|September 13, 2002|
My orientation and mobility skills are quite good- weather i travel with a cane or a guide dog. Approximately 10 years ago, I nearly fell into a subway pit at the Daves Square Station (Red Line Service).
Daves Square at the time was a fairly newly designed subway station; very high ceilings (sound bounces all over the place) and a rather oddly designed center platform- some parts of the platform r wider than others and at the extreme ends of the platform are very narrow- (about 3 feet wide. At the each end of Aelwife station are Brick "houses" (as they r called) and to the left and right of the "houses" are the stations emergency exits- to get to those exits a passenger has to walk on that 3 foot wide piece of platform (no barrier between the end of the platform and the pit). This design was an accident waiting to happen.
I had a business meeting in the area so had to use Daves Square. When I got off the train, I stepped onto the platform, had my guide dog sit and we waited for the train to pull out of the station. I listened for the sound of the escalator- (the stairway was next to the escalator) What I hadn't realized is how high the ceilings are in this train station, and how much the sound bounced- giving me misinformation about the location of the escalator.
I inadvertently by-passed the escalator and ended up on that narrow three foot wide piece of platform (at the time, i did not realize the platform was this narrow). I realized that I passed the escalator, was about to do an about face (180 degree turn) and I heard a gentleman calling out "Lady, lady, lady with the big brown dog, do not move". It was quite obvious he was talking to me (at the time I was working a 95 male chocolate lab).
I had my dog sit, the gentleman came up to me, told me not to move, and he explained that I was on a very narrow piece of platform- he further told me that if I tried to turn around both my dog and I would have fallen into the pit. He told me he was going to put his hands on my shoulder- and asked me to move with him (walking backwards) My dog did turn around and he walked frontwards as I slowly moved backwards. Those few seconds seemed like hours- but the gentleman did get us safely back onto the pedestrian area of the platform. He showed me where the stairs were and walked up the stairs with me.
When we got to the top level, he spotted one of the MBTA Inspectors. We told him what happened. The inspector brushed off the incident saying "well nobody got hurt, what's the problem" I never got a chance to thank the gentleman.
Eighteen Months later, a very dear friend of mine (Margaret McCarthy) fell into that same pit- the one i almost fell into- and she died 5 days later (as a result of complications from electrocution. Margaret was also a guide dog user, independent traveler, and a single parent.
While Margaret (we knew her as Peggy) was in the hospital, We had a conversation about what happened to her and how she fell in. Peg was meeting a friend at Daves Square- When Peg got onto the train in Dorchester, the car was a four car train; when was in the lead car. What she didnt know is somewhere between the stop where she got on the train and Daves Square, the train added two cars onto the back (to accommodate for the rush hour traffic).
Peg got off the train, listened for the escalator, realized she passed it, turned around to head for the escalator and next thing she knew she and her guide dog were in the pit.
She vividly described hearing the tracks rattle, and feeling her skin adhere to the track. She was certain she was going to die right then and there.
Prior to my near mishap in the train station, I was a firm believer that if one were trained properly, he/she did not need detectable warning strips- they were a nicity. After my near accident and loosing a very dear friend as a result of a tragic fall, my tune changed.
I still believe that training is crucial, one needs to be aware of his/her surroundings, footing, etc but came to realize that those tactile domes under my feet put me on equal footing to sighted travelers- they could see that yellow platform line and could choose to stand behind it or on it; those tactile domes tell me the edge is near, and I can avoid the platform edge (not that my dog will let me get too close)
I firmly believe if Daves Square had detectable warning strips on its platform (including the narrow edges at the ends of the platform), Peggy would be alive today. Those Domes would have given her warning that she was close to the platform edge and she would have exercised her common sense and not moved- and call out for help.
I am appalled to think that someone would even think of stripping the one protection out of ADAAG that enables a visually impaired or blind travel equal footing in our subways. I ask you to please protect the language of detectable warning strips. One Blind person dieing here in Boston because of a fall into the pit is too many- and that already happened.
Thank you for your time.
I did forget to mention, that when Peg McCarthy and I spoke she told me right out if there had been warning strips on that platform, she would have known she was close to the edge of that platform and she would not have moved- but instead called out for help. Please add this to my original statements
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