Make Sidewalks Accessible to All
The City of Atlanta’s policies and practices on sidewalk and road construction and maintenance discriminate against people with disabilities.
The Americans with Disabilities Act is a civil rights law passed in 1990 that prohibits discrimination based on disability. The act provides similar protections to people with disabilities as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited discrimination based on race, gender, religion, and other characteristics.
Atlanta’s ADA violations typically fall into three categories:
- Curb ramps or cut-throughs have not been added to sidewalks or islands on numerous roads that have been repaved since ADA became effective in 1992.
- Recently installed sidewalks and curb ramps often have excessive cross slopes, abrupt level changes, or lack tactile strips or level landings.
- Sidewalks have gaps or height variations that block access to wheelchairs and create tripping hazards for people with visual disabilities.
What steps should the City of Atlanta take to ensure ADA compliance?
- Develop a Curb Ramp and Sidewalk Transition Plan that identifies barriers to access, estimates costs, establishes goals and priorities, and determines evaluation techniques.
- Amend the City’s sidewalk ordinance to eliminate the clause delegating responsibility for repairs to adjacent property owners.
- Hold a bond referendum that allocates funding to repair the city’s enormous backlog of broken sidewalks.
- Provide quality control by training sidewalk crews, requiring inspections of newly installed sidewalks, and reporting to an oversight committee.
What are the consequences of non-compliance?
Lawsuits have been successfully brought in Sacramento, Chicago, and other cities to force compliance with the ADA. As part of Project Civic Access, the U.S. Department of Justice has initiated compliance reviews of Title II responsibilities that resulted in settlement agreements with dozens of cities. A few examples:
- Sacramento will invest 20 percent of all transportation funds in repairing sidewalks for the next 30 years;
- Chicago will invest $50 million of new money in replacing poorly designed ramps during the next 5 years.
- Newark, NJ will provide curb ramps during the next three years at all intersections of streets that have barriers to entry from a street level pedestrian walkway constructed or altered since January 1992.