The Good and Bad of Curb Cuts

by Donna J. Jodhan

If you take the time to think about it, curb cuts can either be a blessing in disguise to many but at the same time it can also be a real curse to others. For many it is a welcome relief while traveling along the sidewalks, but for many blind and visually impaired persons it is quite the opposite. Shocker or shaker? Probably a shocker to the mainstream pedestrian but neither shocker nor shaker to the blind and visually impaired walking wounded.

For those emergency medical technicians, curb cuts represent a great alternative and time saver when negotiating sidewalks in a hurry. For a delivery person, it also saves time and energy when dragging heavy or clumsy packages. For those in wheelchairs, it is a real bonus and the same could be said for moms with strollers but for those of us who are unable to see these new wonders! It is not.

If a blind person is using a cane to travel then the picture is this: They have great difficulty being able to tell the difference between the end of the sidewalk and the beginning of the street. In essence, when they go to find a street corner, they find themselves not being able to tell where the actual street corner is and often time they find themselves wondering helplessly into the street. It was easy for me when I had enough vision to tell the difference but now that I am almost totally blind I often find myself hesitating whenever I feel the sidewalk sloping downwards as I approach a street corner. I am never sure where the actual corner is and in addition, I have no reference points to help me determine what ends where and what begins where.

I have had several clients and friends complain to me about this but what to do about it is very hazy at best. Curb cuts do indeed benefit more people than not so I do not think that too many of those in authority would be very willing to listen. So for the time being we may just have to put up with it all.

I'm Donna J. Jodhan your friendly accessibility advocate wishing you a terrific day. If you'd like to learn more about me, then you can visit some of my blog spots at:
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Unknown said…
I completely disagree with you on this topic. I am blind and have been traveling with a white cane since 2003. Curb cuts are a tremendous help for me because they help me align myself both for entering a crosswalk and returning to the sidewalk. A rounded curb has no distinguishing features for orientation. The gentle slope of the curb cut and the often used tactile marks provide clues as to where to cross. As I am approaching the far side of a crosswalk, I can use the tip of my cane to feel for the slope of the curb cut and then position myself to continue right along the sidewalk. A rounded curb would not give me that ideal alignment.

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