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Charles Town residents seek accessibility

August 03, 2000

Charles Town residents seek accessibility



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer

Wheelchair accessCHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The curb outside the high-rise where Louis Hertelendy lives is barely 2 inches high, but it's enough to complicate his day.

Hertelendy, who has multiple sclerosis, uses a specially designed, six-wheel wheelchair.

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When the first two wheels run up the edge of the curb, they lift the wheelchair high enough that the two big drive wheels in the middle cannot touch the ground.

The 74-year-old Hertelendy jerks his body around in the wheelchair in an attempt to get the wheelchair to grab the curb. But it only lurches around.

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While Hertelendy tries to get the wheelchair up on the curb, traffic zips by on U.S. 340, where the speed limit is 25.

"There ain't nobody that goes 25 mph. If they (police) would put up some radar, they would nail some of these guys and make some money," Hertelendy said.

Because the wheels are so close together on Hertelendy's wheelchair, they jammed two weeks ago when the curb wedged between them, Hertelendy said.

"I couldn't go back and I couldn't go forward. I was stuck right there," he said.

Some people from the high-rise came out to free Hertelendy.

Traveling around the area of Charles Towers near the Hilldale Shopping Center is proving difficult for at least three people at the high-rise who rely on wheelchairs. They are asking that someone - city officials, perhaps - help them make the area along U.S. 340 on the southern edge of town safer for Charles Towers residents.

At the very least, Hertelendy would like to see some asphalt put along the edges of the curbs so his wheelchair can travel better.

Several weeks ago, Hertelendy said he called City Hall to alert city officials to the situation. Hertelendy said he was told that the person he should talk to was on vacation. Hertelendy said when he made contact with the person at City Hall, he was referred to Police Chief Mike Aldridge.

Hertelendy said a person at the police department assured him that resolving the situation was a priority with Aldridge.

Aldridge said Wednesday that putting some asphalt down to smooth the curbs is a good first start. But the problem is that the curbs are on the property of Charles Towers, Aldridge said.

Aldridge is recommending the city work with owners of the high-rise to improve sidewalk crossings around the building.

A spokeswoman at Charles Towers declined to comment Wednesday.

Hertelendy and other wheelchair users leave Charles Towers and cross U.S. 340 to get groceries at the Sav-A-Lot grocery store or prescriptions at the CVS Pharmacy in the Hilldale Shopping Center across the street. They enter the shopping center by using one of the regular entrances for cars, which also worries them.

Aldridge suggested that perhaps part of one of the entrances could be reconfigured into a crossing area for people with disabilities.

Aldridge acknowledged that speeding is a problem along U.S. 340 near the high-rise, and said he believes an electronic warning sign should be installed along the highway alerting motorists to slow down for the crossing area.

Roger Perry, owner of the Hilldale Shopping Center, said he would be willing to help do what is necessary to make it safe for people with disabilities in the shopping center.

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