To the editor:
On July 26, 1990, Congress enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act, establishing the most important civil rights law for persons with disabilities in our country’s history. The congressional statutory findings include:
-“Discrimination against individuals with disabilities persists in such critical areas as ... public accommodations”; ad
“Individuals with disabilities continually encounter various forms of discrimination, including ... the discriminatory effects of architecture.”
Congress went on to state explicitly the purpose of the Americans with Disabilities Act to be: “to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities,” and “to provide clear, strong, consistent, enforceable standards addressing discrimination against individuals with disabilities.”
On Thursday, Aug. 22, Kim Driscoll, mayor of Salem, went to media and social media to tout the opening of two new parklets installed in Salem, one on Washington Street and one on the lower end of Lafayette Street. The mayor even promoted the event on Twitter with a picture of the parklet on Washington Street. In the photograph is a ramp from the sidewalk down to the parklet area that has a slope of 17.5 degrees, the one on Lafayette Street has a sloped of 10 degrees. Both are clear violations of ADA requirement of 5 degrees.
After heading down to the parklet, measuring the ramp and having a look around, it became obvious that this area could not be used by myself or others with disabilities. Not only was the ramp dangerous but the surface was loose, slippery and had exposed cut carpet edges. These are the obvious violations of ADA law. There are other violations, but I stuck with the obvious.
The opening of parklets and posting of pictures clearly showing the ADA violations is not only illegal, it is a slap in the face to individuals with disabilities who do not have accessibility to this area. Other communities (San Francisco, Minneapolis and Boston to name a few) have comprehensive rules regarding parklets and meeting ADA requirements.
The posting of pictures to social media of the parklets that contain gross violations of ADA Law remind me of teenagers taking selfies of themselves while committing crimes and posting them to social media. It is time that Salem becomes serious about accessibility and following ADA law.
The parklets should be immediately removed and sent back to planning so that they can be designed and constructed in a manner that complies with ADA law. I understand the benefits that parklets can bring to downtown Salem. However, the city must not rush to installing them in a haphazard manner. I look forward to being able to utilize parklets in Salem when they are accessible.
In closing, I believe that the mayor owes and apology to both the disabled community and the taxpayers for opening parklets that contain so many clear and evident violations of ADA law.