Monday, August 19, 2013

Fightin' the Man: The Conclusion to Our ADA Fight

See the first chapter of this report here: Part 1

When people say I should file a legal complaint when someone denies access on our trips time and time again, I tell them that don't go on vacation to become a lawyer or to start a legal fight...I'm there to enjoy it. Small hassles are endured or avoided but sometimes you just can't avoid it.

That's especially true when you're at home. Now I do have the time to do something about it, but still, I don't go out of my way to pick a fight.

There are times when you just can't leave the status quo.

I'm not a litigative or combative person. I can count on my one hand...four...the times, in fifty years, that I've been bugged enough to actually carry through a fight to conclusion.  The fourth time is here at the Friday Night Family Festival in Monrovia.

When the manager of the festival decided they could squeeze in another couple of vendor booths by putting them on the corner curb ramps, blocking wheelchair access to some very popular eateries on Myrtle Avenue, I couldn't let it pass by.

It's funny...if you're in this situation you probably know...that when you complain to the people responsible for denying you access, many times the result is that they dig in their heels and dare you to do something about it.

Complaining to the vendors and the manager did nothing and after three weeks, the situation remained. Time to take it to the next level.

My next step was to find the relevant passage in the law. Although the entire text of the Americans with Disabilities Act is online, searching it was not easy. I searched on ramps and found specifications for building one. I searched on curb cuts and found specifications for installing those too.

I searched for a couple of days, off and on, until I hit upon "path of travel." Bingo! Section 12147 of the ADA specifies that publicly owned "paths of travel" can only be blocked temporarily when a repair is necessary.

I went to the City of Monrovia's website, found the e-mail address of the mayor, and fired off the most polite letter of complaint I could muster telling them that as owner of the curb cuts and streets, they were responsible for curing this situation.

That letter is as follows:

Dear Mayor ____

We work out at Movement Unlimited every Friday night with our son, and several other people, who use wheelchairs. After our workout, we go over to the Family Festival for dinner and to enjoy the fun and farmer's market.

Recently, we have noticed several times at the Friday night Family Festival that vendors have been directed to set up booths on curb cuts made for wheelchair access, particularly on the Southwest and Northwest corner of Myrtle and Colorado Boulevard.
I have complained to Festival staff and to Mr. ______, president of _____________ Productions, that blocking the wheelchair access is not ethical or legal. Both times, I was told that they just had to provide a narrow path on the side of the ramp for wheelchairs or that they didn't have to comply for a special event (even though an event that takes place every single Friday night does not seem to fit the definition of "special").
This is a picture of one of the booths:

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, public paths of travel are to be maintained, barrier free.  Since this is a violation of that regulation, I would like the City of Monrovia to make clear to Mr. ______ and ________________ Productions that the city does not approve or condone the placing of a barrier in the path of travel meant for people with disabilities.
I would hope you would join me in this campaign to maintain the best Family Festival in Southern California and to make sure all of its aspects are available to all citizens, not just those who are able to take a step onto a curb without the benefit of a ramp.

Thankfully, that's as far as this complaint would have to go. Three days later, I got this response from the mayor:

Hi Darryl 
Thank you for your email. I agree with you that we should not violate the Act and should not allow Family Festival to either. I will look into this situation. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

That was about three months ago. The two corners have been clear and barrier free ever since. 

Moral of the story, if you have the ability to take action, do so. Your fellow special needs citizens will be thankful.

Next time, I'll go over the steps to take if you need to invoke the ADA in your situation.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved.

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