Federal Court Approves Settlement Agreement Between Community Members With Disabilities and the City of Philadelphia to Fix or Install 10,000 Curb Ramps Over the Next 15 Years
May 8, 2023 — Philadelphia, PA — On May 2, 2023, a federal judge approved a class settlement between Philadelphians with disabilities and the City of Philadelphia to improve the accessibility of curb ramps throughout the city. Read the Opinion. This class action settlement resolves claims that the City’s pedestrian facilities contained barriers in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The Settlement Agreement will achieve substantial long-term improvements to the City’s pedestrian infrastructure through the installation and upgrade of curb ramps throughout Philadelphia, thereby enhancing access to jobs, schools, and community life for individuals with disabilities that affect their mobility. Read the Settlement Agreement.
The United States District Court Judge Harvey Bartle III previously granted preliminary approval of the proposed settlement on October 19, 2022. After notice was provided to the class, Judge Bartle held a Fairness Hearing on February 7, 2023. The Court’s May 2 decision granting final approval of the Settlement Agreement means it now has legal effect and the City will begin implementing its requirements. The Court approved all aspects of the Parties’ settlement, overruling any objections.
Under the Settlement Agreement, the City must:
- Install or remediate at least 10,000 curb ramps over the 15-year Settlement Period, with 2,000-ramp milestones every three years.
- Install accessible curb ramps where they are missing and fix curb ramps where they are noncompliant whenever the City newly constructs or alters a road or street with a pedestrian walkway, unless crossing is banned for all pedestrians due to safety concerns or a fully compliant curb ramp is technically infeasible.
- Maintain those curb ramps over which it has responsibility in operable working condition.
- Establish a Curb Ramp Request System for City residents to request installation, remediation, or maintenance of ramps at any crossing identified in the Settlement. The Settlement sets out timelines for prompt investigation and fulfillment of requests.
- Post progress reports on the City’s official website on the number and location of curb ramps installed or remediated under the agreement.
Class Counsel Disability Rights Advocates (“DRA”), a non-profit legal center that specializes in high-impact class actions, and David Ferleger, a Philadelphia attorney with 50 years of experience in landmark disability rights class actions and other litigation, will monitor the City’s compliance with the Settlement Agreement over the course of its 15-year term.
“Barrier free access is a civil right that for far too long has not been achieved in the City of Philadelphia. Judge Bartle’s approval of our ADA class action settlement will provide a strong framework to safely improve curb ramp access at thousands of intersections, corners and sidewalks throughout all neighborhoods in our city,” said Tom Earle, CEO of Plaintiff Liberty Resources, Inc. “LRI greatly appreciates the strategic legal work of our attorneys at DRA and David Ferleger in helping enforce our civil rights under Title II of the ADA.”
Plaintiff Tony Brooks said, “This settlement marks the beginning of holding the City of Philadelphia responsible for accessible sidewalks. I am happy that the City has committed to installing, fixing, and maintaining curb ramps in the communities in which we live, making sidewalks safer for the disabled community throughout Philadelphia.”
Fran Fulton, another plaintiff in this case noted, “I am absolutely thrilled that the court approved the settlement. I am delighted that the City of Philadelphia is now required to fix and maintain sidewalk curb ramps, and that they will be monitored to make sure that they do their due diligence.”
“Our clients’ dedication to improving access in their city has resulted in this excellent outcome that will be enjoyed by thousands of Philadelphians and visitors,” said Meredith Weaver, senior staff attorney at Disability Rights Advocates. “Having achieved this victory, we will now make sure that the City meets its commitments.”
David Ferleger, co-lead counsel for the class, emphasized the powerful impact of decision. Under the court order adopting the settlement, the court declared, “class members can more easily access jobs, schools, and other aspects of community life.” People with disabilities have the right to live in the world. The court’s order protects that right.
This case was brought on August 26, 2019 in the United Stated District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by three organizational plaintiffs: Liberty Resources, Inc., Disabled in Action of Pennsylvania, Inc., and Philadelphia ADAPT, as well as four individual plaintiffs with disabilities that affect their mobility.
Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) is the leading national nonprofit disability rights legal center. DRA’s mission is to advance the rights, inclusion, and equity of people with disabilities nationwide through high-impact litigation, education, and advocacy. DRA represents people with all types of disabilities in complex, system-changing class action cases and has previously negotiated systemic sidewalks-related improvements with New York City; Sacramento, CA; Long Beach, CA; and the California Department of Transportation. For more information, visit https://dralegal.org/.
Disabled in Action of Pennsylvania is an organization of disabled people who work to make civil rights for those with all disabilities a reality. For more information, visit https://www.disabledinaction.com/.
David Ferleger, Esq., has 50 years of experience in resolving disputes for the benefit of thousands of individuals, as well as numerous organizations and government agencies. He has participated in eleven cases before the Supreme Court of the United States, including five oral arguments before that high court. He has served as a court-appointed special master, court-appointed monitor, and technical advisor for various federal courts. Mr. Ferleger has taught at the New York University Law School and the University of Pennsylvania Law School and published numerous scholarly works. For more information, visit https://www.ferleger.com and www.phillycurbcutsettlement.com.
Liberty Resources, Inc. is the Center for Independent Living in Philadelphia, which advocates for and works with Persons with Disabilities living in the Philadelphia metropolitan area to ensure their civil rights and equal access to all aspects of life in the community. For more information, visit http://libertyresources.org/.