Hitting folks over the head with quick fixes for accessibility

A woman stands on a sidewalk giving the finger to a diamond shaped construction sign strapped to a telephone pole at head level, with her guide dog sitting next to her.
Milena Khazanavicius stands on a sidewalk giving the finger to a diamond shaped construction sign strapped to a telephone pole at head level. Her guide dog sits at her side.

Our friend Milena Khazanavicius runs into things like this on the street. Every. Single. Day.  These obstacles are impossible to avoid for persons who use canes or guide dogs because they do not detect obstacles way above the ground.

About 7% of Nova Scotians have some type of visual impairment, which adds up to be about 65,000 people. If that does not sound like a significant number, it may help to think that this number is roughly the same as the population of all elementary school children in Nova Scotia. If this many elementary school children were at risk of injuring themselves on the streets, policy makers would already be moving to eradicate these hazards at construction sites, wouldn’t they?

Whether you have vision challenges or not, people often get distracted while they are walking. For example, their eyes may be glued to their mobile phones while walking (true, they should not be doing that), or they may be talking with a friend and not paying attention, or they may have some big bags to carry. Spots like this are accidents waiting to happen for all pedestrians. 

Design standards, regulations, policies are all important.  But they are not enough. More importantly, something like this can be mitigated without regulations telling us, if we are all aware. It is a quick fix. 

Construction companies and their staff with good awareness are already working hard to prevent these kinds of barriers. Let us all be aware and ask construction folks, planning folks, and politicians to be aware. Someday, any of us could be scraping our faces with the corner of a construction sign and flipping the finger at it—or worse, suffering serious injuries (and flipping the finger at the world).

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