‘There is no route without obstacles’ for the blind

Thanassis Ilias, president of the Society for the Technological Advancement of the Blind, on the hazards of Athens. «As a city, Athens has a bad, hostile sound. It doesn’t inspire me to go for a walk. In order to go somewhere on foot, I have to know the route, to have done it before. So if work starts tomorrow and the sidewalk on Panepistimiou Street changes, I have to be retrained and adjust my movements to that specific road. It is a problem that the blind face in a few countries round the world, usually those with chaotic planning and chaotic behavior. Greece is one of them. «There is no route without obstacles. There is a only a route with obstacles that I have learned to handle. And that isn’t always easy. Besides, sometimes I come across illegally parked cars, sometimes garbage bins that are on one side of the road one day and on the other side the next, and sometimes planters that the municipality has decided to install on the sidewalk before the elections. Some traffic lights have audible signals for the blind, but they often cannot be heard above the noise of the city. And given that drivers go through red lights, the blind prefer to trust their own ears rather than machines.»

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