PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- About forty assistant engineers with the Maine Department of Transportation took to the streets as part of a unique educational experience designed to get them thinking about the transportation needs of all people.
The engineers received some standard classroom instruction, but then were broken into small groups and whisked all over the city to learn about the challenges people with physical and visual disabilities face when trying to get from place to place.
"Rather than just sit them in front of a PowerPoint for eight hours and learn about ADA engineering standards, we wanted them to experience it," explained Joyce Taylor, the DOT's director of project development. "It is an opportunity to expose some of our more inexperienced engineers to different needs some of our customers have."
"I rely on my eyes quite a bit," admitted assistant engineer, James Robinson after taking part in an exercise where participants were required to maneuver through a neighborhood wearing special goggles.
"With those goggles on, horrified of the road, horrified of traffic," he explained. "It is a lot of fear."
"if there are people walking around where that is what they see on a day to day basis, my heart goes out to them. That's quite a challenge."
The engineers were also given the challenge of navigating through the Old Port in wheelchairs, with advocates for the disabled talking them through some of the obstacles people with disabilities face that may not be obvious to people who can walk.
"We hire engineers to think," added Taylor. "There are books, there are courses, but we want these people to think and we want them to think practically."