Braille Monitor                                                                                February 1986



"Accessibility" To Blind Saves Transit Mall Funds

(The following news release was recently issued by the Des Moines Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa.)

When the Walnut Street Transit Mall opens Wednesday, it will be a less expensive mall than originally planned--all because of a long-standing relationship between the Des Moines Metro Transit Authority and the Des Moines Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa.

"Some public bodies forget that 'accessibility' in its most basic sense involves access to the decision-making process as equals," said Curtis Willoughby, Des Moines Chapter Vice President. "But not the Metro General Manager and staff. The ink was barely dry on the initial set of blueprints when we were invited to comment and propose any changes we thought were necessary."

"As I remember, they really gave us hell," said Steve Spade, Metro General Manager, with a grin. "Our architects had read somewhere that they needed to put three grooves in the sidewalk to warn blind pedestrians of the street corners. Curtis and Bob Ray told us to get rid of that and give them a one-inch curb at the corner--they'd take it from there. That saved us a lot of money."

"They also had a block where trees were scattered throughout the sidewalk, south of Nollen Plaza," said Willoughby. "That would have posed a problem for anyone--blind or sighted. Apparently it had something to do with the angle of the trees in the aerial view. We suggested they keep the sidewalks clear for pedestrians," Willoughby added.

"Much of the time, we have government going to the people and saying, 'Look what we're doing for you!'" Spade admitted. "In this instance we were pleased to learn early in the process that we had planned more than was necessary. As a result, we came up with a solution that was more satisfactory to the blind community."

Willoughby stated that the close relationship between the Federation and the Metro would continue. "We've been invited to be VIP guests at the Walnut Mall opening on Wednesday, and we're going to be there to 'make the cut' and show our support for Steve and our Metro friends. After all, we helped design it."

Des Moines Chapter members to be present at the mall opening, in addition to Willoughby, are Carol Smith, President; and Bill Fuller and Dick Webb, who taught white cane travel skills to Metro employees during the recent White Cane Safety Day celebration.

The National Federation of the Blind of Iowa is a membership organization composed of blind people and their friends. The Des Moines Chapter is its largest chapter.