Beautiful but hazardous for blind people
I was walking along the main street in my little town the other day and encountered a tall gentleman using a mobility cane. Being familiar with the surroundings I wanted to caution him about the hanging flower baskets. Not all but some of them are directly over the sidewalks and as the season goes on they hang lower and lower. I introduced myself and mentioned that I’m on the town’s accessibility advisory committee and asked if he had encountered any of the low hanging flowers. He said that they hadn’t caused him any difficulty.
As we chatted I learned that his name was Bruce and that he had lost a significant amount of vision only a year and a half ago and that he and I have very different visual impairments. He has only central vision and I have only peripheral.
So for Bruce obstacles that protrude into walkways or that overhang them can be particularly hazardous. When a person uses a mobility cane, it only detects things on or very near the ground. Overhead baskets, awnings, and signage are often undetectable and can cause injury.
So before we parted I also warned Bruce about an outdoor patio nearby, where the sun umbrellas extend outside their fenced off area, and were likely at about eye level for him. I had gone into this particular restaurant and explained this hazard to one of their managers but the umbrellas remain in the same location and height.
I understand how it would not occur to many people that these types of things would be a problem for a blind person. Fewer than three percent of Canadians have a vision disability so we can’t expect everyone else to know what we need or what causes us difficulty. Speaking up can help. I get a bit cranky when I feel like I might have to throw myself on the ground and kick and scream, and even then I may not get results.
Oh well, the kicking and screaming will continue!
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