Accessibility is Brotherly Love

June 1, 2023
Philadelphia class settlement is a move in the right direction

This is a personal story, and that’s the problem.

In early May, a federal judge approved a class settlement to improve the accessibility of curb ramps throughout Philadelphia.

This class action settlement, which was brought by Philadelphians with disabilities, resolves claims that the city’s pedestrian facilities contained barriers in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Under the settlement agreement, Philadelphia must:

  • Install or remediate at least 10,000 curb ramps over the 15-year Settlement Period, with 2,000-ramp milestones every three years.
  • Install accessible curb ramps where they are missing and fix curb ramps where they are noncompliant whenever the city newly constructs or alters a road or street with a pedestrian walkway, unless crossing is banned for all pedestrians due to safety concerns or a fully compliant curb ramp is technically infeasible.
  • Maintain those curb ramps over which it has responsibility in operable working condition.
  • Establish a Curb Ramp Request System for city residents to request installation, remediation, or maintenance of ramps at any crossing identified in the settlement. The settlement sets out timelines for prompt investigation and fulfillment of requests.
  • Post progress reports on the city’s official website on the number and location of curb ramps installed or remediated under the agreement.

One of my relatives is in a wheelchair. He was a police officer who became paraplegic after being shot in the line of duty. Soon after the shooting, I noticed how inaccessible Pittsburgh is for a person in a wheelchair.

Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are not anomalies. The majority of the curbs and sidewalks of this country were designed without a thought to people with a disability.

In Pittsburgh, where I have lived most of my life, many sidewalks have been uneven for years without repair.

I feel ashamed to admit this, but it took a loved-one being shot for me to care about this type of inequality. It also can be described as a failure of our infrastructure.

Sadly, it’s normal in America today to not care or notice an issue until it affects you or a loved one. So, my intention here is not to chastise anyone. I simply want to implore this great industry:

As we embark on this generational investment into our cities and towns, thanks to the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, please remember those who navigate our roads and bridges on wheelchairs, or with the help of a cane or service dog.

Showing compassion is the right thing to do. Also, having empathy is a lot cheaper than going to court.

Please enjoy our bridges issue and have a fun, safe start to the summer! R&B

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