Saturday, April 23, 2011

Phoenix officials say ADA compliance will be difficult for the city

From The Arizona Republic

Several times a month, Thomas Vickery rides his gold scooter west along Bethany Home Road to Christown Spectrum Mall.

Last month, Vickery said he had to decide between riding on an uneven sidewalk on the north side of the street that has "precariously" steep slopes or risk being hit by a vehicle in an effort to bypass a yellow fire hydrant obstructing the sidewalk on the south side of the street.

Vickery e-mailed Phoenix requesting a solution and learned that his requested "sidewalk improvement project" could compete for funding in 2015.

Vickery, who has cerebral palsy, said he moved to Phoenix from Chicago because of its navigability. He does not own a vehicle, and his scooter is his primary means of transportation.

"I see the situation as a huge albatross around the neck of the city of Phoenix," Vickery said.

"That seems to be the way Phoenix government functions - reactive rather than proactive."

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires city governments to provide necessary infrastructure to ensure that people with disabilities can travel in a safe and convenient manner. Sidewalks must meet slope requirements. Curb ramps are required wherever a sidewalk crosses a curb.

If sidewalk obstructions exist and 3 feet of accessible space is not available, obstructions must be removed or relocated.

The city has known about the fire hydrant obstructing the curb ramp at Bethany Home Road and Third Avenue since January 2008, said city spokeswoman Sina Matthes.

The fire hydrant was added to a list of similar ADA barriers with a goal to relocate it in 24 to 36 months. But the Phoenix Water Department began relocating the hydrant just last week. Total estimated cost: $5,000.

Matthes said federal ADA guidelines do not include a time requirement because it is fiscally impossible for most local and state governments to meet full ADA compliance.

The city has a process to identify locations and works to make the projects ADA-compliant. In 2007, the street transportation department said ADA-compliance projects would cost $34 million over 20 years.

"The street transportation department works to research and address the (complaint) as soon as possible," Matthes said.

To date, "the department has identified 39,194 ADA project locations. Of that, 9,158 are now ADA-compliant."

Jennifer Longdon, chair of the Mayor's Commission on Disability Issues, said navigation issues, such as uneven sidewalks, accessible parking and public transportation, are a constant struggle for people with mobility issues.

"These (sidewalk) issues that impact people with disabilities impact people walking with baby strollers," Longdon said. "It's a much broader segment of the community."