Mark Reddington just wants to visit his brother across the street, and maybe have some fun in Old Town Manassas like many other young adults in the area.
But his wheelchair can’t hop the curb on the opposite side of the street from his Sudley Road home, and he’d like some reprieve.
“I’m trying to get a sidewalk-cutout ramp so I can go straight across to West Street, because my brother lives there,” Reddington said. “Otherwise, I’m kind of landlocked.”
Some wheelchairs could climb the curb, but not Reddington’s kind. He has needed a chin- or mouth-operated device since he broke his neck and lost use of his arms and legs five years ago in an all-terrain vehicle accident. Reddington was 22-years-old and on leave from the Navy at the time.
About six months later, Reddington bought his Manassas home through a Veteran’s Association loan, returning to the Northern Virginia area where he grew up and still had family. But shortly after the purchase, he realized that once he got out of his driveway and across Sudley Drive he needed someone to lift the chair onto the curb.
He could also have his mother Bonnie, his brother Mike, a friend or his aide wheel him down to the corner, and back up the other side to access his brother’s house, friends’ houses and Old Town.
His mother said although she gets along well with her son, the 27-year-old wants his independence.
“He’s perfectly capable of doing what he wants to do on his own, if he just has access to places,” Bonnie Reddington said.
But Mark Reddington had other worries — mostly the safety and convenience of others.
“I just thought it would be safer to have the sidewalk cut out than take the chance of the person walking me, me or the driver
getting hurt,” he said. “Plus, when I’m on the street, this (wheelchair) goes slow. It can cause the traffic to slow down.”
Two years ago, Reddington sent a letter to the Manassas City Council, asking for a ramp on the opposite side of the street, but he didn’t hear anything back. His neighbor Dr. Albert Weaver recently wrote and spoke to the City Council on his behalf.
“I did it because all he needs to significantly improve his day is to be able to cross the street, and he’s a very congenial man,” Weaver said. “I said I would do what I could to help.”
Weaver said the Mayor and the Council seemed responsive to the idea, particularly Council Member Judy Hays. But Public Works Director Mike Moon said a field review was still necessary, and he was wary about constructing a full crosswalk in the middle of a block.
“I think the idea now is to put up a ramp and put some signs,” Moon said. “What you don’t want to do is encourage people who are not handicapped to use it as a crossing.”
Reddington said there was some misunderstanding from the start about what he wanted.
“They thought I wanted a great big elaborate sidewalk,” he said. “but that isn’t the case at all. Mike asked me if they put up signs, what did I want on them. I said you can put up ‘ducks crossing’ if you want, just something so I can get across the street.”
And although Reddington asked the city to make a small accommodation for him, he’s not angry at the delay. His mother Bonnie said that’s just his nature.
“He’s definitely an inspiration,” Bonnie Reddington said. “Everything is so insignificant when you’re faced with what he is and handle it the way he does. Anyone that knows Mark becomes a better person.”
Staff writer Sari Krieger can be reached at (703) 369-6751