Lawsuit raises doubts about Colorado Springs' commitment to comply with access laws
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Dave May is pictured at the intersection of Rangewood Drive and Contrails Drive where the lack of a curb cut makes it unable for him to cross the street on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. In Colorado Springs and El Palso County, barriers for the disabled have gone unaddressed making it difficult for those in wheelchairs to maneuver around. Photo Logan Riely, The Gazette

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Questions about accessibility standards, missing ramps, busted sidewalks and more can be raised Tuesday at Colorado Springs’ first community forum on the 28-year-old Americans with Disabilities Act.

City officials agreed in September to hold quarterly meetings as a part of a lawsuit settlement on reported ADA violations, which have bedeviled the city for decades. The first forum will be from noon to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at The Independence Center, 729 S. Tejon St.

In the settlement, the city also agreed to pay $19,000 to the plaintiffs, disabled veteran Chris Sweeney and his wife, Nikole, without admitting wrongdoing or liability.

The Sweeneys are dropping the lawsuit against the remaining defendants, Diversified Property Management and the Stetson Hills Master Home Owners Association, said their attorney, Julian G.G. Wolfson. The couple claimed their neighborhood for years lacked ramps and sidewalks needed to reach public accommodations.

At the forum, city officials also will request comment on a transition plan that the city is developing to identify obstacles to accessing city programs, buildings and activities. Part of the long-overdue plan will be published before the end of the year, said city ADA Manager Rob Hernandez. The current plan hasn’t been updated since 1995.

The city and El Paso County fell well short of ADA requirements, leaving buildings and pathways inaccessible to the county’s then-estimated 66,000 residents with disabilities, The Gazette reported in 2015. Many of those shortcomings fell into an unquantified backlog of noncompliance.

This year, the city has worked on diminishing that backlog. The City Council in August unanimously voted to appropriate $300,000 to hire four inspectors and an administrator to identify and resolve violations.

The city’s 2019 budget also has an extra $1.36 million for Colorado Springs’ ADA program.

For more information on local accessibility standards, visit coloradosprings.gov/ada.

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