Here is a section of sidewalk in Boston made from brick pavers. It’s clear that the lack of uniform sizes and heights could pose challenges for the disabled or elderly pedestrian. Photo credit Seldom Scene Photography.
Designers, planners, and members of the public have recently come into conflict over Boston’s historic use of molded brick in sidewalks and public spaces. Some think the use of bricks represents the face of Boston, while others condemn them as obstacles to the disabled and elderly. The different viewpoints amount to an ownership debate on the city’s public space.
The City’s Commission for Persons with Disabilities maintains that traditional, molded bricks are unable to provide the smooth surfaces (meaning no height variations greater than a quarter of an inch) that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires. However, other professionals (landscape architects, historical preservationists, and the brick industry) affirm that the material itself is not to blame, but rather improper installation and maintenance.