For residents with disabilities, how accessible is New Eastside?

By B. David Zarley | Staff Writer

November 15, 2017

If you were in a wheelchair, could you get to your favorite restaurant? Would your daily commute be possible if you could no longer walk? Most of us do not bother to ask these questions, but for some New Eastside residents these are questions that must be asked every time they leave their home.

With its wealth of new construction, bus routes, the accessible Washington/Wabash CTA station, Pedway access and the wheelchair-friendly Millennium and Maggie Daley parks, New Eastside is more accommodating for people with disabilities than many other neighborhoods. While the amenities do not add up to an all-accessible utopia, they do make for an environment more easy to navigate—especially in the bitter throes of a Chicago winter—than many others in the city.

Disability advocate Michele Lee outside the AON Center, 200 E. Randolph St. Photo by B. David Zarley.

Providing shelter and connecting businesses, cultural institutions and transit options, the Pedway system is often a viable route for residents with disabilities. Maureen Reagan, president and founder of MRA Architects Ltd. uses a powered wheelchair and said the Pedway is “a godsend in inclement weather.”

Accessibility advocate Michele Lee, who also uses a powered wheelchair, agreed. “I think it’s great that New Eastside has the Pedway system ingrained in it,” she said. An employee of AON and former resident of Harbor Point, Lee also serves as a local guide for Google Maps, helping to rate and collect data on accessibility for various locations.

Accessibility is not only important for people with disabilities, but also useful for parents pushing strollers, shoppers shuttling carts and travelers trailing luggage. However, not all parts of the Pedway are accessible. The Pedway entrance and exit at Prudential Plaza, next to Millennium Station are obstacles faced by travelers. With revolving doors, escalators and stairs, this entrance and exit form an impassable gauntlet for those who need an accessible route from New Eastside into the Loop.

A little-known accessible path does exist, connecting New Eastside to the Thompson Center in the Loop. However, no maps suggest the long route which passes beneath the Aon building and along a Metra train platform, and most people discover it only after really exploring the Pedway. In order to increase awareness of the wheelchair-friendly route, community Pedway tours sponsored by New Eastside News, have led groups along the accessible path from New Eastside to Macy’s on State St.

Macy’s Pedway elevator. Photo by B. David Zarley.

City-wide programs aim to help address accessibility challenges. The Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities have a variety of useful resources such as Accessibility Compliance Units, which can be requested for site inspections. Groups like Access Living advocate for people with disabilities, providing information and referrals, and teaches skills for budgeting, moving around town and seeking employment.

For more information about the accessible Pedway route, community members should contact

New Eastside News.

Email or

call 312-690-3092.

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