The Pandemic Has Made the Streets More Dangerous for Blind People

The Pandemic Has Made the Streets More Dangerous for Blind People

The roar of traffic provides clues — often the only ones — about when it is safe to venture into a crosswalk.

 

For visually impaired pedestrians, navigating chaotic city sidewalks and crosswalks was dicey enough before the pandemic. But the COVID- 19 outbreak has made crossing the city’s streets even riskier, The New York Times reports.

It has reduced the flow of traffic, leaving streets in some neighborhoods as placid as suburban lanes. For blind New Yorkers like Terence Page, that may sound like a blessing; but in fact the opposite is true. The normal roar of traffic provides clues — often the only ones — about when it is time to venture into a crosswalk.

“Quiet is not good for blind people,” Mr. Page said as he swept his cane across the sidewalk along Sixth Avenue in Manhattan, trying to locate the curb at West 23rd Street.

Mr. Page had just traversed his last crossing confidently, because it is equipped with an audible signal that tells pedestrians when it’s safe to cross. But most of the city’s 13,200 crossings are not, including the one at 23rd Street and Sixth Avenue.

Now a federal judge has found that the city has failed to fully protect its visually impaired residents.

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