Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Interesting sidewalk access article

in the LA Times, here. It begins:

When John Lonberg travels the sidewalks outside his Riverside home, he is constantly reminded of the inequities of being in a wheelchair.

Within sight of his home on Kloiber Street are at least a dozen possible violations of civil rights laws that grant the disabled equal access to public rights of way.

Buckled sidewalks obstruct his path, street corners lack wheelchair ramps, and sloping driveways that cross sidewalks are difficult to navigate.

"The city says there are other ways I can go," said Lonberg, 69, who has sued Riverside in federal court, alleging widespread violations of federal access laws. "I'm not some gimp in a wheelchair complaining about little things. These are real problems the disabled encounter every time they go out of their homes."

Lonberg and other activists within the handicapped community are taking their fight to the public sidewalk — the latest battleground in the disability rights movement. Over the last several years, they have filed a series of federal lawsuits against local and state governments to secure equal access to public rights of way, such as sidewalks, crosswalks and park-and-rides. The latest case was lodged against the California Department of Transportation in late August.

The activists assert that sidewalks are in such poor condition in many cities that people in wheelchairs have to detour onto streets — an illegal and risky undertaking.

Out of court, disability rights groups have negotiated agreements with several cities to improve sidewalks, and the state attorney general's office — based on continuing complaints — has sent letters warning local governments to bolster their compliance with state and federal access laws.

"As a society we've come a long way," said Assistant Atty. Gen. Louis Verdugo Jr., who heads the state's civil rights enforcement unit. "But we still have a long way to go to create the infrastructure that will continue to allow the disabled to be mainstreamed."

It's a very bloggy thing to say, but Read the whole thing!


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