Address finding tips for the blind: Streets and addresses in the United States

Shane from Supersense
2 minutes reading time
September 25, 2020

Many urban areas in the United States share a standard address system. So you don’t have to worry about rediscovering it all over again whenever you travel to a new city. As a blind person who frequently travels, knowing the parts of an address and how they relate to the building's location I'm looking for has been incredibly helpful. In some cities, the address alone can be enough information for a traveler (blind or not) to know a step-by-step guide on reaching their destination. In most cities, however, it is most useful when you are in your destination's general vicinity and are trying to pin it down. Below are some quick tips to help you do so.

Aerial view of high-rise buildings, urban grid.
Photo by Alessandro Rigobello on Unsplash

Odd and Even Numbers

For starters, the number is really important when you’re finding an address. The common practice in the United States is to have odd numbers on the southern or eastern side of streets, and even numbers on the northern and western. Even if a city breaks this rule, odd-numbered buildings will be on the opposite side of the road from those with even numbers. This means that 2513 Main Street would be on the east side of the street, while 2514 would be on the west. Likewise, 105 Jefferson Street would be on the southern side of the street, and 106 would be on the northern.

Non-sequential numbers

The way cities number buildings vary from city to city. Still, it is common to notice that even though addresses are in order as you travel along a street, they are not sequential. For example, the building numbers aren't 1, 3, 5, 7. You might see 1313, 1325, 1361, etc. This could be because the city you're in has decided that each number represents a certain distance from the beginning of the street. For example, a building at 1500 could be 1.5 miles away from the beginning of the street.

Hundred Block System

It is also common to see what is called a hundred block system due to the grids in US cities. The first number in an address is the same for every building on that block and increases with each block you travel. The 100 block is 101 through 199; the 200 block is 200 through 299, the 1100 block is 1100 through 1199, etc. This is useful when you're trying to figure out if you're on the same block as the building you're looking for.

Unfortunately, this is not the end all be all. Therefore, it would immensely help to do a bit of research about the city you're traveling in before you go there to get the best understanding and save a lot of time and legwork. In my home town of Louisville, Kentucky, for example, numbered streets run from north to south and are numbered from east to west so that the farther west you travel, the higher the number. First Street is on the Far Eastside, and second, third, and Fourth Street go progressively west. Named streets run horizontally and are named from north to south, starting at the Ohio River. This gives me an easy grid to work with in downtown Louisville, though those rules will unravel the farther out you travel.

None the less, these address-finding concepts are what I travel by, and I hope they will help in your mental map of wherever you may roam.

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