White Cane Week took place Feb.7 to 13, 2021. (Special to Black Press Media)

White Cane Week took place Feb.7 to 13, 2021. (Special to Black Press Media)

LETTER: Please design Maple Ridge with full accessibility in mind

Longtime resident, who is blind, pleads for moe consideration in city planning

Dear Editor,

In the world for those who drive cars, it may appear that the city of Maple Ridge is building an accessible city.

But for anyone like me, a 30-year resident of Maple Ridge who is blind, accessibility is often lacking.

For many years, I have been able to walk throughout my neighbourhood, visiting friends, attending church, and doing errands.

I have relied on a guide dog or a white cane to safely, confidently, and independently participate in my community.

This is becoming increasingly more difficult as the city of Maple Ridge continues to place the efficient movement of cars ahead of my needs as a tax paying pedestrian.

There are tried and proven strategies that can make travelling as a pedestrian who is blind safer, without the need to either compromise my independence or dignity.

Truncated domes, provide tactile warnings of pending hazards – but only if they are consistently installed. Maple Ridge, as with many Canadian municipalities, seems to take a bandage approach – installing these essential safety features hap hazardly.

Round abouts, also known as traffic circles are becoming increasingly more common. They benefit the environment by eliminating the need for vehicle idling and can make for increased efficiency for vehicular movement.

But, I, as someone who is blind, rely on traffic sound to determine when it’s safe to begin a crossing by listening closely to vehicular movement. When the flow of traffic at round abouts is continuous, the queues I have relied on all my life as a pedestrian who is blind are taken away.

RELATED LETTER: Dangerous getting around Maple Ridge in wheelchair, scooter

MORE: LETTER –Walking lights should be automatic at major intersections

Again, best practices do exist, including accessible pedestrian signals placed strategically adjacent to a roundabout – refuge areas that are clearly marked and easily detected tactilely to name only a few.

Zero grade crossings may make for an uninterrupted path of travel but again, as a person who is blind, I rely heavily on slope and tactile markings to warn me that I’m about to enter an intersection. Without these essential safety features I am left to guess where a crosswalk begins.

Cycle paths, becoming increasingly popular in many municipalities, create additional hazards if there is no physical separation between me and cyclists who rarely slow down or warn of their approach with a bell.

Living an independent life is especially important to me.

I am a 30-year resident of the city of Maple Ridge and have served on the city’s advisory committee for seniors and people with disabilities and actively advocate for accessibility and inclusion.

However, the accessible city I have advocated for on behalf of people with disability, seniors, children, and mom’s with strollers, is not the accessible and inclusive community which the City of Maple Ridge is spending my tax dollars to build.

Maria Kovacs, Maple Ridge

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