Posts tagged with "ADA":

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NYC subways get $250 million cosmetic upgrades package

A $1 billion update to New York City’s subway system is coming, and although the resulting renovations will shutter six stations for the next few months, transit advocates are outraged that $250 million has been designated for cosmetic upgrades. In a 10-3 vote by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) board yesterday, the body approved a station improvement funding package, backed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, which will refurbish 33 stations across the city. But the package leaves out necessary upgrades that would bring aging stations in line with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. The $250 million will instead go towards installing USB and lightning chargers in the affected stations, as well as adding glass barriers, better lighting, and new surface-level entrance vestibules. The passage of Governor Cuomo’s Enhanced Station Initiative was far from a sure thing, especially after MTA board members appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio successfully blocked an initial vote. Criticizing the plan’s selection of stations in need of repair, failure to allocate money for elevators or to address the system’s failing infrastructure (and the share of the bill that the city would have to foot), the vote was rescheduled pending further study. Now it seems that the MTA board has ultimately sided with Governor Cuomo, as Andy Byford, the new president of New York City Transit (the subsection of the MTA responsible for the subway system) sided with the Governor. Byford defended the Enhanced Station Initiative as more than a cosmetic upgrade, and told the New York Times, “To wait for perfection at every station? Some will fall into a dangerous state of disrepair, and you will fall into my scenario of, ‘Yes it’s ADA-compliant but oops’.” As a compromise, New York City Transit has hired an outside consultant that will evaluate the cost and feasibility of bringing all of New York’s 355 inaccessible stations, or nearly 80 percent, into compliance; though so far, retrofitting these stations has been an uphill battle. The first $240 million dispersed from the initiative will go towards renovating a set of highly trafficked stations in Manhattan. The 23rd Street and 57th Street stations on the Sixth Avenue lines, the Lexington Avenue line's 28th Street station, the 34th Street-Penn Station, the 145th Street station in Manhattan and 174th-175th Street and 167th Street Grand Concourse line stations in the Bronx will all undergo modernization. While a start date for the construction hasn’t been announced yet, all of the aforementioned stations except Penn will be closed for the duration. Although subway service work typically lasts six months on average, no exact length for the repairs was given.
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House votes to roll back Americans with Disabilities Act protections

In a 225-192 vote yesterday, the House voted to pass a bill that would make it more difficult to sue for discriminating against the disabled. H.R. 620, or the ADA Education and Reform Act was supported overwhelmingly by Republicans and 12 Democrats. First introduced by Representative Ted Poe (R-TX) in 2017, H.R. 620 would require businesses that aren’t in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to be given written notice of their non-compliance, as well as six months to make improvements, before legal action could be sought against them. “This bill makes businesses comply,” said Poe, according to The Hill. “Puts them on notice. If they don’t comply within the time period, then file the lawsuit. Go after them. But businesses should be able to have the notice of what the problem is so that they can fix it, which is the goal of the ADA.” The bill was ostensibly written to cut off overly litigious law firms who were pursuing ADA lawsuits for cash without even visiting properties, but disability advocates warned that it would shift the burden of proof to the disabled. Businesses would have 60 days to respond to a written notice with an action plan, and another 120 days to implement the changes before being deemed culpable. The ADA was originally passed in 1990, and advocates have argued that 28 years is more than long enough for businesses to comply with the law. In an open letter signed by over 200 groups, the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities describes the bill as a giveaway to business owners, saying: “The burden of protecting the right to access a public place is shifted to the person with the disability, who first has to be denied access; then must determine that violations of the law have occurred; then must provide the business with specific notice of which provisions of the law were violated and when; and finally, the aggrieved person with the disability must afford the business a lengthy period to correct the problem.” Disability advocates have been out in full force to oppose the bill’s passage, including a protest in the Capitol where ten activists were arrested on February 13. It’s unclear whether H.R. 620 will be able to pass through the deadlocked Senate.
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Residents fight subway elevators, citing terrorism concerns

