Getting around downtown Seattle is hell. Maybe not for you, but for people with limited mobility, every street corner and sidewalk is marred with possible danger.
Just ask Kiana Parker, alternative media coordinator with Seattle University’s Disabilities Services. “Many of the curbs are too high,” she said. “If curb cuts are present, they often are not in alignment with crosswalk markings, so I can’t walk in a straight line to cross the street. And cars turning right expect you to walk in a straight line.”
It’s more than just that though. Cracks, bumps and curbs contribute to inaccessibility across many of Seattle’s neighborhoods. Earlier this year, the Liberty Mutual Insurance Pedestrian Safety Index put Seattle at the top of a pedestrian safety list — but despite this, the possibility of peril for those with limited mobility was enough for Disabilities Rights Washington (DRW) to file a lawsuit against the City of Seattle.
According to the DRW, “The lack of accessible curb cuts excludes people with mobility disabilities from accessing the services and programs of a city and violates their basic civil rights.”
Plaintiffs Conrad Reynoldson, Stuart Pixley and David Whedbee are bringing the case forward with drw. They state that the City of Seattle has failed to provide equal access to sidewalks and curb ramps, therefore out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ada), the Rehabilitation Act (prohibiting disability discrimination in federal programs) and state law. The ada law was enacted in 1990.
Soon after the filing of the lawsuit, City Attorney Pete Holmes and Mayor Ed Murray issued statements. “We’re confident our record will prove persuasive,” Holmes said. And Murray stated, “I remain committed to our ongoing efforts to increase our investments in accessibility improvements and curb ramp construction throughout the city,” adding that more than 1,300 curb ramps are scheduled to be installed this year.
But as Parker points out, those 1,300 curb ramps only translate to about 325 crosswalks, leaving many other areas vulnerable to accidents.
“I hope Seattle doesn’t wait until someone gets seriously injured or dies before taking meaningful action,” Parker said, “but that’s usually what it takes for change to happen.” She looks at this lawsuit as a lesson in inclusivity. n
Have you experienced dangerous sidewalks or lack of accessible walkways in the city? Share your experiences online using “#CrappyCurb” to add to DRW's conversation regarding the need of safe infrastructure for all.