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Stamford Goes To Work To Make Downtown Sidewalks Easier To Navigate

Phil Magalnick of Stamford offers his insight into the accessibility of city sidewalks during the Access for All Committee to Hold walkthrough of downtown Wednesday.
Phil Magalnick of Stamford offers his insight into the accessibility of city sidewalks during the Access for All Committee to Hold walkthrough of downtown Wednesday. Video Credit: Jay Polansky
Phil Magalnick of Stamford offers his knowledge into the accessibility of city sidewalks during the Access for All Committee to Hold walkthrough of downtown Wednesday. Photo Credit: Jay Polansky

STAMFORD, Conn. — Visiting downtown Stamford can be a challenge for those with limited mobility or sight.

The maze of obstructions on the sidewalk — from freestanding A-frame signs to sidewalk cafes in the summer — is especially daunting for Stamford resident Phil Magalnick, who is legally blind.

But the sidewalks are becoming more accessible, according to Magalnick. As a member of the city’s Access for All Committee, he has seen great improvement in a short amount of time.

“I’ve been very humbled and amazed that over the last year a lot of things have changed,” Magalnick said.

In December, the city passed an ordinance that, in part, requires four feet of accessible sidewalk path for pedestrians.

On Wednesday, officials from the city and members of the committee took to their feet to enforce the ordinance. They walked down Main Street and up Atlantic Street and onto Bedford Street to look for obstructions.

When officials found a freestanding sign on the sidewalk or another hazard, they walked into a business and informed an owner or employee.

Magalnick said these reminders make all the difference. “Once they’re made aware, things happen,” he said.

Aside from the rule requiring the four-foot pathway, for-profit advertising on city property is not allowed. So a convenience store can’t put out a sign on the street advertising lotto tickets, for example.

But dining establishments can put a sign or other would-be hazard such as a decorative barrel within their permitted outdoor patio.

Not all hazards are created by local businesses. Some grates — such as those over spaces of soil where trees are planted — can prove hazardous for downtown patrons like Magalnick.

If the grates are too wide, his cane can become stuck. But if the grates are narrow enough, the cane can easily pass over the gap.

While Magalnick still faces hazards on sidewalks in other parts of the city, he is happy with the progress that the committee and the city are making.

The changes, he said, have given him new opportunities and a better outlook.

“You get more confidence to do things,” he said, knowing that changes are in store to help him navigate. “It’s really a nice thing to happen.”

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