Posted by Bill Osborne

Dr. Scott M. Crawford, a Livable Cities and Disabilities Advocate, spoke to the Rotary Club of North Jackson at the club’s June 9, 2020, meeting. Dr. Crawford received his undergraduate education at Millsaps College and his doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Southern Mississippi. Following the completion of his Ph.D., he pursued a Post Doc at the University of Miami. In 2002 he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Multiple Sclerosis and has been dependent on a motorized wheelchair for mobility since then. He is the past Chair of the Mississippi Coalition for Citizens with Disabilities. 

The title of Dr. Crawford’s presentation was “Building Livable Communities for All.”  He focused on what Jackson needs to do to become a city that is livable for all of its citizens, including those with disabilities. Key points in his presentation were:

  • Accessible affordable integrated housing

  • Universal Design

  • Welcoming to people of all backgrounds, abilities, and income levels

  • Citizens don't necessarily need a car to live if the city has Transit-Oriented Development with Rent Controls.

Crawford said that because he lives on a fixed income, he cannot afford to rent housing and was forced to purchase one. He pointed out that 26% (61 million) of Americans have a disability so his situation is not unique. In Mississippi, the disability rate is 33.5% or over 1 million people. Disability includes limits on mobility, cognition, living independently, seeing, and the ability to care for themselves. Further, 17.5 % (525,000)of Mississippians have “serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs.” The rate in the US is 12.9% (30 million). He encouraged his audience to think of themselves as “temporarily able-bodied.”

Crawford showed an aerial view of his neighborhood and told the club why he bought his home there. He showed his house and the fact that he could get to a grocery store, bank, one bus stop, and two pharmacies in his wheelchair.

Discussing the lack of wheelchair accessible housing, he pointed out that that:

  • It is an obstacle to community integration

  • Due to that lack many people cannot rent because they’d be priced out over time because of their fixed income limitations.

  • People resort to buying existing homes and retrofitting them to make them wheelchair accessible.

  • Retrofitting older homes is often difficult and expensive due to the need for wheelchair ramps, the need to widen doorways, and kitchens in older homes are often small and not wheelchair friendly as are bathrooms.

These were the problems Crawford faced when he purchased his Fondren home. He showed a photo of his Fondren home 


The answer to these accessibility problems is using “Universal Design” to build for access by all people. The benefit is that  it “allows people to Age-in-Place and have a welcoming home for all.”

Crawford showed an example of accessible housing; the Lakeshore Foundation Cottages in Birmingham, AL which are designed to be accessible.

Crawford then switched to transit. He said that community integration depends on transit. His point was that the cities and their citizens need to:

  • End stereotyping of transit users - Transit is not just a “last resort” for the “poor”, disabled, and elderly.”

  • Recognize:

    • that younger professionals seek out transit-friendly communities.

    • Retirees want alternatives to driving

    • Commuters want to avoid stress and enhance their quality of life.

He gave a commute from South Jackson to Tougaloo College as an example of an existing commute that is 16 miles and takes 21 minutes by automobile. By public transit, it takes 3 bus routes and nearly 2 hours if the buses connect.

His next point was that housing needs to be linked to transit with accessible sidewalks where today the City of Jackson has not provided them or required developers to install them forcing people into the streets. The costs of inaccessible streets are:

  • Social isolation: Feeling like one is under “House Arrest.”

  • Increased dependency on others and paratransit.

  • Lack of Productivity (Access to schools,  jobs, etc.

  • Societal segregation by class and ability

  • Pedestrian fatalities

The solution is to build complete streets that are safe for all users. Examples are the Metro Parkway in Jackson, Mission Street in San Francisco, streets in Nashville, TN, and Capitol Street in Jackson. “Complete streets make a community safer for everyone, not just people with disabilities. Cities should create a livable community from the beginning.

Crawford’s suggestion was that Jackson and other cities need to upgrade their transit systems. The best solution is light rail, but it is more expensive. Bus Rapid Transit is an option. Examples of these solutions are Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) and Arlington, VA’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). New building should be along existing transit corridors as is being done in Nashville, TN.

His policy summary is that creating livable cities involves:

  • Building using Universal Design principles.

  • Connecting existing housing to transit via:

    • Complete Streets

    • Electric BRT vs. Light rail, plus neighborhood circulators

  • Target new housing along transit corridors

  • Ensure some rent-controlled and lower-income units in all developments.

  • It will take cooperation and financial incentives.

Crawford then repeated his advice “Think of yourselves as the “Temporarily Able-bodied.”

He then quoted anthropologist Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

We thank Crawford for his very thought-provoking and insightful presentation. He is shown below during his presentation.