Appendix C: Four Case Studies

Finding community opposition where he’d hoped for support, Ted enlisted the help of a member of the city’s Pedestrian Committee who is also a national board member of America Walks (go to http://americawalks.org/about/partners/ to find a chapter near you).

Appendix C: Four Case Studies

Case Study 1

Ted Loman, a retired TV producer, requested Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) at several crossings when he moved from Tucson, AZ, to Sandpoint, ID, in 2004. When he lived in Tucson, staff at the Arizona Rehabilitation Services Administration had provided vocational rehabilitation (VR) support that included APS at locations he identified. But, Sandpoint, a small city of about 7,500 residents, has no local disability service providers and its public works agency was not familiar with ADA requirements or APS technology. In addition, both city and State roadways were involved and Ted found that engineers were more concerned about the cost implications of retrofitting intersections for his use than about his rights to use them.

Ted had to research key issues, educate local and State government transportation staff, and take full responsibility for moving his requests forward. And in spite of his offers of help, when the State grudgingly installed the APS, they put them in the wrong places and didn’t adjust them properly. It took months of meetings, emails and phone calls to get the APS installations corrected.

Finding community opposition where he’d hoped for support, Ted enlisted the help of a member of the city’s Pedestrian Committee who is also a national board member of America Walks (go to http://americawalks.org/about/partners/ to find a chapter near you) to broaden his advocacy efforts. More recently, he has involved regional civil rights staff from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in support of his efforts (for a list of FHWA offices nationwide, see www.fhwa.dot.gov/field.html).

And don’t get Ted started on overhanging branches, inadequately-protected construction sites, deteriorated sidewalks or non-existent maintenance and enforcement.

"It’s become a full-time job just to exercise the rights the law gives me," he said.

Still, he’s accomplished a great deal. His advice to others?

• educate yourself on the technology AND the law – and use it;
• make opportunities to raise and discuss the issues with local and State officials;
• don’t let yourself be discouraged by opposition and delay – keep at it;
• involve other advocates who share your objectives so you don’t get isolated and stereotyped as a troublemaker; and
• if community outreach isn’t effective, try Federal resources.

Recently, Ted wrote a letter to Thomas E. Perez, the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the US Department of Justice. Ted pointed out that the Idaho State FHWA office had informed Idaho DOT that resurfacing projects of less than 1-1/2 inches in thickness didn’t need to include curb ramps, advice that Ted was sure was incorrect. In response, DOJ wrote the FHWA Administrator in Washington, DC to correct the misinformation. That word will now go out to FHWA offices across the US. Now, when any resurfacing is done, curb ramps must be included. That’s quite an accomplishment! Ted is an inspiration to us, and, we hope, to you as well.

Case Study 2: It takes a village….

Neighbors in a suburb of Kalamazoo, MI, grew concerned when the State DOT proposed to eliminate a traffic signal on a 4-lane state road through the center of town because it didn’t meet MDOT warrants for the installation of a signal (warrants may be based on volume of traffic or pedestrian crossings, accident record, or other criteria) for a signal. A resident who is blind raised concerns about the removal at a board meeting of the regional center for independent living, the Disability Network of Southwest Michigan (DNSM), noting that the nearest other signalized intersections were more than a mile away in either direction.

The DNSM staff advocate, Paul Ecklund, contacted the US Access Board for information on whether the ADA might be applicable. Staff pointed him to provisions in title II of the regulation that require jurisdictions to consider changes in policies and practices where reasonable and necessary for accessibility. In one of those cases in Concord, NH, a high school student who was blind had sought a stop sign at a street she crossed on the way to school that did not meet the warrant for a stop sign. A complaint was filed, and the city agreed to install the sign. Paul followed up, seeking to understand the principals in that case and in another identified by the Board, to get details about the settlements that were worked out. Armed with this information, Ecklund then drafted a cover letter and grievance filing to the Michigan DOT on behalf of the consumer and other residents, asking that the signal be permitted to remain. A public forum was scheduled with County commissioners and Michigan DOT’s bicycle-pedestrian coordinator, Josh DeBruyn, at which the broader community interest in retaining the signal was also expressed. Ecklund worked hard to arrive at a ‘friendly’ solution, involving the newspaper, residents along the roadway, and the local highway engineer while avoiding friction.

