Friday, April 14, 2006

In An Abrubt About-face City Announces Major Policy Changes

Owen O'Riordan, Assistant Commissioner for Engineering, Cambridge Department of Public Works, left, announced two major policy shifts, last evening, during the monthly meeting of the Cambridge Commission for Persons With Disabilities. He stated that from now on the City will bring abuting curb ramps into compliance when repaving streets and will include intersections/curb ramps near Senior or Disibility housing that will allow folks to access public transportation in their priority listing. This is a major change of direction for the City, and completely different from what John Nardone, pictured right, Assistant Commissioner for Operations, City of Cambridge, DPW, explained to me just last month.

The City's policy of repaving streets without bringing the affected curb ramps into "compliance" is a violation of public law 101-336, otherwise known as The Amaricans With Disabilities Act, the ADA. Passed in 1990, this major Civil Rights law states that a City may not discriminate against anyone based on ability. (or disability) Sidewalks are not required, but where they exist, persons of all abilities must be able to access them. That means curbs must be cut, and ramps built properly. Considering that many cities and towns had hundreds, if not thousands of missing, or non compliant curb ramps, the ADA required that Cities come up with a plan to bring existing curb ramps into compliance over a schedualed period of time.

In an act of pure intelligence, the ADA states that when new construction takes place, everything must be built so as to permit use by all folks. Another important and money saving provision requires that when a city "alters" or repaves a street or sidewalk, the adjoining curb ramps must be "fixed" so they can be used by everyone.

Since these changes were expected to take several years, a city was required to follow guidelines for prioritizing.

However, since 1992, when Cities were expected to "comply," several Cities across the US have been in defiance of the ADA . Cambridge is one of those Cities that has refused to fix curb ramps when they repave the street and Cambridge has not enacted the proper priorities, and has left housing where seniors and persons with disabilities live blocked from access to public transportation.

During the first public meeting re Prospect St Corridor Study, held February 28, 2006, I raised the issue of the ADA requiring that during repaving curb ramps must be brought into compliance. The spokesperson for Cambridge DPW came forward, and told everyone present, that what I had said was not true, and the City was not required to bring curb ramps into compliance during repaving, and that they would NOT do so when they repaved sections of Prospect St.

I therefore filed a complaint with the Mass Architectural Board, on March 9th, and sent a copy of "the Law" to John Nardone. Since that time, the City has engaged me in a "struggle." Although I welcome the verbal statement made during the CCPD meeting, I have heard this kind of "promise" before. Here then begins a series of reports documenting that struggle, and what is at stake.


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