Legally blind college student pushes to make streets safer

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MOUNT VERNON, Ohio (WCMH) — A central Ohio college student said it’s time to make streets in the Buckeye State safer for people with disabilities.

Sadie McFarland has been legally blind since birth, but that doesn’t stop the soon-to-be college sophomore from finding her way around Mount Vernon. It does, however, make it a little more difficult for her to do it on her own.

“Navigating city streets is pretty challenging for a sighted pedestrian, let alone someone with a vision impairment,” McFarland said.

That’s why she is calling on the city, and beyond, to install audio signals at all crosswalks.

“There’s no button to push to let them know that I need to walk, or no audio signal telling me it’s safe to walk,” McFarland said.

She worries about crossing busy intersections alone, without that help.

“Obviously being hit, because of misjudgment,” McFarland said. “It’s literally life and death. It could come down to that.”

Audible signals aren’t legally required. There are some in the City of Columbus that have been added as residents request them.

I asked Knox County officials about the possibility of audio signals there. The Public Health Department said accessibility and inclusion are part of its mission, and it’s now working to develop an Active Transportation Plan for Knox County, to make walking accessible and safe for all ages and abilities.

The Knox County Mobility Manager recently spoke with McFarland to discuss the plan, seeking her insight into the needs of people with disabilities.

“It doesn’t matter, small town, big city — if there is an intersection between shops or restaurants or businesses, there has to be adaptations,” McFarland said.

Knox County Public Health said the notes from the meeting with McFarland have now been shared with county and city stakeholders and will be used to finalize the Active Transportation Plan, expected to happen in the near future.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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