Disability Rights Washington has filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Seattle over its long-term failure to fix thousands of broken or missing curb cuts. The Oct. 8 lawsuit says the sidewalks are so dangerous that many city residents no choice but to risk their lives travelling out into traffic until they can find a curb cut.
“Seattle has had 25 years to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and we want the city to come up with a plan that is reasonable and adequate to make sure people with mobility disabilities can safely visit, live and work in Seattle,” says Emily Cooper, an attorney with Disability Rights Washington. The ADA and Section 504 of the Rehab Act both mandate that whenever a city newly constructs or alters a street the city must install curb ramps at any intersection.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray touted the city’s record on curb cuts in a statement. “The City currently invests significantly more per capita on curb ramps than other major cities such as Los Angeles and Chicago, in some cases by as many as three times over. In 2015 alone, we are scheduled to install over 1,300 curb ramps — more than the 1,200 that San Francisco is expected to install,” he said. Disability Rights Washington was in negotiations with the city for a year and a half until they broke down.
But it’s not the curb cuts that exist or may exist in the future that has residents upset — it’s the ones that aren’t where they’re supposed to be, or that can’t be used. Conrad Reynoldson, an attorney who uses a power chair, wants the city to act before somebody gets killed. “I would like some consideration from the city in realizing that people’s lives are being put at risk on a daily basis,” he says. Often he risks serious injury by traveling on busy streets, sometimes up to a half-mile, to reach another available curb cut.