AuthorErvin, Mike
PositionGovernment agencies and the Americans with Disabilities Act

Thirty-three years ago, on July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law. But even today, stories abound of disabled folks being forced to assert the power of the ADA to fight inaccessibility problems that should have been addressed a long time ago. Sometimes government entities are the most blatant violators.

When it comes to living up to their responsibilities under the ADA, these agencies seem to have a "so sue me" attitude. Rather than at least try to comply with the ADA because it's the right thing to do, they'll wait around to be sued before paying much attention. Thus, decades have passed--and evenmore decades will pass--with a lot of the exclusionary barriers the ADA was supposed to obliterate still rearing their ugly heads.

There are so many examples of government entities adopting a "so sue me" ADA strategy that trying to keep up with them would make you dizzy.

In 2021, three disabled residents and a local disability rights organization filed a federal class action lawsuit against Baltimore's mayor and city council, accusing the city of failing to "install and maintain curb ramps and side-walks that are necessary to make its pedestrian right-of-way readily accessible to people with mobility disabilities." The complaint says that an evaluation undertaken two years earlier by the city revealed that only 1.3 percent of 37,806 surveyed curb ramps complied with ADA standards.

The complaint also says the city has failed to "comply with its obligation to install and/or remediate curb ramps and sidewalks when it engages in alterations or new construction of streets, roadways, sidewalks, and other pedestrian walkways."

Co-plaintiff Susan Goodlaxson, a wheelchair user, says there are no curb ramps on the block where she lives.

The problem isn't just curb ramps. "The City of Baltimore's curb ramps, sidewalks, and pedestrian right-of-way are dilapidated, disintegrating, and filled with objects such as telephone poles, trash, and trees," the complaint reads.

That lawsuit is ongoing. But in May, a federal judge approved a settlement agreement in a class action lawsuit filed in 2019 by disability rights activists and organizations against the City of Philadelphia.

The original complaint stated that "many corners exhibit barriers such as curb ramps that are broken, steep, crumbling, or have missing or inadequate detectable warnings--a feature that assists people who are blind or have low vision to identify when the...

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