Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sidewalk Deficiencies

By: Emily Foster

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was created to provide access to civic life for people with disabilities by issuing requirements for not just physical access, but public programs and events as well.The Department of Justice is in the middle of many efforts to enforce ADA requirements and to ensure that Title IIs requirements are being met by all cities, but there are still many noncompliances. Below are some examples of deficiencies found in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. 

Curb ramps are vital to providing accessible routes for wheelchair users, acting as a transition from the roadway to a curbed sidewalk. Without properly dimensioned curb ramps and sidewalks, sidewalk travel in urban areas is difficult and dangerous for anyone in wheelchairs and scooters. Without the proper facilities wheelchair users are forced to travel on the street instead of the sidewalk putting them in an incredible amount of discomfort and threatening their safety. To allow people with disabilities to cross streets safely, state and local governments must provide curb ramps at pedestrian crossings and at public transportation stops where walkways intersect a curb. To comply with ADA requirements, the curb ramps provided must meet specific standards for width, slope, cross slope, placement, and other features. Specifically, the ramp slope must be less than 8.33 percent and the ramp width must be at least 36 inches wide.

Severe cross-slopes (most commonly found at the intersections of driveways and sidewalks) can be extremely dangerous to wheelchair users. As the wheelchair moves over the surface of the slanted driveway flare, the wheelchair can become unbalanced and more often than not tip over. This is why the ADA requires cross slopes no larger than 2%, however, some sidewalks have cross-slopes that match the grade of the driveway and a level area is not provided along the sidewalk path.

Because of the saftey hazards of steep cross slopes, ADA also gives the 2% slope minimum to landing points. Landing points are important at the intersections of sidewalks and crosswalks to provide a level area for wheelchair users to turn and change direction. Transitions from the ramp to the walkway, gutter, and street must be flush (level) and free of abrupt level changes. 

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