There’s work ahead in Marysville, and a lot of it.
The City is conducting a self-evaluation and creating an Americans with Disabilities Act transition plan to figure out its gaps in accessibility on crosswalks, roads and sidewalks, and how to address those. The ADA, as the federal law is often called, is a 1990 civil rights law that bars discrimination against someone with a disability.
“People with disabilities pay taxes and should be able to get around,” said John Dineen, a member of the Snohomish County ADA Public Rights of Way Advisory Committee.
In Marysville, there are an estimated 10,000 people who have a cognitive, hearing, independent living, movement, self-care and vision difficulty or disability within the Marysville School District boundaries, according to the 2018 American Community Survey.
Marysville has developed with thousands of homes across almost 21 square miles since it incorporated as a frontier town of nine blocks in 1891. Some streets have sidewalks, others don’t.
A consultant’s inventory of accessibility features over the past year found 4,100 locations where a ramp exists or could go in Marysville. Of those, 1,000 don’t have one, 700 ramps are non-compliant and 1,900 meet an old standard. Only 500 comply with current standards.
“You can imagine pretty much anything built before 1995 doesn’t meet ADA standards,” Marysville project engineer Kyle Hays said. “There are a lot of areas in any city that don’t meet standards.”
Title II of the federal law includes the responsibilities of local and state governments to ensure their programs and services don’t discriminate against people with disabilities. It also included the requirement for government agencies to make a transition plan to become more accessible.
“We’re finding that a lot of Title II entities are out of compliance on that,” said Mell Toy, assistant director of the Northwest ADA Center, a non-legal, non-advocacy resource for anyone with questions about the civil rights law in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. “They may not even be aware that they have this responsibility.”
Marysville contracted with a consultant to evaluate its right of ways, conducted an online survey of residents’ needs and hosted a workshop Wednesday. The survey lets people pinpoint problems on a map and describe barriers in words or illustrate those issues with photos.
Despite weeks of notice, survey results have been low and only two people from the public attended the meeting, Marysville spokesperson Connie Mennie said. Recent concerns over coronavirus could have kept some people home. The survey is available through Sunday, March 22 and can be found at www.marysvillewa.gov/1032/ADA-Plan.
One resident who uses a wheelchair and attended the workshop identified six locations with accessibility issues, Mennie said.
Each curb ramp could cost between $5,000 and $10,000, Hays said.
Other right-of-way considerations could include audible crosswalk signals, the location of fixed objects such as mailboxes and sign posts, landscaping, transit stops, and yellow rectangles with bumps at crosswalks, which help people who are blind and guide animals.
Obviously Marysville won’t build every feature in a year, maybe even in the next decade.
Shifting standards are another challenge. Right-of-way recommendations, first issued in 1992, were updated in 2002, 2005 and 2011.
The transition plan is used as the guide for which projects will have the greatest impact, as funding is available.
“It was supposed to be a living document that the agency uses to guide them because you never fully achieve accessibility,” Toy said. “Even if you think you’re fully in compliance today, standards change, new buildings are built.
“It reminds you to continually be involving the disability community in what needs to happen to make the entity accessible at any given time.”
Marysville is hardly alone.
In 2016, Snohomish County’s inventory of its roads, sidewalks and other public facilities revealed needs estimated to cost $1 billion, including about 10,000 curb ramps and 400 miles of sidewalk. More than 85,000 people were estimated to have a disability or difficulty, according to the 2018 American Community Survey.
“The fact that Marysville is looking at doing a transition plan and they’re mindful of what some of the issues are… makes them above a lot of communities, even though it’s 30 years after the passage of the ADA,” said Dineen, with the Snohomish County ADA advisory committee.
As people age, there’s a high likelihood of having some kind of disability. Dineen said he’s a ways past retirement eligibility age and his balance is notably worse. That’s when he’s thankful for level sidewalks and low slope ramps.
Once in place, the ADA features can help people without disabilities, too. Ramps make pushing a stroller easier. Cutting branches from right of ways improves safety for anyone using them.
The transition plan should be ready for public comment this spring or summer.
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