While walking our dog on Mercer Island …
A couple of months back, my wife and I were walking our dog on Mercer Island. We’re both in our sixties and passed a younger man walking the other way on the other side of street. My wife put on her mask for the passage, and we were both surprised when he berated her — it was unfriendly for her to cover her face, there’s really no risk here on Mercer Island, and she’s at odds with the thousands of years in which humans have exchanged looks as a way to form community.
We more or less wrote it off at the time, but in the weeks that have passed, I’ve noticed all the different ways people we meet while walking deal with the virus — putting on their masks, stopping their conversations, getting off the trail, covering their mouths with their sleeves and more. In each I see someone making an effort to be a good neighbor — which looks like community to me.
Invest in accessibility
I have lived on Mercer Island for the last 30 years, and I recently sold my house and moved into a condo downtown. I wanted to have better access to transit and to services. I stopped driving around eight years ago as I have gradually lost my vision as a result of retinitis pigmentosa.
Unfortunately, I still find it difficult to get around, because there are such few safe places to cross our streets. For example, there is only one accessible pedestrian signal (the audible and tactile signals), located next to the transit center. The rest of the signals don’t have these audio cues, and so are more difficult for me to use. There are also very few stoplights, meaning I often will have to cross without a signal. It feels like I’m taking my life in my own hands every time I go out.
There are many seniors who live on Mercer Island, and many seniors who can’t drive. As the weather gets better and we come out of the pandemic, we will want to get out and reconnect with our communities. That’s why I think it’s so important for our elected leaders to invest in accessibility, especially as our legislature is considering a sixteen year transportation package. We need to ensure that everyone can get around our communities safely, whether you drive, walk, roll or bus, we all have places to go.
Submitted by Anna Zivarts on behalf of Megumi, a member of the Washington Council of the Blind