Visually impaired struggle to navigate unplowed sidewalks

Unplowed sidewalks in Anchorage are a danger for people who are blind.
Published: Dec. 16, 2022 at 6:00 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Anchorage’s deep snow is making it tough to get around, not only on the snowy streets but also on the sidewalks — many of which remain covered. That’s particularly true for people who are blind like Zachary James.

On Tuesday, James and his guide dog Major General were accidentally let out at a bus stop that was much further than their destination, the Alaska Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Spenard. An Anchorage Daily News photographer snapped a picture of James and Major struggling through deep snow on the unplowed sidewalks along West Benson Boulevard.

“It was knee-deep to waist-deep snow where the sidewalk should have been,” James said. “We just had to go through it. I didn’t know what else to do.”

The photo prompted some concerns from the public, according to the center’s Executive Director, CB Brady.

“The picture you saw of Zachary struggling through that snow was wonderful in a horrible way, because we go through that every day, every day,” Brady said. “It’s so hard to get to a bus stop, and it shouldn’t be.”

Brady said he understands that roads are a priority for clearing snow, but he added that sidewalks shouldn’t be forgotten. He thinks the state and the city should do a better job of keeping sidewalks clear.

Both the city and state say they are continuing to plow sidewalks, but roads take priority.

Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Administrative Operations Manager Justin Shelby said the state has two operators per shift for sidewalk snowblowers, which are currently working in the Boniface and Dimond areas. He said in some areas of town they still have to haul snow away before sidewalk clearing can begin, which could happen as early as this weekend.