Anyone with mobility problems understands the value of curb cuts. Without them, we are much more vulnerable and unsafe.
We may try to somehow jump our wheelchairs or walkers up onto the curb, or try to use our canes as pole vaults as we “leap” from street to sidewalk. We may try to use the street as an erstwhile sidewalk, or ask a stranger for help. But the most likely thing is that we will simply decide that the danger is not worth the risk and turn back. This is one of the ways that people with disabilities are effectively shut out of events and activities that are routine for most people.
This kind of dilemma is largely why the AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT (ADA) was enacted. One of the ADA’s requirements is that cities build curb cuts into newly-constructed sidewalks or into sidewalks that are being repaired or otherwise altered.
I live in Portland, Oregon, which is famous for being progressive, green and extremely bicycle-friendly. But Portland was recently sued by wheelchair users, who claimed that the city was not installing enough curb cuts nor adequately maintaining the sidewalks.
Portland has just settled this case for $13 million dollars. Part of the agreement is that the city will construct 1500 curb cuts a year.
We sure can use them!