Friday, August 22, 2014

Portland's Cost of Compliance

As it turns out, many Portland city properties are not compliant with ADA standards, even after recent renovations. But with the hefty price tags that come with mending these issues, it seems that officials need to take a look at which facilities would see the most benefit from being fixed.

According to Willamette Weekly, city officials have been putting together a list of problem areas and hope to fix them to avoid lawsuits, but it's a huge undertaking. There are 25,829 places on city property that are not compliant with ADA standards, and of those, almost 80% are in city parks.

Even the recently renovated Providence Park stadium is not up to code; Essentially none of the ramps and concourse walkways meet ADA slope requirements. Fixing this could cost up to $1.1 million.

So far, the city has spent $663,402 identifying barriers in extreme detail. They have taken into account fractions of inches. While this attention to detail is nice, one hopes that the city uses good judgement in prioritizing renovations. For instance, putting in wheelchair ramps where none currently exist might take precedence over raising a Benson Bubbler drinking fountain one inch.

According to disabilities advocate with the United Spinal Association, Ian Ruder, many of the identified barriers aren't keeping people from where they need to go. “It's a black-and-white law in a gray world,” Ruder says. “Hopefully they are able to prioritize the places that have the greatest impact for the most people.”

Ruder, a wheelchair user himself, went to some of the identified problem locations with Willamette Week and had a look. Ruder and WW took videos at five locations and identified and assessed the noted barriers. I recommend taking a look at the videos (from City Hall; the Portland Building 12, and 3; Director Park; Providence Park; and Laurelhurst Park 1 and 2). Problems that were identified in documents aren't necessarily the most relevant issues.

According to officials from Portland Parks and Recreation, they will use a $68 million parks bond that is on the ballot this November to help with the upgrades, though the exact amount that would go into accessibility upgrading was not specified.

So, kind of a bummer that there are so many issues in our city that make for problematic accessibility, but at least they are being identified, and hopefully they will be fixed in spite of the large cost.

What do you think? Have you witnessed any of these issues firsthand? What do you think about Ruder's assessments?

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