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Justice Department & San Juan, Puerto Rico Agree to Improve Public Sidewalk Accessibility

The Justice Department filed a proposed stipulated order that will require the Municipality of San Juan, Puerto Rico, to take critical steps towards making its public sidewalk system accessible to individuals with disabilities.

The proposed order was filed jointly with the municipality and private plaintiffs and pauses the department’s lawsuit against the municipality while requiring it to conduct a comprehensive assessment of sidewalk accessibility and to begin fixing accessibility barriers. The lawsuit alleges that San Juan has violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) by failing to provide people with disabilities equal access to the municipality’s sidewalks, curb ramps, crosswalks and other pedestrian facilities.

“City sidewalks must be accessible so that people with disabilities can equally participate in community life and enjoy the many benefits that come from being able to safely navigate city streets and sidewalks,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This stipulated order puts San Juan on the path to making its public sidewalks accessible and we will continue working with San Juan to ensure it follows that path to its conclusion and achieves full program access.”

“We are heartened by San Juan’s willingness to commit significant resources to start addressing the accessibility of its public sidewalk system,” said U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow for the District of Puerto Rico. “The municipality’s investment and ongoing efforts will benefit all of its citizens and will help ensure that people with disabilities who live in or visit San Juan can enjoy all that the city has to offer.”

Under the proposed order, which requires court approval, San Juan will hire an outside accessibility consultant to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the municipality’s public sidewalk system to identify barriers to people with mobility disabilities. San Juan will also create a process for individuals to report barriers and to request installation or repair of curb ramps or sidewalks. The information gathered through the assessment and barrier reporting process will provide the basis for the parties to negotiate a final resolution of the lawsuit.

In addition, San Juan will provide training on the ADA Accessibility Standards to municipal employees who supervise construction, repair, or maintenance work related to the public sidewalk system. San Juan will retain independent licensed architects and engineers to verify that any construction or alterations related to the public sidewalk system comply with the ADA Accessibility Standards. Whenever the municipality repaves or resurfaces roads, it will provide compliant curb ramps at any intersection with a sidewalk.  San Juan will also post its ADA Notice, ADA Grievance Procedure, and ADA Coordinator contact information in an accessible format on the municipality’s website.

This matter is being handled by the Civil Rights Division’s Disability Rights Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto.

The Justice Department plays a central role in advancing the nation’s goal of equal opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities with the Civil Rights Division. For more information on the ADA, please call the department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (TDD 800-514-0383).

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