The Tough Legal Path to ADA Compliance

Next City examines the fruits of a Department of Justice effort to force cities to bring their sidewalks and other public spaces into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

2 minute read

June 14, 2016, 7:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Wheelchair ramp

mrcmos / Shutterstock

"A generation after the Americans with Disabilities Act, cities across the United States are still broadly inaccessible to many who live in them," according to an article by Anna Clark.

To describe the consequences of that inaccessibility, Clark writes: "According to 2010 census data, 56.7 million Americans have a disability. Yet, infrastructure that many citizens barely notice presents barriers and sends a disturbing, albeit inadvertent, message to their neighbors: You don’t belong here."

Yet people with disabilities still have one powerful counter-measure to the inattention to access: litigation. As a case study, Clark examines Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where the city adopted a much more Americans with Disabilities Act-friendly approach when "the Department of Justice began questioning the city’s overall ADA compliance" as the city rebuilt following the devastating floods of 2008. Clark calls especially on the expertise of Cedar Rapids Assistant City Manager Sandi Fowler and Des Moines-based non-profit Disability Rights Matter on what it takes to make a city accessible for everyone.

Also, for the record, Clark adds that the "Cedar Rapids settlement is one of more than 215 DOJ agreements of its kind under Project Civic Access, including 15 settlements nationwide last year." The long-read article thus has many additional case studies to choose from, such as Los Angeles, which "last year pledged to spend $1.3 billion over three decades for massive infrastructure improvements — including fixing notoriously crumbling sidewalks — to meet ADA accessibility standards."

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