Blind Donald dices with death
By DAVID BANCROFT
EVERY time Donald Power crosses a street in Grafton he feels he is dicing with death.
The Waterview resident, 59, has been functionally blind for about seven years and finds activities that sighted people take for granted, almost impossible.
A bus that Mr Power catches from Waterview drops him off near Mighty River Automotive in Fitzroy Street.
He walks to the pedestrian crossing near the National Australia Bank and makes his way around to King Street so he can shop at Coles, where he knows the location of items.
But crossing King Street is dangerous. There are no pedestrian crossings, so he finds the crest in the road, near Centrelink, and using only hearing to identify whether there are vehicles, makes his way to the centre of the road where there is refuge.
Again, when he can hear no vehicles, he crosses the remainder of the street.
After doing his grocery shopping he goes to Farmer Charlies for vegetables, but faces the same problem.
And, when loaded with groceries and a cane, he has to make his way to Market Square for the bus home.
He has already been hit by one vehicle while crossing Pound Street to Farmer Charlies. He was hit a second time in Prince Street.
Neither of the vehicles stopped.
Mr Power wants pedestrian crossings installed at a number of locations in Grafton so sight-impaired, the frail, elderly and others with disabilities can cross roads safely.
But he says the response from the Clarence Valley Council had been far from encouraging.
"The council says it's got no money or it's got no time," he said.
"Some time ago we had one meeting planned for the community centre at 2pm. We had people come from Lismore and others who made a big effort to get there only to find that the meeting time had been brought forward to 11am. Nobody let us know. This was obviously to dodge us."
Mr Power also said there were problems with unauthorised displays cluttering the footpaths on city streets. He has had a number of falls after running into some of them.
Clarence Valley Council roads and transport manager Tim Jenkins said the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) set guidelines for the installation of pedestrian crossings and none of the sites suggested went close to meeting those guidelines.
He said, however, that the council recognised there was a need for something to be done.
He said the council had been working with the RTA on introducing pedestrian access and mobility plans in Grafton, South Grafton, Maclean and Yamba and was seeking consultants to assess those areas.
"It will be looking at everything," he said.
"We hope to advertise (for consultants) in the next month."
Mr Jenkins said if the mobility plan was approved by the RTA, it opened the door to government funding.
He said there were plans to introduce pedestrian refuge areas in King Street.