Blind protest relocation of airport transportation stop
Romulus — The National Federal of the Blind of Michigan picketed outside the McNamara Terminal Sunday afternoon to bring attention to the relocation of a public transportation bus stop — a move they say proves a particular hardship to visually impaired travelers.
About a dozen members of the group, some with canes and service dogs, gathered outside the terminal for about two hours displaying hand-lettered signs like “We are not second-class citizens,” “Safety for Seniors” and “Equal Rights for Disabled Travelers.”
Navigating around Detroit Metro Airport, even under the best conditions, can prove a daunting task with traffic snarls, parking, homeland security checks and last-minute flight changes. Add being blind to that mix increases that frustration, said Larry Posont, president of the NFBMI, who led Sunday’s protest.
“The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that passenger waiting areas be placed to minimize the distance which wheelchair users and other persons with disabilities may have to travel compared to the general public,” Posont said. “Instead the airport maximized the distance.”
Posont referred to the relocation of the public transportation bus stop from curbside at mid-terminal to the far south end of the Ground Transportation Center in the parking ramp across the road. The area is 200 yards from the nearest indoor waiting area, restrooms and a water fountain.
“They took what was an independent activity for many of us and made it dependent,” said another protester, Terry Wilcox of Ann Arbor. “I used to be able to be let off at the curb and head directly inside and to the ticket counter. Now it’s out one level, take an elevator to another, make several turns through crowds and maybe you will get to your destination.
“Worse, we cannot see the signs that point the direction we are supposed to be going in — we often rely on sound keys, voices, and public address messages,” she said . “Letting us off in a garage area where the noise of plane engines drowns all that all out makes it impossible to hear them.”
Mike Conway of the Wayne County Airport Authority said the bus relocation, moved last September, was made for everyone’s safety and stressed the airport is compliant with all state and federal laws.
“Our international passenger traffic has really grown and with it, so has vehicle and bus transportation to the airport,” said Conway. “Some of the buses were exiting and boarding passengers — not at the curb — but right in the middle of two and three lanes of traffic. It just became too congested, too dangerous.”
Posont said the airport relocated the bus stop without any public hearing despite concerns from his organization and others. He noted 2 percent of Michigan’s population, or about 200,000 people, are legally blind or have vision challenges.