COLORADO SPRINGS – News 5 Investigates has obtained a copy of the federal lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court this month against the City of Colorado Springs for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The City of Colorado Springs has agreed to settle the case by making a commitment to install over 15,000 accessible curb ramps throughout the city over the next 14 years.
Patricia Yager, CEO of the Independence Center, is a fierce advocate for people with disabilities and knows the plaintiffs in this case.
“I know that they are thrilled and can’t wait to be able to just roll out their door and realize they don’t have to worry about whether there’s a curb cut down there or not,” she said.
According to the City of Colorado Springs, census figures estimate that 56.7 million Americans (1 in 5 people) has some type of disability.
In Colorado Springs alone, there are approximately 24,000 people with mobility disabilities who use wheelchairs, walkers, scooters or other mobility devices to get around,” the City said in a press release. “Missing, broken or poorly maintained curb ramps prevent people with mobility disabilities from safely using sidewalks, crosswalks and other walkways to participate in daily activities like getting to work or going to school.”
In September 2018, News 5 Investigates revealed how many parking lots to local businesses are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Our investigation found neither the City or Pikes Peak Regional Building Department inspect parking lots for ADA compliance.
At time time of our story, the city’s public information office declined to make anyone available to talk on-camera with News 5 Investigates about ADA issues and proposed improvements. However, we did learn the City recently invested more than $300,000 to hire five ADA inspectors and one administrative position. Those positions are in addition to an ADA Coordinator and ADA manager.
Despite investing money to improve accessibility and ensure ADA compliance, this latest lawsuit and settlement closely follows another settlement agreement the city paid out the same month our investigation into non-compliant parking lots aired.
Although the City declined to admit fault in the lawsuit, it agreed to pay Chris Sweeney and his wife $19,000 and promised to hold quarterly town halls for residents to discuss issues and concerns related to the ADA.
Curb ramps provide people with mobility impairments a safe way to get on and off sidewalks as they travel, but these accessibility problems aren’t just unique to the City of Colorado Springs. People with physical challenges nationwide and in other parts of Colorado have sued in the past over similar issues.
“I appreciate not only that this agreement will allow me to get to and from work more efficiently, but also that, when I find a problem, Colorado Springs has a system set up to resolve it. I look forward to my increased independence,” said Paul Spotts, one of the plaintiffs in the March 2019 lawsuit.
Nearly 30 years later, those with physical challenges say these improvements are long overdue.
“It’s frustrating when I am just trying to do my errands and I cannot get across a street because there is no curb ramp,” Sharon King, the second plaintiff said. “I’m so excited that we have been able to reach this agreement with Colorado Springs so that I can get where I need to go without these barriers, just like everyone else.”
Official statement made by City Council:
“City Council approved this settlement in the best interests of our residents and to further our ongoing efforts to make our City welcoming and accessible to all people, regardless of ability,” said City Council President Richard Skorman. “I was pleased to vote in favor of this settlement.”
Related KOAA News 5 coverage on the ADA: