Winter Maintenance of Pedestrian Facilities

Winter maintenance for ADA

Illustration used with permission by Jack Maypole

See IPA’s publication at: Winter Maintenance of Pedestrian Facilities in Delaware: A Guide for Local Governments

Under ADA Title II, maintenance of accessible features is required by public entities. State and local governments must maintain, in working order, equipment and features of facilities that are required to provide ready access to individuals with disabilities.

Winter maintenance of pedestrian facilities is both a safety and an accessibility issue. Once a state or local government provides/installs an “accessible feature” or “accessible route,” it is required under ADA to maintain those features in working order. This means that a pedestrian facility cannot be obstructed by snow or ice and must remain open for year-round use, even after a winter storm. Pedestrian facilities include public sidewalks, shared-use paths, trails, curb ramps, crosswalks, pedestrian islands, or other public walkways. Walking surfaces must be cleared (of snow, ice, debris, and other barriers) to a minimum width of 36 inches.

A University of Delaware IPA report, Winter Maintenance of Pedestrian Facilities in Delaware: A Guide for Local Governments, provides assistance to local governments on tackling the issue of winter pedestrian-accessibility issues. The report recommends that Delaware local governments:

  • Amend local Municipal Emergency Operations Plans (EOPs) to include winter-storm emergencies;
  • Adopt a winter maintenance-management plan to set forth policies, procedures, and responsibilities for a coordinated response to a major winter storm;
  • Review and update municipal ordinances/regulations to clarify responsibilities for winter maintenance of pedestrian facilities:
    • Align regulations with ADA
    • Institute a citizen, snow-assistance program to help citizens in need who are elderly, have mobility limitations, or disabilities;
    • Inspect areas and strengthen enforcement of local ordinances/regulations
    • Amend subdivisions to ensure compliance with standards for public right-of-ways
  • Improve interagency communications to ensure a coordinated response and a proactive public-information/social-awareness campaign;
  • Consider innovative practices to ensure that winter maintenance of pedestrian facilities is essential to all people, including those with mobility issues or visual impairments.

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