Madeline W. Michigan

Mobility of the Disabled in Cities

US cities need to be more handicap accessible.

Dear Future President,

As a senior in high school I feel honored to have been able to experience world travel before I have even turned 18. I’ve had the privilege to travel the cities of Japan and have been able to experience the culture first hand. While I walked along the streets I noticed some odd yellow tiles on the ground lining the sidewalks that I had never noticed in any of the US cities. These yellow tiles I later learned were tactile tiles, which are made to help the blind navigate a city. Upon learning this I realized just how much more could be done in the US to take care of our disabled citizens. Cities in our country need to be better equipped to transport and assist the travel of people with disabilities.

Transportation in cities isn’t just about getting from one place to another; it’s about experiencing a city at its fullest. As Jan Garrett put it, “When you think of Manhattan, vivid images spring to mind: skyscrapers, the Statue of Liberty, and thousands of yellow taxicabs -- thirteen thousand to be precise...But for thousand of people who use wheelchairs, taxies are simply not available” (Garrett, Jan). Although the Federal Transit Administration has made a considerable effort to increase the amount of wheelchair accessible taxis in NY, it is still not enough. Every major city must make an effort to improve transportation methods. Being in a wheelchair restricts a person enough as it is. People shouldn’t have to struggle to find adequate means of transportation within the city they live.

Going beyond just transportation, making our cities handicap accessible is a matter of safety. In many of our cities tactile tiles and other alignment cues made for pedestrians are either scarce or not existent. This is a major safety hazard. In one study evaluating alignment on the basis of traffic sounds, tactile arrows, and bar tiles, results showed that “at complex intersections without special alignment cues, blind pedestrians have been found to be misaligned prior to crossing between 24% and 50% of the time” (Scott, Alan C.). This data is alarming, for if pedestrians are unable to simply align themselves correctly with a crosswalk, they could potentially walk right into oncoming traffic. There must be several effective alignment cues at every crosswalk in order to ensure the safety of these pedestrians.

In the past the US has made its efforts to make our country more inclusive, such as the passing of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Although some argue that the ADA is too vague and costs businesses thousands to implement, even the strongest critics can agree that “in theory, the ADA [was made to ban] discrimination against the disabled in employment and public accommodations” (Doherty, Brian). What is more accommodating to the public than making the cities in which they live accessible to them? Not much. This means that cities, as implied in the ADA, must do whatever they can to make their streets more handicap accessible.

As Americans we pride ourselves on our freedom. It is in this spirit of freedom that we make our country more accessible for those with disabilities, and this must start in our cities. We must evaluate the efficacy of the ADA. I ask you as President to enforce a mandate requiring that all major cities in the US meet certain transportation and street requirements that meet the standards of well organized and collected evidence. With this all people will have the freedom to experience America in some of its most beautiful and diverse areas.