Bird to roll out features to help people with disabilities

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COLUMBIA - The scooter ridesharing company Bird is looking at solutions to people blocking the sidewalks with scooters, which is an issue KOMU reported on last month.

"We didn't have an idea that bird was trying to make this better," said Ann Marie Gortmaker, member of the Disability Commission in Columbia. 

Bird Scooter, inc. consultant Jeremy LaFaver paid a visit to the Disabilities Commission Thursday to discuss issues with Bird Scooters blocking sidewalks. LaFaver is an independent consultant for Bird Scooter and presented the committee with the ways Bird is going to help alleviate this problem.

LaFaver said the company is working on implementing a group called "Bird watchers." These would be community members employed by Bird to keep the sidewalks clear. This would be 40 to 50 people in Columbia who would be paid to address issues as soon as they arise.

Currently, Bird promises a two-hour response time to deal with Birds blocking sidewalks, but LaFaver acknowledged that is not quick enough for someone who is using a walker or a wheelchair.

Bird has not launched this program yet, and LaFaver would not give the commission a date when this would begin. 

John Bowders, one of the commission members who uses a wheelchair, said he was pleased with the improvements Bird promised.  

"I was very happy to hear all of the things that Bird is doing to try to make the scooters fit in to the environment to everyone," Bowders said.

Until these "Bird watchers" come to Columbia, Bowders may be stuck trying to move the scooters on his own.

"I'm pretty mobile and pretty strong to just go around and do that, but I have seen some places where there was multiple scooters covering the sidewalk. At that point, I would have trouble getting through those," Bowders said.