Lawsuits forcing California to make its infrastructure ADA compliant

A recent articlein the Los Angeles Times highlights the effects of a series of major Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuits that are forcing the city to make its sprawling arrangement of sidewalks, crosswalks and park-and-ride facilities accessible to people with mobility and vision disabilities.

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Lawsuits Seek Accessible Cities

According to the city’s own estimates, 42 percent of L.A.’s 10,750 miles of sidewalks are broken and inaccessible to people who use wheelchairs, canes or other mobility devices. As a result, individuals are often forced into the road or barred from entering certain neighborhoods. In some cases, disrepair can even prevent individuals from leaving their homes.

“If I want to go out of my house … If I want to go up to the corner and buy an ice cream or anything, a soda pop, I can’t go there,”  said Brent  Pilgreen, who is quadriplegic and uses a motorized wheelchair, in the article. “I have to have a secondary person with me to spot me and prevent me from falling.”

Disability Rights Advocates and the AARP Foundation Litigation reached a settlement with the California Department of Transportation in December 2009, requiring the state to spend $1.1 billion over 30 years to repair its infrastructure. The lawsuit is the largest single settlement nationwide under the ADA relating to architectural issues.

In 2004, Disability Rights Advocates reached a similar settlement with Sacramento, requiring the city to spend 20 percent of its transportation fund on infrastructure repairs for the next 30 years.

Multiple lawsuits are still pending, forcing the city to prioritize disability accessibility, even as it faces its massive budget shortfall.

“The city has never developed a comprehensive plan to address this issue, even when economic times were good,” said Surisa Rivers, an attorney with the L.A.-based Disability Rights Legal Center, in the article. “Such failure hasn’t been a story about the city’s inability to finance disability access, but the lack of political will to do so.”