The Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Office of Civil Rights has launched an investigation of a complaint filed in mid-March by the Community Access Project Somerville, a disability rights organization.
The complaint alleges violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504).
CAPS alleges that the City of Somerville has failed to conduct an update of their ADA self-evaluation and Transition Plan, despite numerous good faith reminders, recommendations and written attempts to inform the Administration of these affirmative obligations. Additional allegations include systemic pedestrian accessibility deficiencies in new construction since 2004, programmatic inclusion issues, and other deficiencies related to the city's transportation policies, practices and programs since 2004.
Somerville, MA was chosen in 2011 as the inaugural winner of the Let's Move! Cities and Towns Award, regardless of the fact that its nationally acclaimed Shape up Somerville ("SUS") programs and events have often been held in inaccessible facilities and along newly constructed yet still inaccessible streetscape infrastructure. Two such programs and events included: nearly two seasons of the SUS Winter's Farmer's Market; and, the Health Department's "Well-Being of Somerville Report" launch in 2011. In late March, Somerville's Mayor attempted to locate an event with the U.S. Surgeon General as the Guest Speaker at a facility that was still being adjudicated for continuing violations of State architectural accessibility regulations right at the entrance ramp and threshold.
The FHWA opened their formal investigation in mid-April.
On June 21, the City announced that it will spend $80,000 of FY13 budget to study Somerville's pedestrian ramps, sidewalks, curbs and intersections "with a focus on increasing accessibility for people with disabilities." This study will lead to the development of a multi-year ADA Streetscape Transition Plan.