Consultant Michele Ohmes answers your Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) questions.
Q: Who has jurisdiction over pedestrian access routes such as sidewalks, curb ramps, and driveways: the city, developer, or residents?
A: You do.
Disability doesn't discriminate. The right to access the public portion of a right of way doesn't go away just because a neighborhood is gated. Thus, jurisdictions that regulate private subdivisions can - and should - regulate accessibility as required under Title II of the law; and may be violating the law if they don't.
I called the U.S. Access Board twice for advice on this topic. Because most city and county ADA ordinances don't specifically address access, the courts look at how the community regulates other aspects of private-subdivision infrastructure. The key case is one in which a New Hampshire subdivision wouldn't allow group homes. The U.S. Justice Department ruled the city could not allow zoning or permits that exclude group homes since they constitute discrimination.
If you answer yes to any of the following questions, then the public portions of the sidewalks ? including curb ramps, obstructions, and accessible barriers ? are under your jurisdictional control.
- Does your jurisdiction maintain the streets in this subdivision?
- Does it require a plan review of the subdivision for connections and requirements for water, sewer, cable, and/or electrical codes?
- Do the subdivision owners pay taxes for water and sewer lines, and perhaps even trash collection?
- Does your jurisdiction regulate and inspect varied building codes?
- Do you require permits to build the homes and do you review each home's design plans?
- Does it require an inspection before a resident is permitted to occupy the home?
- Are their posted speed limit signs installed by your city or county?
- Are there any other controls that your specific city or county might have related to private or gated communities that are the same as any other residential area?
Walkways that lead directly into the home aren't included, but the part of the driveway that extends into a walkway is. When reviewing plans, make sure the same 2% cross-slope requirement as a sidewalk is present.
Any portion of a sidewalk or driveway that anyone in the private community must use needs to accommodate all of the people with all of their different needs. At any time, an owner could experience a permanent injury, stroke, or illness that requires wheelchairs, unobstructed pedestrian access routes, and curb ramps with detectable warnings. Addressing access requirements up front benefits everyone both now and in the future.
- Michele S. Ohmes (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an ADA specialist who works with public works departments, facility managers, and contractors. Her design manual, ADA and Accessibility: Let's Get Practical, is available on CD-ROM through the American Public Works Association's Web site. Author's note: Michele & Associates does not render legal advice and has no enforcement authority regarding the ADA or other federal disability-rights legislation.