New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) might be in a highly publicized “state of emergency” over its failing infrastructure at the time of writing, but much less attention is paid to how much it falls short in meeting federal accessibility guidelines. Only 24 percent of New York’s 472 subway stations are accessible overall; a fact not lost on disability advocates. But a recent New York Times article highlighted a case of community-based opposition to new elevators that would make a downtown station more accessible. Only blocks from the World Trade Center complex in Manhattan, residents on Broad Street have been trying to push back against a $20 million pair of elevators that would connect to the J/Z Broad Street station on their block. The elevators are a concession on the developer Madison Equities' part, in exchange for an extra 71,000 square feet of buildable area at the 80-story, mixed-use tower at 45 Broad St. Urbahn Architects will oversee the project. The elevators will provide access to a subway line that only has five accessible stations out of a total of 30. However, at a Community Board 1 meeting last month, approximately 270 residents of 15 and 30 Broad Street had signed a petition opposing what they called “dangerous structures.” Residents cited terrorism concerns, specifically a fear that the glass elevator booths would turn into shrapnel if a bomb went off. But disability activists have called the fear a thin veil for NIMBY-ism. “It’s total NIMBY,” Edith Prentiss, president of Disabled In Action, told The Times. “It’s ‘Don’t affect my property values, don’t affect my — I love this — my iconic view.’ I can understand that they paid a lot of money, I’m sure, but that does not abrogate my civil rights.” As the back-and-forth over elevators at this particular stop continues, so do several lawsuits brought against the MTA by a coalition of disabled residents and advocacy groups. The lack of elevator-accessible trains directly contradicts the Americans with Disabilities Act, but the MTA has claimed that bringing such service to every station would be an undue financial burden. For its part, the agency has responded that they are already spending $1 billion to bring 25 stations into compliance and that overhauling the entire system would cost $10 billion. As the NYC subway system runs 24 hours a day, and because retrofitting a station typically modifies how service runs there for several months, any planned upgrades will likely stress the already straining subway service even further. Still, with some of the deepest and highest subway platforms currently inaccessible to disabled riders, and as funding for much-needed MTA fixes are up in the air, it remains to be seen whether these concerns will be addressed in the near future.
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$243 million later, NYC’s Department of Transportation still fails to meet ADA regulations for street curbs

About 80 percent of New York City’s street curbs are not in line with federal standards for the disabled, as first reported by DNAinfo.

A recent study by a federal court monitor revealed that even after $243 million in taxpayer funds over the last 15 years were allocated to build curb cuts, the city failed to keep them up to the Americans With Disabilities (ADA) regulations. Curb cut, or curb ramp, is the term for a ramp created by grading down a sidewalk to meet the surface of the adjoining street.

There are 116,530 ramps across the city; some were built to ADA standards but never maintained while around 4,431 curbs were simply built without ramps.

Special Master Robert L. Burgdorf, who is also the original author of the ADA Act of 1990, blamed the city’s 2002 settlement with the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association. In a report he submitted to federal court, he noted that the settlement did not set up any timelines for building curb cuts, nor did it require ADA compliance for curb cuts.

“It is quite plausible that the 2002 stipulation may actually have slowed down progress in achieving accessibility of the curb ramps of New York City,” he wrote in the report.

According to Burgdorf, the city only built 198 ramps in 2016, down from 6,667 ramps in 2002.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) responded by saying it increased the budget—$800 million over the next 10 years—for inspection and construction of these ramps. “As the nation’s largest municipal transportation agency, NYC DOT takes its responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) very seriously,” Scott Gastel, a DOT spokesperson, said to DNAinfo.

Burgdorf’s report recommended that the city survey all curbs within 90 days, install ADA-compliant ramps for the curbs without them in five years, and repair all of the noncompliant ramps within eight years. However, city officials estimate that it could take another 20 years before all curbs are brought up to standard,

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Mayor de Blasio announces the Second Edition of the Inclusive Design Guidelines

