The Yellow Sign

A rather strange development came to my attention last weekend, and I’m not quite sure what (if anything) I should do about it.

Over one of our Sabbath meals, our daughter casually remarked that a new sign had been installed several yards away from our home. Rectangular and yellow with black letters, it read, “Blind Person Area.”

Many of you know that my husband Michael is blind. Thank God, he is exceptionally skilled at navigating all over the place with his cane. Hey, after living in Manhattan for 30-odd years, he ought to be!

Both Michael and I were at best surprised and at worst stunned by this piece of news. We’re still trying to tease out all of the questions and reactions teeming in our brains, among them:

  • Who arranged to have this sign put up – our neighbors, our friends or total strangers?
  • Who chose the wording?
  • Why were we not included in this decision?
  • Do we have the right to insist that the sign be removed?
  • Is it appropriate to insist that the sign be removed? We’re not particularly interested in being run over by a negligent driver, but then again, who is?
  • Should we just let it be?
  • And why does this yellow sign sickeningly conjure up an image of a yellow star?
  • A bit of further clarification: The sign is on a pole at the corner of Narrow Lane (our block) and Station Place (a relatively quiet one-way street that turns onto our block). The sidewalk on Station Place is either nonexistent or intermittently so. Most pedestrians walk toward the train station in the street, and Michael and I are no exception.

    Now, if anyone were to ask me what (if anything) I’d want in the sign’s place, it would be a convex mirror across the way from where the yellow sign now is. That way, drivers could see a pedestrian (disabled or not) heading toward Station Place before they turn onto Narrow Lane.

    Ironically, at the other end of Narrow Lane is a dangerously busy street called West Broadway. Cars whiz by, and there is no traffic light at that corner or for several blocks in either direction. If I had my way, there would be a traffic light there for the safety of everyone, including Michael and myself. But there is no traffic light, and there is no yellow and black sign.

    So, what do you all think?

    Looking forward to your replies,

    8 thoughts on “The Yellow Sign

    1. The obvious it to contact your “town.”

      Is there any “handicapped lobby” where you live?

      Yes, we all know that they “mean well.” So give them guidance on how to help you.

      Chodesh Tov,

    2. Ah, the old “BPA” sign!

      I jump to the question if there are areas without their requisite quota of blind persons? In the UK (and Oz) I occasionally saw “Elderly Hereabout” – well, not really “hereabout” but some such Britism warning of the slower/older persuasion folks being nearby.

      I’ve been expecting warnings about the possible presence of the dull-witted or perhaps the insensitive. I guess a photo might be interesting but then before long you’d have to ferret out what somebody thought was the extent of the Brownie Points they’d get for having the signs made – and where one would go to get one.


      PS: More entries, please. Two a year shorts us all.

    3. Dear Chavi,

      The town obviously has to be notified that in their haste to put up the sign they obviously put it up in the wrong corner. Since the location has not been a safety issue at all, but the risk factor has always been and will remain to be the corner of West Broadway, you, your Husband, your family and neighbors would appreciate if they would correct the error immediately.

      How is that for saving face for the officials? Try call Jeff Toback he probably could get that fixed for you fairly quickly.


    4. If the neighbors were behind getting the sign up, I can sort of see (pun!) where they’re coming from: “It’s bad enough we have to see a blind person walk around our neighborhood; it would be much worse to have to witness him getting hit by a car. (Then we might actually have to help him or speak to him.)” Or maybe, “Every time that man crosses the street without getting hit, it’s an absolute miracle! Who does he think he is, tempting fate like that?” And does your husband really have to right to question the whole thing? Don’t you know that people with disabilities don’t really know what’s good for them? Maybe that’s what the neighbors were thinking: “We should make the decision for him. After all, he’s blind; he couldn’t possibly know what’s best.”

      Isn’t it wonderful to live in such a caring neighborhood?

    5. Saw your note on mediatalk and read your entry …

      I came away thinking you’re as ambivalent about the sign being posted as I am attempting to understand how I might react.

      It’s a “mark.” No two ways about it, but it varies from my crip-guy license plate only in that it’s permanent rather than portable. What else does the little stick figure on my tag say other than “I need you to not park close to the store so that I can park close to the store?”

      All the same, the sign stinks. And I can’t tell you why. Maybe I could if the city put a sign at the entrance of the cul-de-sac where I live that said “Wheelchair Person Area.”

      The thing is — cynicism alert! — the sign’s purpose may not be to protect your husband as much as it is to protect the city from lawsuits.

      Whatever your husband and you decide, it’s sure to be correct because you’re the people affected and, in a perfect world, it should be your choice.

      Assuming the city will remove it if you so decide, of course.

      ~ Gary

    6. Chava, the sudden appearance of that sign is very distressing indeed. A few thoughts come to mind. I think the first step you should take is to discover the name of the key decision-maker who controls these sorts of visual “warnings” in your neighborhood. Is it one individual or a committee? In order to educate that person or group of persons, you need names and contact information.

      Of the various questions you mentioned, the one that leaps out at me is why were you and Michael not consulted? It certainly seems paternalistic.

      Once you know whom to consult, I would ask him/her/them to remove the yellow sign and replace it with the convex mirror you mentioned. This would increase safety in that area for all.

      In trying to put myself in your shoes (wheels), I thought: How would I feel if I woke up one day and saw a prominent sign near my home saying “Wheelchair Person Area”? I would not like it one bit. I always resent being singled out as different. I know I’m different. I don’t need to be reminded. And I fend for myself quite adequately and do not need extra “protection” in the form of signage.




      I am very sensitive to these emotions and can totally understand why you and Michael are upset. Keep us updated on your progress.


    7. Chavi, I think whoever had the sign put there was some busybody in the community who doesn’t have enough to do. I can’t imagine what it would take now to get taken down. If it were me, I would just get a can of paint and paint over the word “blind” and leave the words “person area” there. I know it is unlike you and Michael to deface public property and that my anarchistic techniques are not necessarily what you are looking for, but that’s what I would do if it were my block and “my” sign. I am afraid I have NO faith that any really rational tactics would work in the regard. Yes, I know, you don’t want to give the kids the idea that anarchy is good idea. But still… I love you all, pk

    8. My reaction, though not very practical, is to want to put up some additional signs, perhaps:

      Soccer Mom Area
      Children Playing Area
      Large Tree Area
      Slippery in Winter Area
      No Sidewalk Area
      Safer Than West Broadway Area

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