How Curbs Made the Cut

Curb Cuts: 99% Invisible, 100% Usable

Photo of a young skateboarder and a man pushing a stroller as they approach a curb cut

In 1997 I tried rollerblading for the first time.  I would not define myself as an athlete (far from it), so when I came to the end of the block I was relieved to see a curb cut.  Staying upright was hard enough, but the thought of popping a curb on my unsteady wheels scared the heck out of me.  The curb cut saved me from a not-too-graceful-tumble into traffic.  

A curb cut is a wedge cut into an elevated curb that allows smooth passage between the sidewalk and the street. Curb cuts first appeared on a few Michigan streets after WWII to accommodate soldiers with disabilities.  Due to the courage and unrelenting civil rights advocacy of people like Ed Roberts, accessible curb design spread nationally.  Curb cuts removed a major barrier for people who use canes, scooters, crutches or wheelchairs for mobility.  

If you’ve ever pushed a stroller, carried heavy bags, had joint pain, walked with crutches or a cane, or stumbled around drunk, curb cuts have helped you.*

A curb cut is a wedge cut into an elevated curb that allows smooth passage between the sidewalk and the street. Curb cuts first appeared on a few Michigan streets after WWII to accommodate soldiers with disabilities.  Due to the courage and unrelenting civil rights advocacy of people like Ed Roberts, accessible curb design spread nationally.  Curb cuts removed a major barrier for people who use canes, scooters, crutches or wheelchairs for mobility.  

Because of excellence in design, most of us rarely notice curb cuts: unless of course you are a wheelchair user, or you find yourself teetering toward traffic on rollerblades.  

*Via Medium

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