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DOJ Intervenes in San Juan ADA Lawsuit for Sidewalks

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The US Department of Justice (DOJ) recently intervened in a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by individuals with mobility disabilities against the City of San Juan, Puerto Rico under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

The DOJ’s complaint alleges that San Juan fails to provide people with mobility disabilities equal access to its public sidewalk system due to widespread issues with city sidewalks and curb ramps. Many of San Juan’s curb ramps are cracked, too steep, or nonexistent. And many sidewalks are uneven, too narrow, or obstructed by utility poles, parked cars, or other obstacles. These barriers force individuals using wheelchairs or scooters to travel in the street or over unsafe surfaces and to thereby risk injury to themselves and damage to their mobility devices. The DOJ’s allegations are based in part on findings by the Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Civil Rights.

“The ADA and Section 504 require that individuals with disabilities have equal access to city sidewalks so that they can fully participate in community life,” said U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow for the District of Puerto Rico. “We are committed to ensuring that San Juan takes the necessary steps to make its sidewalks, curb ramps and crosswalks accessible to all city residents and visitors, and confident that we can work with the city and the plaintiffs to secure a meaningful resolution of this civil action.”

The motion and complaint seeking intervention were jointly filed by the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico. The DOJ also previously filed a statement of interest in this matter. To read more, please click here.

SUMMARY: Municipalities are responsible for their sidewalks, ramps and curb ramps to be accessible. Failure to install and maintain accessible installations is a violation of the ADA and related implementation regulations. Implementation Regulation 28 C.F.R §35.133, Maintenance of Accessible Features, states,

(a) A public entity shall maintain in operable working condition those features of facilities and equipment that are required to be readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities by the Act or this part.

(b) This section does not prohibit isolated or temporary interruptions in service or access due to maintenance or repairs.

(c) If the 2010 Standards reduce the technical requirements or the number of required accessible elements below the number required by the 1991 Standards, the technical requirements or the number of accessible elements in a facility subject to this part may be reduced in accordance with the requirements of the 2010 Standards.

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If you observe a facility that is not ADA compliant and you would like to know how to proceed, please see the link at What To Do When A Building Is Not ADA Compliant or Accessible.

ADA Inspections Nationwide, LLC, offers ADA/ABA/FHA accessibility compliance inspections for buildings and facilities, as applicable to the different laws, and expert witness services with respect to ADA/ABA/FHA laws for building owners, tenants and managers. Also, ADAIN offers consulting for home modifications as a CAPS consultant for people wishing to age in place in their homes. For a complete list of services please see ADAIN Services.

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