Under Title II of the ADA, state and local governments are required to ensure accessible design,construction, and maintenance, of all pedestrian facilities. Pedestrian facilities include public sidewalks, shared-use paths, trails, curb ramps, crosswalks, pedestrian islands, or other public walkways. DOJ’s ADA (2010) Standards for Accessible Design became mandatory on March 15, 2012. State and local government facilities must follow requirements of the 2010 ADA Standards and consider the proposed guidelines issued in 2013 for pedestrian facilities in the public right-of-way (which includes trails and shared-use paths).
In addition to requiring that public entities and public services are available to people with disabilities through accessibility features, the ADA requires that public entities maintain these resources to ensure that they remain in good working condition. Maintenance of these accessibility features is as important as the original compliance, however it is often disregarded.
The Institute for Public Administration (IPA) has created a Walkability Assessment Tool is designed to help local officials determine an area’s current walkability and identify maintenance, design, or ADA issues that need to be addressed. The Tool may be used by a group of citizens, led by a local government official, to conduct an in-the-field assessment of a walkway, sidewalk, or shared-use path. A checklist is provided to rate the walkability of an area, document needed improvements, and identify specific locations or problems. WILMAPCO also facilitates Walkable Community Workshops. These workshops allow participants learn about the elements of a walkable community and solutions to common issues. Participants take part in a walking tour to identify specific measures and develop priority actions to improve conditions for pedestrians.
In many cases, confusion exists over which entity (state agency, local government, school district or public institution, private property owner or business) is responsible for maintenance of sidewalks and facilities such as bus stops, crosswalks, parking areas, park-n-ride facilities, and other transportation infrastructure. In some cases, property owners are responsible for keeping sidewalks clear and usable. In other cases, local governments are in charge of the upkeep. An IPA report, Sidewalks and Shared-Use Paths: Safety, Security, and Maintenance, notes that while property owners may be in charge of maintenance of sidewalks, local jurisdictions can still be liable if conditions are found to be noncompliant with ADA regulations. Articulating responsibilities within local ordinances or memorandums of understanding (MOUs), can heighten awareness of regulations and mitigate local government risk, exposure to civil liability, and incidents of lawsuits.
In addition to clarifying responsibilities within ordinances or MOUs, local governments must specify maintenance standards that are consistent with ADA, set deadlines for compliance, enforce and establish penalties for noncompliance. An IPA report, Winter Maintenance of Pedestrian Facilities in Delaware: A Guide for Local Governments, states the need to develop winter maintenance-management plans or amend municipal emergency-operations plans to address and delineate responsibility of snow/ice removal—including pedestrian and bicycle facilities.