Local man invites mayor on wheelchair ride to bring attention to sidewalk conditions

Local News

NEWTON FALLS, Ohio (WKBN) – A Newton Falls man is bringing attention to the condition of the city’s sidewalks by having the mayor join him for a stroll.

“It’s to let them experience what I go through,” said John Thompson.

Thompson uses his wheelchair to get downtown several times a day. He says some areas are difficult to travel through.

“I have to pay attention really good,” he said.

There’s an old saying, you can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes, or in this case, sat in Thompson’s wheelchair.

“I have to look down at the sidewalk and then back up like this to make sure I don’t fall out of the chair or worse, get injured somehow,” he said.

Thompson was born with spina bifida and has used a wheelchair to get around his entire life. He travels downtown from his home at the Country Club Rehabilitation Campus daily. He says there are some areas of the sidewalk that could use improvement.

“The ‘Grand Canyon’ is right here,” Thompson said.

“There is a lot of areas that you look at and you think, ‘Wow, those look nice, the sidewalk looks good,’ and then you don’t realize how unsafe it is or how difficult it is on him,” said Mayor Kenneth Kline.

Mayor Kline once walked this route with him, but Thompson asked if this time he’d join him on his daily journey using a wheelchair.

“Well, I was tired a little bit before the Dairy Queen so now I’m just kind of numb,” Mayor Kline said.

Thompson’s longtime friend Rick Carr and Country Club administrator Neil Appell tagged along too.

“It’s not like you think as a… on a nice, smooth, flat floor where you just go right along,” Appell said.

A 2.6-mile roundtrip jaunt all to bring attention to the city’s sidewalks.

“To get them fixed so that people who are in wheelchairs and canes and walkers that are not able to navigate bumps very well can have a smooth walk,” Thompson said.

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