Pasco Mayor Watkins rides a wheelchair to better view sidewalk a - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Pasco Mayor Watkins rides a wheelchair to better view sidewalk accessibility needs

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PASCO, Wash.-- Pasco Mayor Matt Watkins hit the streets of downtown Friday in a wheelchair to see things from a different point of view.

He saw first hand how the quality of the city's sidewalks is making things tough for disabled citizens. He said riding a wheelchair through the streets of Pasco is a lot harder than it looks and that's the problem.

Friday, City of Pasco workers took to the streets in wheelchairs to learn about the challenges disabled people face every day and what can be done to improve the city's pathways. Older sidewalk ramps aren't just difficult for disabled people to use, they're also a safety hazard.

The Americans with Disability Act requires cities to have a plan to bring city sidewalks up to accessibility standards and it's time for Pasco to move forward.

"It would be a perfect world if everything was all built to standard, but that standard has evolved a little bit so the question is are we going to be able to change some of those more difficult to transition sidewalk areas," Watkins said.

Sidewalks 10 years or older don't meet those standards so the City of Pasco is focusing on fixing high density areas and locations near hospitals and assisted living facilities.

Mayor Watkins found out on his ride what a difference these ramp updates can make.

"I didn't realize how much just one percent slope in a sidewalk makes a big difference if you're in a wheelchair I'd not been in a wheelchair before and learned it's a little harder than a lot of us think to be able to go down sidewalks," Watkins said.

Mayor Watkins got out of the wheelchair after the tour, but Josh Anderson from TiLite wheelchair manufacturers can't do that. He uses a wheelchair in his daily life. 

"I think often times people just think about if there's a curb cut there then it's accessible, but that's really not the case as we saw today. Accessibility can vary tremendously for somebody who is sight impaired versus somebody who is mobility impaired," Anderson said.

Updated sidewalks have a flat transition from street level to the ramp, an 8% increase on the slope, a flat rest top and a grated yellow surface for the vision impaired.

All those parts are required to make the streets of Pasco accessible for everyone.

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