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Disabled Norfolk residents say they can’t get to building that provides disability benefits

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Posted at 7:06 PM, Jun 27, 2012
and last updated 2012-06-30 23:27:28-04

With blinkers and headlights, a mobile phone, and spinners designed to catch people's attention, Tanterrian Taylor's wheelchair is her own mini car, on days when pain from surgery makes it difficult to walk.

“I’m in this chair for life. I have to use it,” said Taylor.

Still, she says it’s not easy getting around the City of Norfolk in her top-of-the-line motorized chair.

“I have people yell at me all the time, ‘Get out of the street!’ Well, on some parts of Military Highway, you have no choice but to be in the street,” said Taylor.

Especially when she visits the Social Security Administration building just north of Janaf Center.

Ironically, the building that provides benefits to the entire disabled community is simply not accessible to those in wheelchairs.

“It’s impossible. I’m a very good driver and I couldn’t do it. I've met tractor trailers.I've met SUV’s; there was no way,” said Taylor.

So we had Ms. Taylor show us what she has to contend with every day along the 1,200 foot route.

The first obstacle: buses drop off and pick up people in the grass along the north bound side of Military Highway.

With no sidewalk in sight to turn down Lake Herbert Drive.

“By the time you get into the turning lane, someone coming 50 miles per hour is already right up on you,” said Taylor.

Once you get off Military Highway, it’s no piece of cake either.

“I drive in the street because there are no sidewalks,” said Taylor.

On her way home, trying to cross Military Highway is a high stakes gamble with your life when you are in a wheelchair.

“If they don’t see you, they are going to hit you,” said Taylor.

Fed up with her situation, Ms. Taylor went to the Norfolk Mayor’s Commission for People with Disabilities.

Chairwoman Shirley Confino-Rehder has been one of those fighting to fix the bus stop for the past three years.

“Is it crazy? It’s negligent,” said Confino-Rehder.

She says bus access for those in wheelchairs was never considered by builders and when she asked HRT and Norfolk city leaders why no stops were closer, she says the answer was always money.

“It was an oversight, and it cannot be ignored anymore,” said Confino-Rehder.

After the Mayor's Commission members got over 700 signatures petitioning HRT to revisit the issue, the board finally agreed to hear their case at Thursday's meeting.

Ms. Taylor, Mrs. Confino-Rehder and 5 others will be speaking in front of HRT commissioners, hoping they will address the issue and make the SSA building more accessible for all.

“We are here, we are not going anywhere, so help us,” said Taylor.