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Memphis is growing, but proper accessibility to sidewalks for pedestrians is lagging behind

A paralyzed Memphis man says getting around downtown is difficult because the sidewalks are in dire need of repair.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis continues to attract people from all over the world. However, the city's mobility connections for pedestrians are still lacking, leaving some community members to feel like they're being left behind.

For people like, Fletcher Cleaves, who was paralyzed after a car accident caused by a distracted driver, moving around the city, especially in the downtown area, is difficult.

As he struggles daily to maneuver around broken up sidewalks, he said wants to see the city do more.

Cleaves has lived downtown for seven years. He has been paralyzed and in a wheelchair for 13 years. 

According to Fletcher, the sidewalks aren’t wheelchair accessible, and it’s difficult for him to get around town.  

“I would have to turn around and go back, and so I find the nearest curb cut, and then come back up the side of the street, so it's just an unnecessary risk, you know, being in the middle of the street or even on the side of the street is something that doesn't need to happen,” Cleaves said.  

He said he has made calls to the city, but he hasn’t seen anything done.  

“The terrain is out of control holes, tree trunks routing up the sidewalk, anything you could think of missing pieces,” Cleaves said.  

He said one of the biggest issues he has seen is a fire hydrant in the middle of a curb cut on Carolina Street. He said he can’t get around it without falling. He now wants the city to pay more attention to the people who are living with disabilities.  

“We’re trying to bring tourists in and people from all different types of walks of life...Just understand that the bare minimum won't cut it,” Cleaves said. “Don't just do things to check off a box. Actually, think is this beneficial to somebody in the disabled community?” 

The Downtown Memphis Commission is working on a solution to the issue.  

"The Downtown Memphis Commission has been looking at ways to enhance mobility connections in our transportation network. So, what that means is, how do we take a very car dependent city and open up options,” said Lauren Bermudez with the Commission.  

They started a one-to-one matching grant, up to $5000 dollars, for businesses to fix their sidewalks.  

"We’ve been walking around looking at sidewalks, taking pictures, contacting the property owners, where we see that there are broken sidewalks or maybe a missing sidewalk,” Bermudez said.  

In Memphis, it's the property owner's responsibility to fix sidewalks, but Bermudez said she knows that can be expensive, especially for small business owners. That’s why the grant is available. They just need more people to know it’s there.  

“Our vision is a downtown for everyone,” Bermudez said.  

The grant is just for a limited time. She said right now they have 15 potential projects in the works. They said once a project is started it only takes a couple weeks to repair the sidewalk.  

Cleaves is glad to see some action being taken. He said he’s traveled to other major cities, and it’s easier for him to get around. He wants that same convenience in his own city.  

“All parts of life should be accessible," Cleaves said. “With Memphis having a major international airport, why do I need to maneuver my way around different situations versus being able to go the same route somebody that can walk go.” 

MLGW is responsible for moving the hydrant. ABC24 reached out to the company. They said they are finalizing the design. The design will then be sent to the construction crew for it to be moved. 

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