The First City To Install Curb Cuts In Their Sidewalks Was?
Answer: Kalamazoo, MI
There’s a good chance that curb cuts are the kind of modern convenience you don’t give so much as a passing thought to—which likely means they are so common in your environment, it’s easy to take them for granted. In fact, you might not even know the feature had a name in the first place.
Curb cuts are the sloped areas where pedestrian walkways meet streets and the curb is sloped (or “cut”) to meet the surface grade of the street in such a way that you can walk easily without catching your toe on the curb or stepping down off the curb onto the street. Historically, curbs didn’t have cut outs and every “pedestrian crossing” on curbed streets required people to step down or up to navigate it. In the 1940s, Kalamazoo, Michigan became the first city in the world to use curb cuts as part of a pilot program designed to make the downtown area of the city more easily navigable for the participants in an employment initiative focused on getting disabled veterans back to work.
While the design was clearly useful and other cities installed curb cuts in certain locations, it wasn’t a mandatory design requirement for American cities until the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act mandated it. Curb cuts were mandated in other countries by similar bills in the following years, such as the Australian Disability Discrimination Act of 1992.
Curb cuts are an excellent example of how adaptations for people with impaired mobility and disabilities can benefit everyone. While the design clearly benefits someone in, say, a wheelchair or using a walker the most, it also helps everyone maintain better footing and decreases the risk of falling across the entire population using them.
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