Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Houston pedestrian tunnels still not fully accessible

What's great about this story from the Houston Chronicle is that it has a sidebar on how to file an ADA complaint. And the tone of the article is that the ADA is the law and the tunnels should comply. It's nice to see a major newspaper supporting disability rights and the ADA!

Here's the story's intro:

What's the best way for downtown workers to get to Beck's Prime restaurant in the Bank One Center on a scorcher of an August day?

The downtown tunnel system, of course. But if you're a person with a disability, that's not always easy. Depending on where you work, the average pedestrian's air-conditioned stroll presents a daunting obstacle course for someone in a wheelchair.

Approaching Beck's from the north end of downtown, a person in a wheelchair could face as many as three sets of stairs — including one connecting to the Houston Chronicle — while trying to get a hamburger for lunch. Two of those hurdles can be bypassed via inconvenient detours of two or three blocks. But getting around one set of stairs requires exiting to street level and
crossing at a stoplight.

Eighteen years after the Americans With Disabilities Act became law, several spots along the 6.5-mile downtown tunnel-skywalk system, used by more than 150,000 downtown workers, remain blocked or altogether inaccessible to those in wheelchairs.

These areas haven't been made ADA-compliant because it would be difficult or impossible to put in ramps and still leave enough headroom for pedestrians, said Bob Eury, director of the Downtown District, a public-private association that promotes and manages downtown development.

"In an ideal world, we would get it to the point where there would be no barriers," he said. "There have been complaints from time to time, but those have been modest."