Advocacy Efforts Paid Off: City Orders 1,000 New Curb Cuts
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 3, 2005
MCKEESPORT, PENNSYLVANIA--A few years ago, Margaret Stokes was struck by a car while riding her wheelchair in a McKeesport street. The driver sped away leaving Stokes uninjured but with a broken chair.
Rob Robertson has been forced to ride his wheelchair in the street, too, for the same reason as Stokes: The Pittsburgh suburb does not have enough accessible curb cuts. Even though the city has built several new curb cuts in recent years, many are too narrow or too steep, or were made with a drop to the pavement of up to three inches.
Like Stokes, Robertson has also been the victim of "hit and runs" of sorts, having had trash tossed at him from car windows.
The last straw for Robertson was when a motorist spat on him.
According to a story in Wednesday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the 38-year-old Robertson, who had been learning advocacy skills as a housing counselor at the Three Rivers Center for Independent Living, got the local Disability Law Project to write letters of complaint to the city. After getting no response to several letters, the agency helped Robertson and Stokes to file a federal suit against the town in February 2004.
Newly elected Mayor Jim Brewster and the new city attorney Jason Elash decided right away not to fight the suit.
"We never really defended the lawsuit because we were wrong," Elash said.
Mayor Brewster added: "People who don't need the ramps don't understand [the need for] them."
Because of the advocacy efforts of Robertson and Stokes, the city has agreed to spend $1 million to get 1,000 curb cuts installed over the next five years.
Pair who use wheelchairs sue McKeesport for access, freedom from abuse