Vision Impairment and the New York Subway

Letter to mayor re: William Wiltchick, who wrote a guide to the subway for the blind, through the New York Guild for the Jewish Blind, published in braille. Dated August 12, 1948.

November 1, 1938

Board of Transportation of Independent Subway
250 Hudson Street, New York

Dear Sirs:
Since its opening about seven years ago I have been a constant patron of the Independent Subway, and have received unfailing courtesy from the guards and officials. I am without sight and travel without a guide.
On Sunday, October 30, I entered the subway at 163rd Street and St. Nicholas Avenue, and was about to deposit my nickel when the agent stepped out and very courteously but firmly informed me that there was a new rule made by the company prohibiting blind people from traveling alone.
If this is true I shall have to abandon the use of the subway which will mean great inconvenience and loss of time. I am an organist in a Lutheran Church in the Bronx on 206th Street and Bainbridge Avenue. The church is close to the subway exit which is very convenient for me. If I cannot use the subway it will mean traveling by a very roundabout way and two carfares.
Could I not be granted a permit whereby I could use the subway as heretofore? Please do not interpret this as a complaint against the agent. He was very polite.
I hope I may receive a favorable answer from you very soon.
Yours truly
John N. Burnham
442 West 164 Street

Here is the response:


Dear Sir:-
This will acknowledge receipt of your letter of November 1st, 1938, requesting this Board to issue to you a permit which would contain a direction to the station Agents to allow you to travel over the City Subway, because you are blind.
I regret to inform you that under no circumstances is any request of this kind granted, as it would make the City liable in case of accident resulting in personal injury.
Very truly yours,
Wm. Jerome Daly,
Board of Transportation of the City of New York
Independent System Operation

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