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Class Action Seeks Statewide Sidewalk Improvements, Not Money
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
August 25, 2006

BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA--Sidewalks along California state highways and Park and Ride facilities are dangerous and inaccessible to wheelchair users and people with vision-related disabilities.

That's the claim made Wednesday in a class-action lawsuit filed against California's Department of Transportation (Caltrans).

The suit, filed by the legal firm Disability Rights Advocates on behalf of Californians for Disability Rights, Inc. and two citizens with disabilities, claims that the state has neglected to make the sidewalks safe and accessible, in violation of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and California accessibility statutes.

Those violations include missing and inadequate curb ramps; dangerous slopes and crumbled or uneven pavement; a lack of detectible warnings at curb ramps needed by those with vision disabilities; Park and Ride facilities with inaccessible paths of travel, non-compliant accessible parking spaces and other barriers; a failure to provide accessible alternative routes during construction; and a lack of accessible information for persons with vision-related disabilities when sidewalks are closed.

The suit calls for Caltrans to make sidewalks, crosswalks, pedestrian crossings, other walkways and Park and Ride facilities along the state highway system throughout the state of California accessible to persons with disabilities. It does not seek monetary damages.

"Pacific Coast Highway is an obstacle course for someone in wheelchair," said plaintiff and Long Beach resident Ben Rockwell, in a DRA press statement.

"Not only am I forced into traffic because of the lack of curb ramps and the countless other barriers on the sidewalks, but then drivers get angry and yell at me as they pass," he said. "I'd like to limit the thrill rides to Disneyland and avoid them while traveling along Pacific Coast Highway."

The other plaintiff, Berkeley resident Dmitri Belser, said: "At the best of times, crossing a busy intersection when you have a vision disability makes you feel like a minnow among sharks. But add to that no detectable warnings and uneven or broken concrete and it becomes a nightmare."

Disability Rights Advocates settled a similar sidewalk accessibility lawsuit with the City of Sacramento in January 2004.

Press release -- CDR v. California Department of Transportation (Disability Rights Advocates)
Complaint -- CDR v. California Department of Transportation (Disability Rights Advocates)


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