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Advocacy in Action on Denver’s 16th Street Mall

The National Federation of the Blind of Colorado (NFBCO) is advocating for blind users of the 16th Street Mall in Denver. The City of Denver is planning a makeover of the 35 year old mall to repair infrastructure and expand sidewalks. Transit lanes would move to the center of each block.

The free MallRide has 40,000 riders daily making it the busiest street in the RTD system. The NFBCO’s concern is the elimination of curbs. For the blind curbs are tactile landmarks. The universal symbol for the barrier between sidewalks and traffic curbs are considered life savers.

The NFBCO fought for curbs in the original 1970’s design. Brian Pinkerton of Denver Public Works says the new design includes five to nine feet of space filled with trees, lights, vendors, and fixed furniture between walkways and transit lanes. He believes this is a safer barrier than a curb.

He views curbs as relics of a street and the mall as so much more than an ordinary street. Blind advocates say a person could cross the barrier and not know exactly when the transit lane begins.

NFBCO member Cody Bair works downtown. “We’re on board with plans to update the mall, but we just want to make sure that whatever those plans are and however it’s done that it’s as accessible and as inclusive to everyone as possible. If it’s done wrong, it’s going to have devastating effects on us.”

Pinkerton says, “Safety is a top priority for the new proposed design, and we certainly want to make sure that sight impaired people would know exactly where they are on the mall and not wander into the transit way.” One option being considered is adding pavers or a grooved boarder as a tactile separation between pedestrian areas and transit lanes.

Find out more:

9 News

Originally Published on 50 Plus Marketplace

Matt Kissane, Director of Listener Services 

Audio Information Network of Colorado. Providing blind & visually impaired individuals with audio access to reading materials. 303-786-7777, ext. 108 or 

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