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The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) has mandated reasonable accommodations for disabled citizens since 1992. Among the protections the ADA affords? Accessible sidewalks.
In Arlington, Texas, however, accessible sidewalks don’t seem to be a priority. That’s why Richard Frame, a quadriplegic, sued Arlington in 2005, alleging that the city had violated ADA Title II by building or altering sidewalks and curbs without making them accessible.
A district court dismissed the case because Frame waited too long after the work commenced to bring his claim. Frame challenged the district court’s dismissal in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and won.
According to the Fifth Circuit, building and altering public sidewalks are unambiguously services of a public entity. When a city builds or alters a sidewalk, it promotes the general public's convenience by overcoming a collective action problem and allowing citizens to focus on other ventures. It helps meet a general demand for the safe movement of people and goods.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found that when a city decides to build or alter a sidewalk, but makes that sidewalk inaccessible to individuals with disabilities without adequate justification, the city discriminates within the meaning of ADA Title II.
And the statute of limitations defense?
The ruling states that Texas' two-year statute of limitations applies to Title II cases, but the period doesn't begin to accrue until the disabled person is deterred from using a sidewalk.
Arlington Assistant City Attorney Denise Wilkerson is quick to note that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling did not find that Arlington violated the ADA; it only determined that Frame could move forward with his case, reports the Star-Telegram.