Walk this Way: Do Public Sidewalks Qualify as Services, Programs, or Activities Under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act?

By Sarah Jones*

* J.D. Candidate, 2012, Fordham University School of Law.

Excerpt from Walk this Way: Do Public Sidewalks Qualify as Services, Programs, or Activities Under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act?, 79 Fordham L. Rev. 2259 (April, 2011)

Introduction
 
In November 2004, Elizabeth "Lisi" Bansen died when an SUV hit her as she traveled in her wheelchair from the corner store to her home. 1 Bansen was relegated to the street because the sidewalk was not wheelchair accessible. 2 The sidewalk near Bansen's home was cracked and "choked with weeds," and there was no curb ramp at the intersection where she was killed. 3 In 2007, a jury found the city of St. Louis liable for Bansen's death due to the city's "failure to maintain safe and usable sidewalks." 4 Although the city had already spent $ 7.5 million to install curb ramps at ninety percent of the city's intersections, some areas of the city had simply "fallen through the cracks." 5

Lisi Bansen's story is not unique. In 2006, Josefina Quinones sued the city of Chula Vista for $ 10 million after her husband, James A. Quinones, was struck and killed by a car. 6 James, who used an electric wheelchair, was traveling in the street because there was no ramp to get onto the sidewalk. 7 In 1998, Ohio resident Kelly Dillery was charged with child endangerment after a motorist complained about Dillery riding her wheelchair in the street with her four-year-old daughter in her lap. 8 Dillery argued that the sidewalks were inaccessible and eventually sued the city of Sandusky under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 9

As these stories indicate, the accessibility of sidewalks and curbs has ...

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