$1.1 Billion Settlement Aims to Break Down Barriers

By Jessica Greene
|  Wednesday, Dec 23, 2009  |  Updated 6:14 AM PDT
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Disability Rights Advocates said the proposed agreement is the largest ever reached nationwide on the issue of architectural access for persons with disabilities.

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Imagine trying to catch a train but you're not able to get to it, because an obstacle on the sidewalk is blocking your path. For most people, this isn't a concern -- they can make the made dash for the departing train no problem. But it's an all-too-familiar feeling for people with disabilities.

Now a legal victory by disability rights groups will help break down some of those barriers.

The California Department of Transportation and two disability rights groups today announced a $1.1 billion settlement to improve pedestrian access to sidewalks owned by the state. The funds for improvements would be paid by the state over 30 years, beginning with $25 million per year for the next five years. Hearings in January will decide on whether the pact will be approved.

Lawyers from Berkeley-based Disability Rights Advocates said the agreement will cover 2,500 miles of sidewalks owned by Caltrans statewide and park-and-ride facilities owned by the agency.

The state sidewalks include pedestrian crosswalks, overcrossings and undercrossings at state highways and sidewalks along city streets that are designated as state highways. The lawsuits alleged that barriers to disabled and blind pedestrians include curbs without curb ramps, a lack of detectable warnings such as yellow truncated domes, and sidewalks that are too narrow or have  broken or uneven payment.

Disability Rights Advocates said the proposed agreement is the largest ever reached nationwide on the issue of architectural access for persons with disabilities.

To people who have to deal with disabilities every minute, either because they are disabled or care for someone who is, settling the suit is a no-brainer.

Photo from Racineur via Flickr

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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