Many Sidewalks Inaccessible to the Disadvantaged - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Many Sidewalks Inaccessible to the Disadvantaged

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Take a step outside and you'll likely run into an issue that's only going to get worse as winter goes on. The snow that's plowed off streets and out of driveways is now burying our sidewalks. A whistleblower alerted us to the issue, saying his days as a disadvantaged veteran made it impossible for his wheelchair to utilize some major city streets.

Valley News Team's Hope Hanselman investigated who's at fault.

It's been a week since our first winter storm, and still these sidewalks haven't seen any relief. Snow even covers those outside Mark Bourdon's disabilities resource center.

"They don't think about that, they're busy digging out the driveways, trying to maneuver the streets," Bourdon, the Program Director at the Freedom Resource Center in Fargo, said. He's been flooded with calls about the inaccessible streets. It's become a cause he's passion about, for reasons close to his heart.

"My mother, who's 89 years old has routine of walking to target everyday. That's probably why she's alive at 89. She's out there in the community," he said.

But his mother hasn't been outdoors this last week. The sidewalks haven't been cleared.

"Her freedom has been taken away; and she is now, really, a prisoner of her own home because she can't get into the community using the sidewalks," Bourdon said.

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires whoever owns the property to keep a clear pedestrian path, whether that be the city or a homeowner.

"The City of Fargo is responsible for approximately 26, 27 miles of bike paths and sidewalks within the city," Mark Williams, the Services Manager at the Public Work Department said. "Mostly those are part of property that is owned by the city of Fargo or that isn't part of property adjacent to anyone else."

But sidewalks aren't always the issue.

Bourdon explains how after street crews plow streets and homeowners, business owners and landlords snow blow sidewalks, a build of snow is left at curb cuts. It all leaves a mound blocking the sidewalk from the street, and no one takes responsibility for it. Technically, it's a gray area where many are looking away and many more can't get past.

"There's a percentage of people out there that their freedom, their independence is being compromised everyday that those sidewalks stay blocked," Bourdon said.

If you're finding it difficult to get around sidewalks in your neighborhood, the Freedom Resource Center suggests calling the property owner or the city and asking them to take care of the specific area of concern. They say help is almost always granted after a phone call.

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