The final solution was a collegial one: the state DOT retained the signal as being a ‘reasonable’ use in that location. By coordinating efforts with the broader community, Paul Ecklund was able to craft an agreement that highway engineers could support without requiring formal legal action.

Case Study 3: Strength in numbers…

In 2007, the City and County of San Francisco announced an agreement to install accessible pedestrian signals (APS) at key city intersections. The agreement, in the form of a legal settlement, was the culmination of a lengthy process known as a Structured Negotiation. Pioneered by lawyers Lainey Feingold and Linda Dardarian, the technique harnessed the interests of several claimants: the California Council of the Blind, the San Francisco-based Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, the Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco, and blind advocate Damien Pickering.

The process began with a letter to the city outlining the access issue, the legal basis in civil rights law for the claimants’ request, and some suggested approaches to a solution. The city agreed to engage in the formal process of a Structured Negotiation in which participants collaborate on a settlement satisfactory to all parties. The legally-binding settlement agreement that was announced in July 2007, stipulated that the City would commit 1.6 million dollars over the next two and a half years to install APS at 80 intersections. Further, the agreement provided that the City would seek additional funding for more installations (Federal stimulus funds have now been received for several additional intersections) and would develop a policy for San Francisco residents to request accessible pedestrian signals at other crossings. Technical specifications for APS, a checklist for prioritizing requests for new APS, and details of a maintenance program were also included.

At the announcement of the program’s receipt in March 2010 of stimulus funds to support additional APS installations, Jessie Lorenz, Associate Director of the Independent Living Resource Center in San Francisco noted: “San Francisco’s APS program is the gold standard that other municipalities are emulating. The success of the program is based in large part on the unwavering commitment of the California Council of the Blind, the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and the SFMTA. Collaboration between these organizations has turned San Francisco into one of the most visitable cities in the country for individuals who are blind.”

Case Study 4: Slow and steady wins the race…

Early in his tenure as President of the American Council of the Blind of Maryland, Al Pietrolungo worked with Chapter members to identify 30 locations in the State where accessible pedestrians signals (APS) were needed to provide audible WALK indications at intersections. Baltimore City had installed APS in the late 1990s in response to Chapter effort there, but Individual requests in other parts of the State had gone unanswered. But Al was determined.

In letter after letter, Al submitted documentation of the requests to the Maryland State Highway Administration (MSHA), asking for action.

MSHA staffers reported that they were ‘studying’ the requests and would respond soon. They argued that, as there were no Federal standards for APS, they could not be provided.

Every 60 days, Al would write another letter citing ADA and Rehabilitation Act provisions requiring that pedestrians be accommodated when necessary for accessibility. A year passed without any APS installations or formal reply. The Chapter considered. Should they wait for planned new Federal standards or move forward themselves with a formal complaint? The Chapter was determined to be proactive and in 2002, submitted a complaint alleging discrimination to the Office of Civil Rights of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), an agency of the US Department of Transportation that provides much of the funding for roadway construction -- funding that obligates its recipients to accessible design and construction. “By failing to say ‘yes’, Pietrolungo noted, MSHA was denying blind residents the information they needed to cross streets safely.”

FHWA’s Baltimore Division investigated, meeting with complainants and the MSHA. And finally, in July 2005, FHWA notified Al of its finding that, by failing to install requested APS, the Maryland State Highway Administration had violated the ADA requirement that ‘aids, benefits, or services provided to individuals with disabilities must be as effective in affording equal opportunity to obtain the same result, to gain the same benefit, or to reach the same level of achievement as those provided to others’. FHWA indicated that they would seek a negotiated agreement with MSHA that would establish a 10-year program to retrofit existing signalized intersections with APS and install new APS whenever an intersection was newly-provided with pedestrian signals.

In October of 2005, Neil Pederson, the administrator of MSHA was invited to address the statewide ACB convention. He made a commitment to install APS at 1,250 traffic-controlled intersections by 2015. In addition, Pedersen agreed to convene a panel to consider sidewalk construction, lighting, and the installation of accessible bus shelters throughout the state.

That work continues. MSHA’s required report for the last quarter of 2009 notes the installation of 30 new APS, for a current total of 424. Almost 450 intersections are in design for APS, with 165 requests pending. In addition, almost 30,000 linear feet of new sidewalk have been poured, 125 construction staff trained, a facility access review completed, new bus stops constructed, and transition planning prioritized. Quite a change from 2002….