Lack of curb cuts aggravates handicapped residents
by Rebecca Ngu
Aug 27, 2014 | 5010 views | 0 0 comments | 144 144 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Many people cross the 69th Pl./Grand Ave. intersection unthinkingly, exerting only the minimal attention needed to cross the road without getting hit. But for Middle Village residents Fernanda Avolio and Rose, her 82-year-old mother, the act of crossing the street has become a complicated, embarrassing and dangerous act of navigation.

Rose is a wheelchair user who depends on Fernanda to push her wherever she needs to go, but the intersection between 69th Pl. and Grand Ave. is not wheelchair-accessible, as its crosswalks are missing two curb cuts.

The missing curb cuts had been nuisances to them before, but they had found a complicated way to cross the street without them. However, the recently installed bollards in the middle of Grand Ave. now block their path and make crossing the street that much more of a struggle.

“It’s a little embarrassing,” Fernanda said when describing her attempt to cross the road. “Cars are in front and behind me. I’m like a car because I’m in the road.”

She has no problem with the installment of the bollards, but with the lack of curb cuts in the crosswalks that lie at the root of the problem. “I’m fine with that, I understand,” Fernanda said, referring to the bollards. “Just do it right.”

Ensuring more safety through the bollards is commendable, but their presence intensifies the need for curb cuts, a long-overdue addition to a street that has lacked them for years. This structural flaw limits accessibility for all handicapped people, not just Fernanda and her mom.

In response to this issue, a Department of Transportation (DOT) representative defended the department, stating that it “works closely with the disabled community” and that it has a “strong record of installing pedestrian ramps.”

“Complex corners with multiple interferences (such as other hardware and catch basins) take longer to address,” the representative said. “This particular intersection is one such area with multiple interferences.”

The crosswalks where the curb cuts would be installed are already partly occupied by other structures, including a bus stop and a pole, complicating the process.

Fernanda expressed impatience with the officials, however, as other construction and remodeling has occurred at the intersection, but the lack of curb cuts has consistently been ignored.

“They had all this time,” she said. “When they changed the lights, they should have put the curb cut. When they put in the crosswalk, they should have put the curb cut.”

The DOT representative said that the agency “is looking into what improvements can be made this fiscal year at this intersection so all users can access it.”

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