The agreement awaits federal court approval.
Philadelphia, PA — A class of Philadelphians with disabilities have achieved commitments from the City of Philadelphia to dedicate significant resources to drastically improve the accessibility of Philadelphia’s sidewalks. Among other actions, the City will install or remediate at least 10,000 curb ramps over the next 15 years, maintain existing curb ramps, and issue annual progress reports, all with the federal court maintaining jurisdiction over the agreement.
If approved, the proposed settlement would resolve claims brought by four individuals with mobility disabilities who live in Philadelphia and three non-profit organizations that advocate for people with disabilities. These plaintiffs alleged that the City failed to install, remediate, and maintain curb ramps in violation of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Rehabilitation Act.
The plaintiffs are represented by Disability Rights Advocates (“DRA”), a non-profit legal center that specializes in high-impact class actions; and David Ferleger, a Philadelphia attorney with 50 years of experience in landmark disability rights class actions and other litigation. Read the settlement agreement, filed with the court today.
Thomas Earle, CEO of non-profit organizational plaintiff Liberty Resources, Inc., the Center for Independent Living serving Philadelphia said, “Accessible streets and sidewalks make our great city safer for everyone, including people with disabilities, this improved compliance fairly resolves our civil rights under the ADA.”
If approved by the Court, the settlement agreement will require the City to:
- Install or Remediate at least 10,000 curb ramps over the 15-year Settlement Period, with 2,000-ramp milestones every three years.
- Install accessible curb ramps where they are missing and fix curb ramps where they are noncompliant whenever the City newly constructs or alters a road or street with a pedestrian walkway, unless crossing is banned for all pedestrians due to safety concerns or a fully compliant curb ramp is technically infeasible.
- Maintain in operable working condition those curb ramps over which it has responsibility.
- Establish a Curb Ramp Request System for City residents to request installation, remediation, or maintenance of ramps at any crossing identified on more than 600 pages included in the Settlement. The Settlement sets out timelines for prompt investigation and fulfillment of requests.
- Post progress reports on the City’s official website on the number and location of curb ramps installed or remediated under the agreement.
Latoya Maddox, President of Disabled in Action of Pennsylvania, said, “There are thousands of people in Philadelphia who have disabilities and many more who may acquire disabilities over time. Having a plan to make curb ramps more accessible will benefit many members of the disability community including people like myself, who use wheelchairs, people who use other mobility devices, and people who are blind or have low vision for years to come.”
Plaintiff Tony Brooks noted, “Activists and advocates fighting for disability rights in Philadelphia, like myself, now have a victory here in our city that we’ve wanted for a long time. I’m very happy that, with this settlement, we’re going to have safer and more accessible sidewalks.”
Meredith Weaver, a Senior Staff Attorney at DRA and one of Plaintiffs’ counsel, said, “Sidewalks are an essential part of civic engagement, community building, and independent transportation. We are pleased that the City of Philadelphia has made a commitment to invest in making its sidewalks useable by all Philadelphians and will work to ensure that the City meets its obligations over the next fifteen years.”
David Ferleger, also class counsel in the case, said “For many people in Philadelphia, there is no way to cross the street where the sidewalk ends. Without a curb ramp, a street corner is like a brick wall to someone who uses a wheelchair, or like stepping off a dangerous edge to a blind person. Enforceable by the federal court if necessary, this landmark agreement will expand the participation of thousands in our community in such things as person-to-person encounters, family events, recreation, education and government.”
The class action case is Liberty Resources, Inc. et al. v. City of Philadelphia, Civ. No. 2:19-cv-03846-HB (E.D. Pa.).
Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), founded in 1993, is a leading national nonprofit disability rights legal center. Its mission is to advance equal rights and opportunity for people with disabilities nationwide. DRA represents people with all types of disabilities in complex, system-changing, class action cases and has previously negotiated systemic sidewalks-related improvements with New York City; Sacramento, CA; Long Beach, CA; and the California Department of Transportation. For more information, visit www.dralegal.org.
Disabled in Action of Pennsylvania is an organization of disabled people who work to make civil rights for those with all disabilities a reality. For more information, visit https://www.disabledinaction.com/.
David Ferleger, Esq., has 50 years of experience in resolving disputes for the benefit of thousands of individuals, as well as numerous organizations and government agencies. He has participated in eleven cases before the Supreme Court of the United States, including five oral arguments before that high court. He has served as a court-appointed special master, court-appointed monitor, and technical advisor for various federal courts. Mr. Ferleger has taught at the New York University Law School and the University of Pennsylvania Law School and published numerous scholarly works. For more information, visit https://www.ferleger.com and www.phillycurbcutsettlement.com
Liberty Resources, Inc. is the Center for Independent Living in Philadelphia, which advocates for and works with Persons with Disabilities to ensure their civil rights and equal access to all aspects of life in the community. For more information, visit http://libertyresources.org/.