Ongoing federal accessibility violations in Baltimore have led to a class action lawsuit, filed on June 10th, in conjunction with the IMAGE center, a 501(c)3 organization committed to "new thinking about disability." The basis of the lawsuit is the lack of curb ramps and safe sidewalks limiting and/or preventing individuals with mobility disabilities from being active participants in civic life. The installation and maintenance of curb ramps and sidewalks would remove systemic barriers to the city’s accessibility, an endeavor considered long overdue, over 30 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Senior Staff Attorney of Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), Rebecca Rodgers, said in a DRA statement:
It has been more than 30 years since the passage of the ADA. Baltimore should have established procedures to make its pedestrian rights of way accessible to people with mobility disabilities long before now. We expect that this lawsuit will compel Baltimore to make the necessary changes to ensure that people with disabilities can safely use sidewalks and curb ramps.
According to the DRA, the city of Baltimore conducted a multi-phase evaluation of its curb ramps and found a mere 1.3% to comply with the ADA. The survey results also indicated that the city’s sidewalks were narrow and damaged, thereby making them unusable for individuals who use wheelchairs, scooters, and other mobility aids to travel.
One of the plaintiffs, Susan Goodlaxson, cannot cross the street where she lives due to the lack of accessible curb ramps and sidewalks. Another plaintiff, Janice Jackson, cannot travel by sidewalk to go shopping or access major facilities. Plaintiff Keyonna Mayo is unable to travel to the post office or light rail in her area due to her inability to use the sidewalk. All three of these plaintiffs are all wheelchair users, but the class action lawsuit is open to all persons with mobility disabilities who live or work in Baltimore. The plaintiffs are represented by the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC); DRA; Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian & Ho; and Disability Rights Maryland (DRM). They are seeking "comprehensive construction and remediation of curb ramps and sidewalks."
"We are in this to get the city of Baltimore to implement a plan to make sure that their pedestrian rights of way are accessible going forward," Rodgers stated.
Mayor Brandon Scott has responded to this lawsuit by assembling a multi-agency task force to address Baltimore’s ADA compliance and has announced his commitment to accessibility and equity for all Baltimore residents and visitors.
Mayor Scott said:
My administration has inherited a host of longstanding challenges that we are committed to addressing with a true equity approach. It’s long past time for leaders to commit to building a more accessible Baltimore that values our neighbors with disabilities and creates pathways from them to thrive.
The Department of Transportation is developing a remediation plan and timetable and the task force will provide an update later this summer.