The Rights of People in Wheelchairs on the Road

With the rise of bicyclists in metro areas, the issue of road rights has been making headlines across the nation.

Most car drivers are very protective of their road space, leading to an increased number of bicycle accidents as of late.  Many are arguing that cyclists don’t have much in the way of protective rights when it comes to navigating city streets.

And while the debate rages on over what a cyclist is or isn’t allowed to do, it’s easy to overlook the rights of another group who frequently share the road.

People in wheelchairs.

Room for Everyone

Some people with wheelchairs will use a wheelchair vehicle to get where they’re going.  Others simply use their wheelchair by itself.

In case you weren’t sure, wheelchair users have rights on the road.  A wheelchair user is free to use streets and sidewalks as needed.  Things such as “right of way” applies to them like it would with a vehicle.

However, if you are taking your chair onto the road, there are a few things you’ll need.

People who are using their wheelchair on the road need reflectors, a visibility flag, and if you’re driving after sunset, some sort of lighting system.  The rules aren’t too different from those of a cyclist.  But just because a wheelchair user is following the rules, doesn’t mean there aren’t still dangers.

Highway to the Danger Zone

A citizen of Jackson, Mississippi was recently interviewed to talk about the dangers he faces as a wheelchair user on the road.

“Somebody hit me at a light, and I have been thrown from my chair,” said Clifton Bailey.  Clifton contracted Polio as an infant and has been using a wheelchair his entire life.

There are times where Clifton, like many wheelchair users, has to use the road.  Many areas he goes to on a day to day basis don’t have sidewalks or if they do, they’re not wheelchair accessible.

The good news is that the city of Jackson is working hard to make sure their city is more accessible in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Currently, they are doing work on their roads, their sidewalks, and their public transportation to make sure everything is ADA compliant.  In the mean time, they urge drivers to be more mindful of wheelchair users on the road.

“I would like them to respect us when they see us out here and on the street,” says Bailey.

If you feel there’s a lack of safety or accessibility in your area, make sure to contact your local government to make sure everything is ADA compliant.

What experience do you have with people using wheelchairs on the road?  Share your thoughts and stories below!

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