Local woman impressed by city's quick response to potential hazard

Sidewalk hazard removed

A Kelowna woman was impressed with the city's quick response to a hazard she noticed on a local sidewalk that could have injured a visually impaired person.

Donna Franz is an accessibility design consultant, who helps designers factor in the needs of people with disabilities that may not be otherwise apparent.

In mid-September, Franz noticed a utility box near the northeast corner of Rose Avenue and Pandosy Street, across from Kelowna General Hospital, that jutted out into the sidewalk, at about chest height.

“For persons with visual impairments that use a white cane, they tap it from side to side to assess for hazards immediately in the shoulder-to-shoulder range in front of them,” Franz said.

“If something is up as high as that utility box component that sticks out, they wouldn't feel that with the cane. So the cane would tell them all is well, but then they would hit that.”

She first reached out to the City of Kelowna on Sept. 15, and within 10 days, the utility box was altered so that the protrusion comes out the other side, opposite the sidewalk.

“It was really responsive and that's why I thought it would be important to share,” Franz said. “I think they're doing a good job.”

Franz added that it's tough for designers who don't have their own experience with certain disabilities to consider these issues.

“The person who has the disability is a aware of it, but the people who are designing the environment, if they haven't had that personal experience, it's really hard to design those protective measures into their designs,” she said.

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