just over a block from his starting point.
"You get on a place you think you can go, and you can't get back out without backtracking or going out into the street... getting in and out of buildings is just huge," he notes.
"This affects the quality of life of citizens who are important in their own right," says Fetters.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 has required Huntington to accommodate citizens with disabilities. As the city attempts to comply, Fetters says a transition plan is in place and $200,000 of CEDIT (County Economic Development Income Tax) money is set aside to make improvements to the city's accessibility.
Fetters says he will use the knowledge gained during the walkabout to make sure the money is spent strategically and improvements are done right.
"It's a marathon, not a sprint."
Complete caption: Huntington Mayor Brooks Fetters (left) attempts to enter the parking lot where the Downtown Farmer’s Market is held over a two-inch curb that does not have a handicapped access. Bob Burnsworth (right), of the Pathfinder board of directors, and a handicapped citizen for over 20 years, helps to direct the mayor on the best way to maneuver the chair, as LaFontaine Center resident Susan Enyeart looks on.