Report finds inadequate conditions for blind, low-vision visitors at FDR memorial

A statue of former US president Franklin Delano Roosevelt is seen at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, DC on July 2, 2018. (Photo by Mandel Ngan / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

There are accessibility issues at a D.C. memorial honoring President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was unable to walk without assistance after a bout of polio when he was child.

That’s the finding of a report presented Thursday by accessibility consultant Cheryl Fogle-Hatch.

Fogle-Hatch told the FDR Memorial Legacy Committee that some of the barriers around the memorial’s fountains are inadequate, making the fountains dangerous in some spots.

Visitors who are blind, like Fogle-Hatch, could also have trouble reading at the memorial.

“The Braille ranges from somewhat readable to completely unrecognizable,” Fogle-Hatch said. “This includes the quotes in the Prologue Room, and the letters on the workers’ mural and the quotes on the column in Room One.”

The report said that in some areas, the Braille operates “like a puzzle,” because the space between the raised dots is too big, making it difficult to read.

In other spots, the Braille consists of indentations instead of raised dots, making it entirely impossible to read.

Her report said the National Park Service knows there are problems — and has created plans to address them.

Fogle-Hatch included a few additional improvements that could be made on top of NPS’ current plans, such as a guardrail around an in-ground fountain.

She also recommends improvements be made to the memorial’s webpage, the creation of downloadable audio descriptions and tactile models of objects featured in the memorial, among other changes.

The memorial opened in 1997, but a statue of FDR in a wheelchair wasn’t included until 2001.

WTOP’s Zeke Hartner contributed to this report.

Thomas Robertson

Thomas Robertson is an Associate Producer and Web Writer/Editor at WTOP. After graduating in 2019 from James Madison University, Thomas moved away from Virginia for the first time in his life to cover the local government beat for a small daily newspaper in Zanesville, Ohio.

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