If you're in a wheelchair, it's almost impossible to navigate the north side of the 800 block of Texas Avenue, home to the Houston Chronicle. There are trees planted in the middle of the sidewalk, splitting the already-narrow walkway into sections as thin as 26 inches. There are light poles and parking meters dotting the way as well. In order to make use of the slightly wider sections, wheelchair users have to zig-zag around the obstacles like an obstacle course.
Hair Balls asked a friend to take a wheelchair up the sidewalk in question and as you can see in the photo, it was a pretty tight fit. Her choices were either squeeze between a tree and a wall built by the Chronicle, or ride on the edge of the curb right next to traffic. Neither was desirable.
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SHOW ME HOW
City of Houston officials tell us standard width for a sidewalk is between four and six feet minimum. We're pretty sure they mean a sidewalk that is four to six feet wide without obstruction -- not two feet, then a tree, and then another three feet.
It wasn't always this way. Before recent renovations, the Chronicle had a normal sidewalk like any other downtown building. Then they built up a wide plaza area right in front of the building, which we admit is really pretty, but the formerly wide sidewalk is now bordered by a wall, leaving just a sliver of passageway.
Wheelchair users can get to the newspaper's building. There's an accessibility ramp at the east end of the block that gets you on to the plaza and in the building's front door. But that doesn't help anyone wanting to go not to the building but past it. Even if you use the plaza to cross the building, at the west end of the block you're faced with stairs and no ramp so now you can't get down to continue your way.
There is always the option of crossing the street and using the lovely sidewalk at Chase Tower, but gosh, we don't think that's what the Americans with Disabilities Act meant: your sidewalk can be inaccessible to wheelchairs so long as the one across the street is fine.