Wheelchair users sue Atlanta over condition of sidewalks
ATLANTA (AP) — The poor condition of Atlanta’s sidewalks and crosswalks makes it difficult and sometimes impossible for disabled people to get around, according to a federal lawsuit that accuses the city of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The lawsuit says Atlanta is responsible for a “systemic failure to maintain sidewalks that are equally accessible to persons with mobility impairments.”
Asked for comment, city public affairs officials said by email Friday that they were looking into the matter.
The lawsuit describes sidewalks that are broken, uneven or obstructed by trees, utility poles and construction. Curb ramps are missing or broken as well, preventing disabled people from safely crossing streets, it says.
“Navigating sidewalks and intersections in this condition is a dangerous enterprise,” says the lawsuit. “Disabled people often find themselves having to go into the street and move alongside vehicle traffic at risk to life and limb.”
The suit names three wheelchair users as plaintiffs and seeks class action status on behalf of disabled people who use wheelchairs, scooters or other devices and who experience these problems.
Uneven pavement and curb ramps that aren’t flush to the ground can cause painful jarring, and even cause a wheelchair user to fall to the ground, the lawsuit says.
“Many disabled people simply avoid going out into the world, fearing that they will become stuck at an intersection lacking a curb ramp, or that they will be unable to travel along a broken sidewalk,” the lawsuit says.
The city is in violation of a 2009 settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, the lawsuit says. The city agreed to establish a system for disabled people to report inaccessible sidewalks, but a city public works official testified in 2016 that the city hadn’t done that, the lawsuit says.
The city also agreed under that settlement to provide curb ramps or sloped areas at all intersections of the streets, roads and highways constructed or altered since Jan. 26, 1992, and has failed to do that, the lawsuit says.
A similar lawsuit filed against Los Angeles resulted in a 2015 settlement in which that city agreed to allocate $1.3 billion over three decades to bring its sidewalks into compliance with the ADA, according to a statement from the lawyers who filed the Atlanta suit last month. They say Portland, Oregon, settled a suit this year by agreeing to allocate $113 million over 12 years to fix sidewalks and curb ramps.