Disability Advocates and Caltrans Reach Unprecedented Settlement

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December 22, 2009
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Caltrans has agreed to invest $1.1 billion over 30 years to repair and improve sidewalks, crosswalks, and park-and-ride facilities throughout California so they are accessible for people with disabilities.

The state department of transportation agreed to the infrastructure investment in a court settlement ending two class action lawsuits brought by people with disabilities and two disability rights advocacy groups. The areas covered by the settlement include cross-walks, pedestrian overcrossings, pedestrian undercrossings and other walkways designated for pedestrian use that are owned or maintained by Caltrans. These sidewalks are usually located along state highways that become “streets” as they pass through cities and towns. If these sidewalks are missing or lack warnings, such as bumps the blind people can feel underfoot, people with disabilities may be forced into streets where they can be hit by vehicles. 

"This settlement is a win-win," commented Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. "It would be inexcusable to continue to delay these modifications. Instead of debating this through the legal process for the next decade, costing millions of taxpayer dollars, we are taking action to get this work completed."

The agreement is the single largest settlement reached on the issue of architectural access for persons with disabilities nationwide.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, students with disabilities at the University of California successfully convinced the city of Berkeley to install curb cuts at street corners to accomodate wheelchair users. Their advocacy inspired other Americans with disabilties to lobby for accessible streets and public buildings, and to frame discrimination against people with disabilities as a civil rights issue.

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