Lawyer says many Richmond sidewalks not compliant with ADA law

Lawyer says many Richmond sidewalks not compliant with ADA law

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - There are thousands of sidewalks in Richmond; one local lawyer says many of them are not compliant with the Americans with Disability Act of 1990 and that the city isn't aggressive enough in fixing the sidewalks.

Colleen Miller, executive director for the disAbility Law Center of Virginia, acknowledges that the city has fixed some, but wants more done. She says it has been 25 years and there should have been a more aggressive plan in place to fix the sidewalks.

"In a lot of ways, it's a case-by-case bases, fact-by-fact situation," Miller said. "But it definitely seems the city has not been aggressive in complying with the ADA law."

Matthew Shapiro, a man with cerebral palsy, agrees. Shapiro said whenever he comes to Richmond, he has to plan what streets to use because so many aren't adequate for the disabled.

"You'll be riding along and you'll kind of just bottom out," Shapiro said.

He also said many of his friends have fallen off curbs because of the sidewalk setup.

Many of the sidewalks in Richmond are cracked, concrete is pushing up because of tree roots and many are extremely narrow.

To be in full compliance with the ADA, a sidewalk should be 60 inches wide, or if it is less than 60 inches, it should have a "passing space" that is 60 inches by 60 inches, every 200 feet of length. NBC12 found many sidewalks that were half of this length.

These are the requirements for new construction and when alterations or improvements are made to existing roads and sidewalks. These are the goals or targets for improvement of existing sidewalks if no alterations are otherwise under way.

Miller said the city needs to change their approach and come up with a separate, routine maintenance plan to fix city sidewalks.

There was a transition plan required by all cities after the ADA law in 1991, but Sharon North, the Public Information Officer for Public Works in Richmond said:

"It was due in 1992. However, the City is not mandated to maintain a significant amount of records for that length of time. In addition, there are no employees in the Transportation Engineering Division who have been here that long... It never mandated all ramps be replaced right away or within a given time frame. It was always stipulated that getting ramps ADA accessible would occur as upgrades were made or construction took place."

The city did create a transition plan in 2013. The Department of Justice and Department of Transportation created requirements asking cities to provide curb ramps.

"As streets are altered through reconstruction, rehabilitation, resurfacing, widening, and projects of a similar scale and effect throughout the city, we do upgrade sidewalks/ramps to the current standard," said North.
 
She also says "routine maintenance, on the other hand, does not trigger the obligation."
 
Routine maintenance is what Miller and Shapiro say is needed. The city says since they submitted this transition plan in 2013, they've installed approximately 800 handicap ramp modifications.

There is no word on how many were fixed prior to this plan and after the ADA law was enacted in 1991.

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