TEMPLE TERRACE — Tim Myers left his house on a sunny October morning just as he’s done for the past nine years — reluctantly driving his electric wheelchair on the main road in his Temple Terrace neighborhood.
But on this day it turned out to be a decision that almost cost him his life.
"All I wanted to do was go to the library and use their computer," said Myers, a 63-year-old Navy veteran.
The sidewalks that lead from his home are not fitted with curb cuts or adapted to Americans With Disabilities Act standards, forcing anyone disabled to use the main road.
As he entered the highway, he kept his wheelchair close to the side of the road so that oncoming traffic could see him coming. Cars drove by him with caution.
Nearing the end of street, Myers turned into a Marathon gas station near the corner of Vista Park Lane and Temple Park Drive. Driving in at the same time was a 2004 Dodge Ram truck. The next thing Myers remembered was that he was knocked 20 feet to the ground and his wheelchair was laying on the side of the road.
"Right after he hit me, I can’t believe the first thing the guy said was it’s not his fault; that I pulled in front of him." Myers said with a disgruntled expression.
Myers, employed as a pharmacist assistant at the James Haley Veterans hospital, was injured in a motorcycle accident in 2006, which injured his spinal cord and left him a quadriplegic.
"The library is only a mile from my house," Myers said. "I’ve made this trip many times before without any problems."
Due to the accident, Myers suffered three bruised ribs, multiple lacerations, contusions and a black eye.
In the accident report, a Hills-borough County Sheriff’s deputy determined that both parties shared responsibility for the crash because Myers was improperly in the roadway and the truck driver failed to yield the right of way.
The officer didn’t issue a citation to either driver.
After the Tampa Bay Times inquired about the road situation, to the Hillsborough County Americans with Disabilities Act office, the matter was forwarded to the Hillsborough County Public Works Department for review.
"We at the ADA strive to provide our customers with disabilities equal opportunities and integrated services appropriate to their needs," said Carmen LoBue, the county’s ADA officer.
"Our Public Works Department engineering staff has reviewed the location in question and we have issued a work order for the installation of the needed ADA ramps," division director Jim Hudock wrote in an email. "We expect the work to be completed within the next 30 days."
Myers was elated at the news. He couldn’t believe it. He now feels much safer knowing he can soon drive on the sidewalk.
"We’ve been dealing with the daily fear for years that our dad would get hurt," said Amber Ayala, Myers’ daughter in-law, who, along with his son, are his daily caregivers. "It took this accident to make things right. We are very grateful he wasn’t killed."
Contact Mike Merino at [email protected]