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Baltimore is Facing a Lawsuit from Wheelchair Users Over Inaccessible Sidewalks

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Baltimore is Facing a Lawsuit from Wheelchair Users Over Inaccessible Sidewalks

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The Mayor and City Council of Baltimore are facing a class action lawsuit on behalf of residents with disabilities that struggle to or are unable to use the sidewalk system throughout the city due to missing ramps, status of disrepair, and obstacles in the walkway. The official complaint concisely summarizes the problem as follows: “Individuals with mobility disabilities are unable to travel freely around Baltimore because of these conditions, injuring their right to engage fully in Baltimore’s civic life.”

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires accessible pedestrian right-of-ways for individuals with mobility disabilities.

Federal law including the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires city governments among others to ensure reasonable access to curb ramps and sidewalks so that individuals with disabilities can “...independently, fully, and meaningfully participate in all aspects of society, including but not limited to employment, housing, education, transportation, public accommodations, and recreation,” according to the lawsuit. The inability to do something as simple as crossing the street outside of one’s home is disabling in itself, which is one of the specific issues highlighted in this class action. The three named plaintiffs in this lawsuit shared similar stories of being unable to run basic errands, go shopping, visit the post office, and even use public transportation.

In a 2019 evaluation of the curb system conducted by the city, 34,309 curb ramps out of 37,806 failed.

The lawsuit points out that this evaluation in addition to earlier evaluations in 2016 prove that the city was aware of the disrepair and overall inadequacy of the pedestrian right-of-way system, especially in light of ADA requirements. In fact, allegedly only 1.3% of the curb ramps in the city were in compliance with the ADA. The complaint sums up their allegations by stating that “Baltimore both creates and ignores pervasive barriers obstructing its pedestrian paths of travel. The City’s pedestrian right-of-way is frequently narrowed significantly or blocked entirely by objects such as telephone poles, trash, and trees growing in the sidewalks.”

The lawsuit is seeking a judgement requiring the city to abide by ADA sidewalk requirements.

If successful, the mayor and city council of Baltimore will be required by court order to construct, repair, and maintain curb ramps and sidewalks in such a way that they are easily and safely accessible to individuals with mobility disabilities. Additionally, the city will be required to perform and make public new and complete self-evaluation of the city’s existing pedestrian right-of-way system so that citizens can be aware of not only the system’s shortcomings but also the steps the city intends to take to repair these problems.

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