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Father's mission to fix inaccessible sidewalks spans decades

A father has made it his mission to advocate for those with disabilities and is calling for change after discovering missing or inaccessible sidewalk ramps in his Columbus neighborhood. (Courtesy: Steve Farrar)

A father has made it his mission to advocate for those with disabilities and is calling for change after discovering missing or inaccessible sidewalk ramps in his Columbus neighborhood.

Steve Farrar’s son was born with a spinal injury in Salina, Kansas, confining him to a wheelchair. When new sidewalks were being put in back in 1988, there were no ramps installed. Steve pushed city and state leaders to make them more accessible but fell on deaf ears, until the newspaper printed a front-page article about it. Soon after, changes were made and even a task force was setup in Salina to address disability issues.

“I kind of see the world through his eyes and see things that are wrong, that are barriers,” Steve Farrar said.

Now, nearly 30 years later, Steve is faced with the same problem in Haydens Crossing North where the subdivision is advertised as completely accessible, but Steve noticed in many places, it isn’t accessible at all.

“I come up with 53 missing wheelchair ramps, just totally missing,” he said. “It’s disappointing 30 years later to run into the same problem here.”

ABC 6 On Your Side noticed a lack of ramps on street after street or corner after corner and other cases of curbs not properly cut.

Derek Mortland with the Center for Disability and Empowerment noticed uneven, bumpy surfaces, steep slopes near the curbs and other violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“It happens fairly frequently,” Mortland said. “A lot of times I see people make better accommodations for their cars than they do for people.”

While cities are required to follow the code, the streets in this community are private. The City of Columbus told 6 On Your Side that it’s not up to building inspectors to enforce federal ADA laws and can only encourage developers to follow the standards. However, that doesn’t always happen.

The neighborhood was designed by Pulte Group. Part of it was developed by Dominion Homes, acquired by Pulte in 2014. Now, new builds are happening and more ramps are missing.

“Disgusting,” Steve said. “I want to see it fixed right.”

Another neighbor had complained to Pulte Group and the developer originally agreed to fix the ramps. Later, Steve was told each one cost roughly $1,200 and someone else would have to pay for it.

ABC 6 On Your Side sent pictures, addresses and descriptions of what we uncovered. Pulte Group responded and said it was in the process of investigating and would reach out to independent consultants to review the sidewalks and ramps to ensure compliance. Meanwhile, similar steep curb ramps are being cut out as the neighborhood is developed.

Steve still draws on memories of the past when his son, Jerry, was a superstar in the Special Olympics, racing his wheelchair.

“We’ve got a ton of gold medals laying around here somewhere,” Steve said. “To live with him and be around his friends and other people who have disabilities, I thinks something’s just gotten into my blood.”

Jerry passed away in 2005 following a surgery and blood clot. He was 27 years old.

Steve lives on, carrying the memory, mission and fight from decades ago, hoping changes will ramp up to brighter days ahead in his community.

“Don’t give up,” he said.

Pulte Group later followed up in an email promising to address the issues.

“Pulte takes these concerns about ADA compliance and access issues seriously. To date, our team has conducted a review of the items you have shared with us and are going to address the issues to ensure proper installation, a better flow and access, and installation of missing ramps (as well as future ramps once the community is complete). There are two remaining items that we need some additional time to investigate. We will be following up with the homeowner to pinpoint the exact location of the issue to fully understand what next steps might be needed.”

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