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Blind Kalamazoo couple pleads with people to clear their sidewalks

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - With more snow expected this week, sidewalks will continue to get slick for people who depend on them for daily transportation.

Newschannel 3 spoke Monday night with one couple in Kalamazoo who are blind, and got their perspective on how important it is for people to keep sidewalks clear in the winter months.

The Vallenders say what usually takes about 15 minutes in the summer to get to the bus stop or corner store now takes them an hour.

They told us that when sidewalks aren't clear it puts their lives in danger.
 
61-year-old Tim Vallender is legally blind, so to get to the store for a gallon of milk or to find the bus stop, he must walk--even in the dead of winter, when sidewalks turn into slushy, icy mountains.

"You get off into parking lots before you know it sometimes, or one might veer a little bit too far to the left as you can imagine and find the street before you know it," Tim said.

When the snow and ice impairs his ability to feel the edges of the sidewalk with his cane, Tim says the only way to stay on course is to hear how loud the traffic is.

His journey can become treacherous, even life-threatening, dodging ice boulders and crossing railroad tracks.

"I really crossed incorrectly, and I had a close call with a truck moving about 30, 40 miles an hour," he said.

Tim's wife Modesta is also blind, and she relies on him when they go out.

"I hang on to my husbands arm, and try to stay up so i don't fall," she said.

"Actually, my wife depends on me very much, so I have to especially guard my life even more than I did as a single person," Tim said.

Tonight the Vallenders are hoping to send a message, asking people who can see to imagine walking a day in their shoes.

"Well I would like people to think about how it would be as a blind person, and think how they would react if the sidewalks wasn't cleaned off, and put salt down for ice so you wouldn't slip and fall," said Modesta
 
We did some digging and found that many municipalities, including Kalamazoo, have ordinances that say its the business or homeowners responsibility to clear public sidewalks.

But some businesses we talked to along Drake Road on Monday night tell us its the city's responsibility.

So it seems there is some definite confusion out there about this.