Understanding Accessibility in the Public Right-of-Way

A ‘best practices’ manual guides accessibility on streets and sidewalks, but remains legally unenforceable.

1 minute read

March 5, 2024, 7:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Grey concrete curb ramp with small bumps for the visually impaired.

MichaelVi / Adobe Stock

Although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a landmark law that protects the civil rights of people with disabilities in many areas, “the ADA fails to address accessibility in areas known as the “public right-of-way,” which includes sidewalks, crosswalks, curb ramps, public transit stops, and more.”

The guidelines used since 2011 for the accessibility in the right-of-way, meanwhile, is not enforceable. As Marissa Bell explains in Streetsblog USA, the Public Right-of-Way Accessibility Guidelines (PROWAG) “was adopted by the U.S. Access Board [last year], but it still needs adoption by the departments of Justice and Transportation before it can truly make a life-changing impact for everyone who gets around in the public domain.​”

Bell describes some of the most common accessibility features used in public ROW, and how they sometimes go wrong, pointing out that accessibility benefits more groups than just people with mobility impairments. “Ramps and other accessible infrastructure make life easier for everyone; it is vital that they are designed correctly or even designed at all.”

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