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Intersection could’ve been dangerous for the blind, UWEC and city of Eau Claire finding solutions

Eau Claire (WQOW) – Changes are coming to University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, after advocates reported a renovated space on campus could have put people with impaired vision in serious danger.

Katherine Schneider, a long time Eau Claire resident, had concerns about the Garfield and Park Avenues intersection because she’s blind. Schneider said until May, the shared driveway had no indication when the walkway turned into the busy intersection. That meant people with impaired vision could step from the sidewalk to the street and not even know it.

Schneider reached out to the university, and eventually after a meeting between university leaders, city officials, architects and advocates, the city installed a speed bump as a temporary solution. Eau Claire Deputy City Engineer Leah Ness said they plan to install a permanent change next year that will keep the visually-impaired safe.

Schneider said improving accessibility should be a collaborative effort. “It takes people, hopefully at the table before the project is built saying, ‘well what about blind people? What about deaf people? What about wheelchair users?”‘ Schneider said while the Americans with Disabilities Act provides some guidelines, the best way to ensure accessibility is to involve people that are affected.

City officials are still figuring out what the permanent fix should be, but they plan to consult Schneider as they explore solutions.

Emily Shepardson

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