Lawsuit raises doubts about Colorado Springs' commitment to comply with access laws

Sharon King, who uses a power wheelchair, said she has problems commuting around downtown Colorado Springs because of cracked roads, bad street lighting and no connecting curb cuts between sidewalks. Sharon shows a curb at Willamette Ave. and Tejon St. that has a curb cut that has become so damaged that she got stuck there in her chair. Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette)

Colorado Springs has settled its second lawsuit in six months involving claims the city’s streets and sidewalks are inaccessible to the disabled.

The newest lawsuit, a class-action case, was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Denver by Tim Fox and Julia Campins, representing the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center and Campins Benham-Baker, respectively, Fox said. The attorneys represent two individual plaintiffs and all others with different access needs.

Fox said attorneys will file settlement documents Thursday in which Colorado Springs will agree to install more than 15,000 curb ramps over the next 14 years.

In a joint statement released by the city, Fox and Campins, the two plaintiffs, Sharon King and Paul Spotts, both of whom regularly use a wheelchair for mobility, gave thanks for the settlement.

“I look forward to my increased independence,” Spotts said.

“I’m so excited that we have been able to reach this agreement with Colorado Springs so that I can get where I need to go without these barriers, just like everyone else,” King said.

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In September 2018, Colorado Springs settled a similar lawsuit, filed by a disabled veteran and his wife who claimed noncompliance with federally-required accessibility standards.

The couple, Chris and Nikokle Sweeney, claimed that their Stetson Hills neighborhood lacked ramps and sidewalks necessary to reach public accommodations for years. Chris Sweeney has been in a wheelchair since twice being struck by lightning, once while on duty in the Air Force.

Although the city did not admit fault in the lawsuit, it agreed to pay the Sweeneys $19,000 and to hold quarterly town halls for residents to discuss issues and concerns relating to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The city’s first quarterly town hall was held in November. Its second meeting will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday at the Mountain Metropolitan Transit Administration building, 1015 Transit Drive.

The latest lawsuit was settled so quickly, Fox said, because the city had been given advance notice about what was being sought. His organization sent Colorado Springs a “demand letter” with a list of city street addresses where curb ramps are missing.

After receiving the letter, the city began negotiating a settlement, Fox said.

“It was a very cooperative process,” he said. “That’s one of the features of structured negotiations. It’s much cheaper for both parties to reach this resolution before you have to go through discovery and all of those sorts of things.”

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