When the City of Pittsburgh began replacing its parking meters, it chose not to go with wheelchair-accessible kiosks. Which is why Debra Stemmler, a wheelchair user, made the case back in October 2013 that since she couldn’t access the machine, she shouldn’t have to pay the ticket.
After all, she even left a note on her windshield explaining why she didn’t pay.
Eventually the City dismissed the ticket. Unfortunately, it also dismissed the problem. This has Stemmler and other wheelchair-using city residents so steamed that they filed a class-action ADA lawsuit on March 9.
“We tried to be nice about it,” says Stemmler, 53, a research specialist at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health. “We even offered possible solutions.” For example, the city could adopt a policy of not issuing tickets to people parked at inaccessible meters who have disabled parking placards or plates. Without any kind of policy at all, wheelchair users are forced to go to court or to pay a parking ticket they can’t avoid.
Insult to injury, “the manufacturer makes a meter that is ADA compliant, but those aren’t the ones we bought! No … we went the other way,” says Stemmler. Meanwhile, the city says it’s begun to replace the inaccessible units, but won’t tell anyone where the accessible units have been installed, says Stemmler. “You’d think they’d want someone to go check it out.”
The Pittsburgh Parking Authority was contacted for this story but they didn’t respond to phone calls and emails.