Editor’s Note: This letter was sent to the Mount Pleasant Division of Public Works this morning. Kevin Andrews is a reporter and copy editor for Insider.
Dear Division of Public Works:
My name is Kevin Andrews, a senior at Central Michigan University who happens to be severely visually impaired. I have minimal vision, comprised mainly of color and shadow detection and light perception. Consequently, I navigate my environment using a white cane. I have confidently traveled through and around CMU, malls, parks, airports, bus stations, train stations, cities, and other spaces both familiar and unfamiliar to me around the country and abroad independently, but my ability to do this in the city of Mount Pleasant late last week was significantly impacted negatively. I wish to address this with you.
Being extremely visually impaired, I am unable to drive a motorized vehicle. I walk everywhere a majority of the time, rain, snow, or shine. Crossing from the south to the north side of High Street along the east side of Main Street, I was unpleasantly disconcerted to find that upon crossing High, there was an extreme amount of snow and ice which had piled there, blocking the curb cut. As you well know, High Street is synonymous for M-20 and it is quite busy compared to the surrounding streets among that student housing bubble north of campus. Imagine it being after sundown, you are blind, and you are trying to use your cane to find the curb cut you expect to be there, all the while the light has changed so you are also trying to avoid being ran over by a car despite sticking to the curb. I eventually sought the assistance of a passerby, who aided me in making it over the 12 plus inch pile and I continued on my way.
Unfortunately, I have found this in other surrounding areas in the city north of campus. For instance, all along the east side of University Avenue between at least Gaylord and High, a couple of days later I discovered not only the huge snow and ice convergence, I also found the sidewalk to be a pure sheet of ice in many spots. I also noticed this a couple of weeks prior along the west side of Mission just north of Broomfield near the chemical bank and Buffalo Wild Wings, where the sidewalk again was nearly or completely covered with ice.
These situations are not only unsafe, they are potentially illegal. Never in my four years of attending CMU and going about my daily life in the city have I experienced this difficulty to such proportions.
The Department of Justice revised regulations for Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Thus, this adopted revised, enforceable accessibility standards called the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design. Title II of the ADA covers public entities. Section 28 CFR 35.133, part A states: A public entity shall maintain in operable working condition those features of facilities and equipment that are required to be readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities by the Act or this part.
The situations I have herein described are not only problematic for someone with a visual impairment, but even more frustrating and hindering for someone in a wheelchair. It would literally be impossible for someone in that capacity to be able to independently get to and from the sidewalk and street.
Individuals with disabilities deserve the enjoyment of the same liberties and rights to access and navigate public spaces as their able-bodied peers. I am an understanding and reasonable person. I realize we are all human, and that it takes time to clean these spaces, but this is frankly unacceptable.
It prohibits individuals from safely enjoying the city and what it has to offer. I implore you to look into this, as well as to have a candid dialog with business owners about the imperativeness of maintaining the spaces in front of their businesses.
I would be more than willing to speak with you and whomever else to ensure this is not a recurring theme throughout this and future winters in Mount Pleasant.
I am graduating in May, but I would be distraught if someone other than myself had to experience this upon my departure from CMU and Mount Pleasant. This is a great school and town in which to learn, live, and play. Please ensure it is such for everybody, able-bodied or not.
I can be contacted at (248) 383-5083. Alternatively, I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.