SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – Now that they’ve decided to keep a portion of W. Main Street closed to vehicles until the end of summer, the City of Spartanburg is looking at ways to make their downtown more accessible for people with mobility issues.
“Any time you’re closing off that kind of access, you don’t want to make it more difficult for folks,” City of Spartanburg spokesperson Christopher George said.
While blocking off Morgan Square to vehicles has proven to be beneficial for many businesses and patrons in Spartanburg, it’s been hard for others.
“We have received a few emails and some phone calls from folks who are concerned about mobility issues, and the ability to get in and around the area that’s closed off there,” George said.
Dr. Jerry Bernard, with the Charles Lea Center, told 7 News he knows several people who would love to visit downtown Spartanburg but are worried about how they’ll get around.
“We have a relatively small number of people who have physical disabilities, but, certainly, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be included in the community that they’re in,” Dr. Bernard said. “And, if we can make it easier for them to be a part of the community, that just makes our community even better.”
Right now, with that in mind, the City of Spartanburg is offering lots of free parking, as well as a free valet and shuttle service to help.
“We’ll drop you off, currently, at either end of that closed-off area, which is about 300 feet end-to-end; so, that’s kind of like the equivalent of going to Walmart or Target and parking in a handicapped spot there,” George said.
City officials told 7 News they’re going to be putting up additional signage to remind folks of these services, and they’re hoping to be able to clear a path in the table-covered street soon to allow shuttles to get even closer to businesses.
“Dropping you off right in front of the door,” George said. “We’re going to have to reconfigure things a little to get the shuttle in there, but we think we’ll be able to do that.”
Dr. Bernard said he’d love to see a designated zone for families and organizations–like the Charles Lea Center–that have vehicles specifically made for carrying those with mobility issues.
“The challenges for people with physical disabilities is getting in and out of vehicles,” Bernard said. “They go into one, they go into another one, they have to wait in line. It just makes the whole thing more and more complicated for them.”
Bernard said he believes a drop-off/pick-up area would make it much easier for those people.
“They’re familiar with the person, the way the wheelchair may need to be located, if somebody needs a walker, if somebody has to sit a certain way,” he said. “These are things a valet person who’s driving may not be familiar with.”
The City said they’re definitely open to suggestions.
“We want to do everything we can to make sure they’re able to get as close as they were before,” George said.
City officials told 7 News they’ll be sending out some public surveys in the near future and are looking for any and all input when it comes to improving the downtown experience.
For more information on the services that the City of Spartanburg is offering, click here.