Councilwoman takes on streetcar handicap accessibility

NEW ORLEANS -- The fight for accessibility has lost two of its most vocal and visible leaders, Jonah Bascle and Charlie Tubre.

Bascle brought light to the issue of wheelchair accessibility on the St. Charles streetcar line with his comedy, a mayoral run and even by sitting on the tracks, blocking streetcars in protest. Bascle passed away from complication due to muscular dystrophy.

Charlie Tubre, at 73, worked with the advocacy center fighting for the rights of people in the community with disabilities.

"He really lifted up everyone around him and used his disability as a way to create opportunity for others who were suffering from similar circumstances" said Rachael Heiligman, executive director of Ride New Orleans.

For Councilwoman Susan Guidry, that doesn't mean the fight for accessibility is over.

In an interview with our partners at the Uptown Messenger, she said, "When I last I spoke to Jonah, I promised him I would keep working toward our shared goal of making the streetcar accessible on St. Charles Avenue."

Executive Director of the Advocacy Center Lois Simpson believes making the streetcars accessible helps everyone.

"When things are accessible it's better for everyone, and I think if you've ever had to push a baby stroller or rode a bike or any other way you might use wheels in the city, when things are accessible for people in wheelchairs they help all of us out," Simpson said.

Several ideas have been tossed around to make the streetcars wheelchair accessible. Advocates are running into a roadblock because the St. Charles streetcar line is a national historic registered site.

"When the RTA had safety issues with the streetcars and cars having conflicts, they added LED lights, which certainly aren't historic to the streetcar, and they were able to make that happen because it was a necessity," said Heiligman. "So I think we need to just view the accessible needs in the same way."

This story was created in partnership with The Uptown Messenger


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