The second edition of the Inclusive Design Guidelines (IDG)—a set of parameters that assist designers in ensuring their work is fully usable by any and all—has been announced by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. The Office for People with Disabilities published the first edition seven years ago. This latest version will expand on the minimum requirements laid out in the 2010 edition, which consolidated design guidelines from around the world. The publication has also been distributed across the globe, allowing New York to be seen as a city striving to make itself accessible to all. That said, as many of those with disabilities will tell you, the city still has a long way to go, especially with regards to its transportation services. According to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), fewer than 20 percent of subway stations are accessible to all. Change is coming, albeit slowly. A 1979 lawsuit means that by 2020, 100 stations must include elevators. That still only means that less than a quarter will be wheelchair accessible. The problem persists above ground, too. In 2014, a report by the Center for Independence of the Disabled found that 806 curb cuts of 1,066 sites surveyed south of 14th Street in Manhattan were inaccessible. Crumbling concrete, potholes, barriers, and damaged slopes (or no slopes) were the main issues. If you find somewhere that has inadequate disabled access, you can file a complaint by calling 311. (Note: Buildings built before 1987 are exempt). More information on that can be found here. However, the new IDG will continue to foster multisensory environments that, according to the Mayor's office, will "accommodate a wide range of individuals with physical and cognitive abilities of all ages." De Blasio's announcement comes in the month marking the 27th anniversary of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), the first legislation passed in the U.S. that sought to provide rights to those with physical and cognitive disabilities. “New York City is a place of inclusion where every single person who resides here should be able to navigate daily life without accessibility being a concern,” said Mayor de Blasio in a press release. “We are excited to launch this 2nd edition of inclusive design guidelines as a tool to help make our city even more welcoming, convenient, and enjoyable for ALL New Yorkers.” Meanwhile, Victor Calise, commissioner of the Office of People with Disabilities, added: “The IDG is proving to be an important tool for designers to create welcoming, Comfortable and usable environments.... Locally, the IDG is helping to make New York City the most accessible city in the world.” The IDG Second Edition can be found here.
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Chicago’s Wilson CTA Station gets a $203 million makeover

Patrons of the Chicago Transit Authority's 91-year-old Wilson station (above) on the El's Red Line will be happy to learn the city broke ground this week on its long-planned, $203 million Wilson Station Reconstruction Project. The track structure is more than 100 years old. The Uptown station has been somewhat of a squeaky wheel in the CTA system, with neighborhood residents calling for improvements for years. The new station house will be ADA-compliant and, as CTA explained, feature myriad other improvements:
The project will also include significant track and structural work that will allow for easy and convenient transfers between the Red Line and Purple Line Express; enhance the street-level environment on Broadway; and improve CTA operations. New, brighter lighting and the installation of more than 100 security cameras throughout the stations and its three entrances will help improve customer safety. Additionally, the restoration of the 1923 stationhouse facade and former clock tower (at the corner of Wilson/Broadway) would make it a viable space for future retail or business development, thus creating an anchor for revitalization and economic development in the Uptown neighborhood.
It's one of the biggest (and costliest) overhauls in CTA history, and is part of the agency's $1 billion "Red Ahead" initiative to modernize the north branch of the Red and Purple Lines. CTA rebuilt the south branch last year, streamlining construction with massive closures—a strategy that angered some area residents. Elsewhere on the Red Line, 95th Street—the line's southern terminus—is getting an inspired revamp led by Parsons Brinkerhoff and Johnson & Lee, with art from Theaster Gates.
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Frank Lloyd Wright’s only handicap-accessible home opens for public tours

Decades before the Americans With Disabilities Act, Frank Lloyd Wright designed an accessible home for a World War II veteran. Now Wright’s only home designed for a person with a disability will open to the public. Wright’s Kenneth & Phyllis Laurent House in Rockford, Illinois opens for tours on June 6, two days before what would have been its architect’s 147th birthday. When Phyllis Laurent in 1948 urged her husband, who used a wheelchair, to contact Wright about designing a home for him, the architect reportedly responded, “Dear Laurent: We are interested but don’t guarantee costs. Who knows what they are today - ?” The brick and cypress structure’s design is a celebrated example of Wright’s “Usonian” single-story homes. It features an overhang sheltering a carport and a “solar hemicycle” shape typical of the style. The State of Illinois bought the house in 2012 and added it to the National Register of Historic Places. Wright himself referred to it as a “little gem.” Several other Wright buildings have opened to the public lately, including the Emil Bach House in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood, the SC Johnson Research Tower in Racine, Wisconsin, and the architect's home studio in Oak Park, Illinois.