More than 25 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the state of Oregon continues to systematically fail to make its sidewalks accessible to people with disabilities, a new lawsuit alleges, filed February 22.
“Oregonians with disabilities continue to be barred from the most important streets of their cities and towns by badly-constructed or missing ramps,” Disability Rights Oregon wrote in a news release. “In Portland, broken and missing curb ramps on Lombard Street in North Portland prevent people in wheelchairs from safely using public transit and going to stores.
“In Bend, missing curb ramps on Greenwood Avenue force Jordan Ohlde to wheel his chair in the bike lane along the road. In Roseburg, Martha Mae Bryson has to turn her wheelchair around in traffic and go up badly-constructed ramps in reverse because her chair will tip over or get stuck if she goes forward up the ramps.”
The ADA mandates that state and local governments, when creating new sidewalks or altering existing ones, are required to make pedestrian routes “readily accessible and usable” for people with disabilities.
Until 2013, the state Department of Transportation contended that mere paving and resurfacing did not constitute “altering” under the ADA, and thus was exempt from the statute’s architectural standards.
Although the state officially has changed this policy, it allegedly has failed to create a plan to bring the state’s thousands of nonconforming curbs into compliance.
“What we’re asking for here is that they go back and make the A.D.A. improvements they were supposed to make,” DRO Executive Director Bob Joondeph told the Oregonian. “And as we move into the future, that they make improvements that they’re supposed to make going forward.”
The class-action lawsuit [PDF], filed by Association for Oregon Centers of Independent Living and eight individual plaintiffs, includes a range of other violations of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
Specifically, it accuses the state of failing to provide accessible alternative routes during sidewalk construction or create accessible bathrooms and facilities at highway rest stops. Other complaints involve the alleged lack of an accessible complaint process or public notice of state-funded infrastructure projects, among other concerns.
The following “Show Us Your #CrappyCurb” video was released in 2015, to coincide with a similar lawsuit against the city of Seattle, filed by Disability Rights Washington.
Disability Rights Oregon and Disability Rights Washington, the publisher of Rooted in Rights, are the designated protection and advocacy agencies in Oregon and Washington, respectively, and are members of the National Disability Rights Network.