Philadelphia settles with disabled residents in ADA suit

The agreement comes more than three years after Brooks, three other Philadelphians with mobility-related disabilities, and several disability rights organizations sued the city under the Amercians with Disabilities Act and another federal accessibility law.

They claimed the city’s maintenance of pedestrian paths of travel — including sidewalks and curb ramps — discriminates against people with disabilities that affect their mobility.

According to the complaint filed in 2019, several of the plaintiffs had gotten hurt tripping over hazards or falling out of wheelchairs, just trying to get around the city.

They described a city filled with barriers, including uneven, crumbling sidewalks, improper snow removal, construction without safe alternative routes, illegally parked cars, and “fake curb cuts,” where concrete is just poured to fill the space between the curb and the street.

“People with disabilities that affect their mobility cannot travel freely around Philadelphia, hindering their right to work, study, socialize, volunteer, worship, and engage in civic life,” the 2019 complaint reads.

The plaintiffs claimed the city failed to comply with a 1993 court order requiring the city to install or upgrade curb ramps whenever it resurfaces a street — transitioning instead to a request-based system in 2014.

The plaintiffs did not seek money beyond attorney fees.

If the settlement terms are fulfilled, the city could be a safer place for Fran Fulton, one of the plaintiffs.

“I am blind, so I cannot see if [a curb cut] is broken, crumbled, which many of them are,” she said. “There is a totally non-compliant curb cut right across the street from where I live. And if it weren’t for the fact that I know it’s there, I probably would have been hit by a car.”

Fulton is “elated” to see the suit resolved, but she notes the city had to be dragged into court to make the commitment.

“They’re responding to our needs now because we sued them,” she said. “If they had any kind of conscience about people, pedestrians’ needs, it wouldn’t have required a lawsuit. …  I think it’s a real black eye on the face of Philadelphia that people can’t cross the streets safely.”

Philly will build or fix 10,000 curb cuts under settlement with disabled residents