Mesa changes sidewalks to help visually impaired - East Valley Tribune: News

Mesa changes sidewalks to help visually impaired

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Posted: Monday, August 11, 2008 7:24 pm | Updated: 10:18 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

As part of Mesa resurfacing aging roads in Dobson Ranch, residents are getting the most up-to-date sidewalk ramps geared at making walking around the neighborhood safer for the visually impaired.

Since 2006, Mesa has spent $1.9 million installing the bright-yellow covers, called "truncated domes," on sidewalk ramps after the federal government revised requirements for the disabled.

New federal requirements protecting the needs of the disabled mandate that in place of older cement sidewalk ramps that had grooves that were flatter, the visually impaired would benefit from "truncated domes."

The devices are a series of bumps on the ramps like a form of Braille to help the visually impaired differentiate between the end of the sidewalk ramp and the street.

"When a visually impaired person moves their cane across the surface, lot of times they weren't noticing the difference in the change between the ramp - they didn't know when they were walking out into traffic," said Mark Venti, a senior transportation engineer in Mesa. "The bumps kind of let their canes know that it's the street. There's a detectable warning."

The ramps are the latest in design improvements that take into account a variety of disabilities after other models had been tried over the years, Venti said. In one model, for instance, raised bumps in the ramps caused too much pain for diabetics with sensitive feet, so the domes were used instead.

Wheelchair users also had trouble with previous versions, because the bumps jolted them. The newest version has more than two inches between the domes, allowing wheelchairs to pass through them without disruption.

Under federal disability law, the city must replace the ramps with newer models when streets are redone, and in coming years, more streets throughout the city will get sidewalk ramps with truncated domes.

Mesa spokeswoman Rene Powell said the Dobson Ranch project alone includes 338 new ramps at a cost of $1,500 each. The project began around Alma Elementary School in order to be finished by the start of the school year. The project is continuing this week southwest of Baseline and Extension roads.

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