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One-fourth of Metro platforms lack bumpy tiles for the blind

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Local,Transportation,Kytja Weir

Metro does not have bumpy tiles along the edges of nearly a quarter of its platforms, despite a more than 20-year-old push for the transit agency to install them at all stations to help prevent visually impaired riders from falling onto the tracks.

The agency plans to install some tiles with bumps, known as truncated domes, at 10 more stations by mid-2015, during other major station repairs. But an estimated $6.6 million hasn't been set aside in Metro's $5 billion rebuilding campaign for the remaining 11 stations.

At least three visually impaired riders have been killed, and at least nine others have been injured when they fell from Metro platforms that lacked the warning bumps since the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, called for them to be installed.

Stations without bumpy tiles
Metro says it plans to add bumpy tiles to 10 stations by mid-2015. But 11 morestations lack funding to add them.
Stations to get tiles by mid-2015
Arlington Cemetery
Cleveland Park
Deanwood*
Eastern Market
Grosvenor-Strathmore
Minnesota Ave
Potomac Ave*
Takoma*
Twinbrook*
White Flint*
Stations lacking tiles and funding
Benning Road
Braddock Road
Capitol Heights
Clarendon
Eisenhower Ave
Forest Glen
Landover
Shaw-Howard U
Virginia Sq-GMU
Waterfront
West Hyattsville
* Currently under construction
Editor's note: This box has been updated to reflect the additional stations where Metro is currently adding bumpy tiles. The agency said Friday it has work under way at Deanwood, Potomac Avenue, Takoma and Twinbrook.
Source: Metro

"People do fall, people are injured and some people have died. This is a matter of lives," said Doris Ray, a disability rights advocate who is seeking the tiles at all stations.

Not having them at all 86 Metro stations creates its own problem, she and other advocates say. For visually impaired riders, the inconsistency creates uncertainty -- or worse.

"It's cruel to do [it] at some stations and not at all," said Cathryn Bonnette, a lawyer who is blind. "The way it is now is a false expectation."

Bonnette had her own terrifying fall last year. "It's a miracle that I'm alive," she said.

In April 2011, she assumed the Clarendon station had bumpy tiles like all the others she had visited in three years of daily travels.

But when her guide dog, Abby, stopped inside the Arlington County station, Bonnette extended her right leg, reaching for the bumps to know where to stand. She kept extending it, until she found the actual platform edge. "By that time, I was overextended enough that I was over the platform," she said.

She fell head-first. A piece of metal cut into her arm to the bone, and she fractured her elbow, she said.

She still has knee and back pain from the fall -- and extensive medical bills. But she is thankful she missed the electrified third rail, that the metal punctured her arm, not her head, and that she was pulled to safety before the next train arrived. "There are so many ways I could have been killed," she said.

Arlington County transit and disability rights advocates have been pushing for months for the 21 stations without tiles to be retrofitted with them within the next five years.

"Metro is and has been in full compliance with ADA requirements regarding bumpy tiles," Metro spokesman Philip Stewart said. "Under ADA, bumpy tiles are required only at 'key' and new stations -- a requirement that Metro fulfilled long ago." Key stations are defined as high-ridership stops, transfer stations, interchanges with other major transportation systems, end-of-the-line stations and those serving major activity centers such as universities, hospitals and employment centers.

But Arlington County's Transit Advisory Committee argues that areas around stations have changed since Metro developed its key station list. Virginia Square has the expanded George Mason University campus, while Clarendon has transformed into a shopping hub. The Arlington Cemetery stop attracts many disabled veterans.

Furthermore, the National Industries for the Blind is next to one of the stations that lacks funding for tiles. The nonprofit organization employs about two dozen legally blind workers.

"Metro accessibility is not only important for NIB employees -- many of whom are blind and commute each day to our office adjacent to the Braddock Road Metro station -- but accessibility in general is important for businesses to ensure thatallemployees can effectively and safely get to and from work," said Tony Stephens, a blind NIB employee who commutes through the station.

kweir@washingtonexaminer.com

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