He was trying to maneuver through the construction site downtown, but it wasn't easy.
First, he had to dodge a couple of two-by-fours. Then he got bogged down in some gravel.When he got into the wooden pedestrian walkway, he seemed to be home free. Until it curved slightly.
His wheelchair got stuck.
Two young men in business suits stopped to help him, pushing his chair back to the beginning of the walkway.
As he thanked them, his face was suffused with frustration and embarrassment. His clenched right fist pounded the wheel once and he mouthed the word "damn" as they walked away.
I felt uneasy watching him, but I figured there was nothing I could do, so I walked away, too. I felt that sense of discomfort again last week as people testified before the United States Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board.
The board will recommend guidelines for public transportation and accommodations to the Justice Department, which will draft regulations for enforcement of the recently enacted Americans with Disabilities Act.
The act prohibits discrimination against people because of disabilities and offers civil rights protection.
Mark Smith, who works for the Independent Living Center and uses a wheelchair himself, told the three-member panel that pedestrian walkways around construction sites need to be accessible.
I've covered disability issues for three years and I thought I could make a pretty comprehensive list of things that need to be done to make public places accessible.
I know about the need for elevators and ramps and curb cuts. I know that doors in public buildings must have handles low enough for someone in a wheelchair to reach. The doors also need to be light enough so they can use them. And wide enough for a wheelchair to pass through.
Accessible walkways? That one hadn't occurred to me.
Dozens of people brought up their concerns.
John Freebairn, who is blind, is frustrated when he tries to navigate into buildings that don't have clear-cut sidewalks he can find with his cane. He also questioned why Flextrans is not available to blind people. He said the Utah Transit Authority provides the service to people in wheelchairs because they are "mobility impaired." Blind people, for whom driving is never an option, cannot use it.
Darlene Cochran, speaking through a sign-language interpreter, described the dearth of Telecommunication Devices for the Deaf in public places. She cannot use a public telephone at most malls or airports to let her family know she'll be late.
"I hate to ask hearing people to call for me," she said.
It's inconvenient. There's no privacy. Advocates for the hearing-impaired recommend that for every six public telephones in a location, one be equipped with the TDD.
Board member Robert Brostrom, who is also disabled, added his grievances to the list. Handicapped parking - and lack of it - is a perpetual problem. He is angered by businesses that provide such parking, then use it to stack up snow during winter months.
The act mandates accessibility in all new public construction and has phase-in dates for retrofitting existing facilities. There are provisions so that compliance won't cause "undue hardship."
Virtually everyone asked for clear, decisive language in the regulations.
"It is difficult to have recommendations that say `should' and get anyone to do it," said Anne VonWeller, chief building official in Murray.
Ron Ivie, a building official in Park City, echoed her sentiments. "Words like `infeasible' never work," he said. "It's always infeasible."
Opponents of the act have said that it is, among other things, inconvenient.
So is having to have someone carry you down a flight of stairs during a fire. Or asking a stranger to make a phone call. Or getting someone to read your mail because you can't read it yourself. Or getting stuck in a pedestrian walkway.
A lot of people have learned to cope with those "inconveniences."
I'll bet hotels, banks, restaurants, apartment houses and other businesses will learn to cope, too.