One interesting time that I had as an Americorps VISTA this May took place at the Regional Mobility Council Transportation Summit held at the Frazier History Museum downtown. This summit’s focus was to highlight, analyze, and discuss the issues of transportation in Louisville for individuals who have some form of diminished mobility due to a myriad of situations such as loss of hearing, loss of sight, medical conditions, etc.
As part of the summit, all attendees divided into groups and conducted a “walking audit” of downtown Louisville’s sidewalks, crosswalks, streets, and intersections marking down the negatives and positives of public transportation through the city. Some negatives include cracked/destroyed sidewalks, unsafe crosswalks at intersections, inadequate lighting at intersections, and intersections that cut into pedestrian waiting areas, etc. Some positives include greenery (flowers and trees), benches, little parks, interesting sights to see, etc. In each group, one to two people volunteered to use wheelchairs to simulate the limited mobility perspective of pedestrian transportation that many face in the city. There were even people who were hard of hearing or hard of seeing that participated in these walking audit groups. These individuals contributed to the groups’ understanding of the overlying issue of access to transportation.
As we walked the audit, we found that Louisville’s sidewalks are filled with two inch high cracks that make walking for hard of seeing people very difficult and made wheeling a wheelchair over said cracks nearly impossible without some sort of help. There are crooked crosswalks with no auditory cues that hard of seeing people can use to stay safe as pedestrians. There are too steep of curb inclines that make it extremely difficult for wheelchair users to conquer. These are just a few of the problems that we saw as we completed our walk audit.
Visibly seeing the struggles that our two wheelchair-based people (one being a volunteer and another genuinely needing a wheelchair) has opened my eyes to an entirely new perspective concerning mobility and transportation, things that I take for granted today. This new perspective has translated into how I look at the way Louisville’s international population, a group I work closely with, utilizes and understand public transportation. Maybe making public/pedestrian signs easier to understand would be a step in the right direction to ease language transportation issues that Louisville’s international population faces. Another idea would be to make mobility access signs with simpler terms can ease the stress that Low English proficiency speakers and public transit riders face using public transportation. Making public transportation more easily acceptable for all types of mobility/disability, including the issues that Louisville’s refugees and immigrants face concerning public transportation, is a step that we can all work on to conquer together.