Mississippi disability advocate says neighborhood streets are not ADA compliant

Three people have been killed recently in wheelchair-related accidents in Jackson, Mississippi causing concern among disabled residents in the area. Disability advocate Scott Crawford told the Jackson Free Press that his Fondren neighborhood is full of danger for people in wheelchairs, those with visual impairments and other disability related issues.

SCott Crawford

According to the National MS Society, Crawford began his journey into advocacy when he moved back to his hometown of Jackson in 2006 – seven years after he was diagnosed with a severely progressive form of multiple sclerosis. Scott was shocked to learn that Jackson officials had never implemented the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), meaning the city did not have accessible transportation or accessible sidewalks. After his attempts to educate and persuade Jackson officials failed, Scott rallied friends at local disability advocacy organizations to file a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of Jackson for failure to comply with the ADA. Since then, the city bus system has greatly improved. Still, he works tirelessly to make sidewalks, bus stops and crosswalks more accessible.

Creating a society that welcomes everyone, regardless of ability, is what I’m passionate about,” Scott told the group.

Crawford, who estimates he has submitted 75 written complaints to the City of Jackson about various ADA violations; showed the Jackson Free Press how, although his Fondren neighborhood looks accessible, it is full of violations.

According to the paper:

    A bus stop near his home has a curb cut, but its slope is slightly steeper than ADA guidelines of a 1:12 ratio; in other words, the angle should be no more than 1 inch tall for every 12 inches of length.

    This particular stop, which he measured with a digital level, is too tall. The practical significance of adhering to the ADA’s technical specifications such as slope and the width of sidewalks becomes clear when Crawford whips his wheelchair around and his back wheel comes close to going off the curb.

    In several places, the sidewalks simply end; in many others, utility poles render the walk unusable for Crawford and his chair.

SCott Crawford 2

In a video he posted on Vimeo, Crawford described places where the city builds a curb ramp but it ends at another location, like, “being a rat in a maze.

“My friends and I call these sucker curbs because they lead you to believe that the sidewalks are accessible,” he added.

Crawford, told the Jackson Free Press that the condition of the sidewalks forces him to stay at home unless he has to venture outside for an important meeting or a snack from McDonald’s. Another disabled citizen pointed out that inaccessible sidewalks prevent people with disabilities from fully participating in the economy.

Joi Owens, the managing attorney for Disability Rights Mississippi, told the paper that the city did not develop a plan to correct the violations until 2011. Jackson’s ADA coordinator, Sam Gleese, admitted that it has been difficult to nail down the details of a plan, blaming the delay on changes in administrative personnel and City leaders within past years.

But, Accessology, an accessibility consulting business out of Texas said that after 25 years since the signing of the ADA into law, there are no excuses for non-compliance. Kristi Avalos, president and CEO of Accessology has been warning cities that a failure to fully comply under the ADA can result in expensive private litigation as well as Department of Justice reviews. Since the ADA is a federal civil rights law which has been in effect for over 25 years, the DOJ is now targeting municipalities who are non-compliant with the requirements of the ADA. Avalos added that ignoring the requirements of the law can prove costly to public entities in other ways.

“All of the Federal Agencies are now prepared to withhold Federal Funding and grants for Title II entities (public entities such as municipalities, school districts and universities) for not having their ADA required “Transition Plans” in place,” Avalos said.

Although the City said it has updated its ADA Transition Plan, which it recently published for public review, Crawford said he is not hopeful that the plan will produce results. He told the paper that if the violations are not corrected he plans to file a lawsuit against the City of Jackson.

“We want to make sure we do it right. We went round and round with this thing for a long time. As the disability community keeps pointing out, it’s 25 years late, and that’s true. I wasn’t here 25 years ago in this position. The mayor wasn’t here at that time so, in all fairness, we have to go from where we are,” Gleese said.

Read the full article here.

(NOTE: If you would like assistance reviewing your compliance under the ADA, or need consultation on accessibility related issues, contact Accessology at 972-434-0068 or visit the website here http://accessology.com/ )

* Be sure to check out upcoming Accessology training listed on the right hand side of this blog post.

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