Smelling the Way Through Subways

Here’s a letter from the director of the Industrial Home for the Blind:

May 15, 1951

Chairman, Board of Transportation
New York City Transit System
250 Hudson Street
New York NY

Dear Sir:-

I enclose herewith a clipping from page 1 of the Brooklyn Section of “Sunday’s News” together with acopy of our letter of even date to the Editor of “The News”, since it is possible that some of our friends in the transit system - and there are many - may have seen the clipping and rightfully may have taken offense. I enclose also copy of a General Release which had been sent to “The News” and, hence, I feel that a copy of it should be sent to you.

Incidentally, may we seize upon this opportunity to express to you and through you to the members of the transit system, particularly those engaged in the operations of the subways, our sincere appreciation for the countless kindnesses and consideration given to blind persons when they travel in the subways, which is daily.

Faithfully yours,
Peter J. Salmon
Executive Director
The Industrial Home for the Blind


Blind Say They Can Smell Way Through Subways

For the man from Mars who migh want to bring back a zippy description of the city’s subways, here’s a late finding:

The BMT “stinks.”

The IRT is a modern Tower of Babel.

The Independent Line has an Arctic touch.

The finding comes from the blind men of the Industrial Home for the Blind, 520 Gates Ave., Brooklyn, who can name a subway line by the smell of the paint and variations in noise. Smell, noise and temperature receive an expert analysis from the blind.

Aided by Relief Map

Their discoveries were made during instruction on cane technique and methods of traveling around Brookklyn and the other boroughs.

A bas-relief map, showing routes, stations and transfer points on subways, has been built by Winfield Rumsey, an instructor in the vocational institute of the home. It shows all the parks, bridges and islands of the city, with parks indicated by bits of felt and bridges by pieces of wood connecting boroughs.

Symbols Are Cleared

The blind men have received instructions in subway travel by feeling the map, which is 4 feet by eight.

Round, square and triangular-shaped tack heads indicate the IRT, INdependent line and BMT, respectively. Bald-headed pins show express stops.