By Alecia Reid

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Eyewitness News is learning more about an ongoing issue for Philadelphia residents with disabilities. Some SEPTA stations are not accessible to all.

Limited access to capital funding means SEPTA cannot accelerate the installation of Americans with Disability Act access to its full fleet of rail stations across the region, and that means the mobility stress experienced by disabled riders has no end in sight.

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Maneuvering uneven sidewalks can be challenging, particularly for those in wheelchairs. Then there’s navigating the city on public transportation.

“It’s just to a point where I don’t want to deal with it anymore,” said Heather Kerstetter of North Philadelphia.

ADA Access can be difficult on Regional Rail and SEPTA. Nearly half of SEPTA stations in Philadelphia do not have wheelchair access.

For Kerstetter, who has spinal muscular atrophy, a 15-minute commute could easily take an hour.

“If I need to get to a certain station,” Kerstetter said, “I’ll have to go to the next one or the next one and then loop back around in my wheelchair and hope that all the sidewalks are accessible and hope that the weather is fine.”

Once the pandemic hit, the Philly sports fanatic could no longer take public transportation. Private rides became unaffordable, so the 31-year-old Temple graduate started a GoFundMe to purchase a wheelchair van. In one week, it’s gained a lot of traction.

“I’m truly overwhelmed by it,” Kerstetter said.

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In the meantime, SEPTA General Manager Leslie Richards says the agency’s capital budget is half of what cities comparable to Philly work with. They’re doing their best to make all stations wheelchair accessible, but it will take some time.

“It’s definitely an important piece of public transportation and it’s something that we want to continue to increase as fast as we can,” Richards said.

SEPTA says two-thirds of its Regional Rail stations and about 70% of its city subway stations are currently ADA accessible, but they’re committed to accelerating more projects as funds become available and will turn to groups, including its Accessible Transportation Advisory Committee, for input and feedback on projects in the pipeline and other station improvements.

Anyone who has questions about wheelchair accessibility can contact SEPTA at 215-580-7800.


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