By Ian Tannenbaum
We often take our ability to do things on our own for granted. For some of us, though, we’re constantly reminded of the barriers that keep us from being independent. Many of Muncie’s residents with mobility impairments struggle with our sidewalks. Talking a walk around Muncie, you’ll see sidewalks that are damaged, end in dead ends, or are completely absent. Clients at Hillcroft Services spoke about these issues at a self-advocacy meeting in October hosted by Laura Couch, Hillcroft’s Creativity Unlimited Program Manager.
“The sidewalks that are really damaged are dangerous for the people using canes and wheelchairs,” said one self-advocate. Others nodded in agreement and another chimed in, pointing out how people could easily trip and get hurt on damaged sidewalks. Many of the self-advocates also pointed out the complete lack of sidewalks near their houses and other residential areas including Streeter Avenue and Cowing Drive.
Other self-advocates spoke about cars that sped around curved roads, crosswalks, and intersections, almost hitting pedestrians. “People just fly past, they don’t care,” said one self-advocate, which was met with more agreement and a comment from Couch explaining that many of Hillcroft’s clients use the Cardinal and White River Greenways for daily recreational activities, and often experienced this firsthand.
“So, what can we do about it?” another self-advocate asks. Other self-advocates chimed in with suggestions like installing lights on high-traffic paths and crosswalks so people can see more easily and more road signs around crosswalks and curved roads. The biggest suggestion, though, was to make it easier to report problems that people see.
One of the main ways to report sidewalk or street issues in Muncie is to fill out a report form from the city of Muncie’s website. Having this form accessible online is a step in the right direction, but the website has some accessibility issues ranging from screen reader inaccessibility to the actual website being hard to find.
If you’d like to make a report about a street problem, you can go here: City of Muncie Street Problem Report form. To view a map of the reports made by other people, you can go here: Map of Muncie Street Problem Reports. You also can call Muncie’s Public Works department at (765)747-4847.
Muncie recently released a pedestrian and cyclist plan, set to be complete before 2040, which can be found here: Delaware – Muncie Bicycle Pedestrian Plan. Though this also is a step in the right direction, the plan only mentions the word “disability” twice in its 133 pages. Additionally, Muncie’s Board of Public Works and Safety approved a policy in May 2021 to reimburse property owners who replace their own sidewalks. The document can be found here: Policy on Public Facility Reimbursement.