Jakarta’s sidewalks are an interesting mosaic of broken and missing tiles, wobbly slabs, drainage holes and crumbling curbs that are often blocked by shrubberies or parked motorbikes and carts selling food, or other things. For most able-bodied people, these are simply things to work around. If you trust that none of the cement slabs are going to collapse under your feet, it’s manageable to walk fairly quickly.
Throw in someone who’s partially blind, however, and it’s an entirely different story.
The first few days in Jakarta were rough for Tim. The rough sidewalk in front of our hostel was crowded on one side by a bulging hedge and the other by endless traffic. Every few steps there was another obstacle, sometimes a step up, sometimes down, things to dodge. And our favorite, a step down immediately followed by a step up. None of it was even, or smooth or remotely predictable.
At home, in Los Angeles, I routinely warned Tim about curbs, parking lot stoppers, driveways and the like, but in Jakarta the blind narration got taken to a whole new level. We made this video AFTER he’d had a chance to get used to the streets. We had to develop a new language and routine to deal with Jakarta’s chaotic sidewalks.
Often we resorted to walking in the street. As we’ve mentioned in other posts, the flow of traffic in Jakarta is unique, and there’s more than enough space and consideration for a blind man walking on the side of the road when necessary. However, being in the street full time wasn’t ideal, especially when those streets were particularly full.
Turn up the sound on this one to hear the kind of communications we needed to navigate the sidewalks in Jakarta. Remember, this is after he got comfortable. Even through to the end there are some exciting moments and you can see how Tim manages it all.
Knowing how difficult this was for him, and with me to guide him, we wonder if anyone who’s completely blind, or without a companion, has input on how they handled Jakarta’s sidewalks. We’d love to hear your stories and experiences.
Or if you’re like Tim and me, partially blind with a companion, have you attempted travel in a place with difficult sidewalks, and what were your solutions?
Note: Tim has a white cane, but that color-coding doesn’t seem to be recognized for blindness in Southeast Asia. Have you experienced any different?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments.