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Clovis sued over access for the disabled

  • April 17, 2009
  • Bruce Bromley

Clovis is being sued by two people with disabilities who say the city’s sidewalks and curb ramps impair their ability to get around and violate the federal Americans With Disabilities Act.

Clovis resident Elaine Lake and Ed Kemper, a self-described “disabled-access specialist” who lives in Folsom, filed the suit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Fresno.

The 27-page lawsuit contains a long list of locations where Clovis allegedly violates state and federal law, including several in the city’s Old Town area as well as Lake’s neighborhood near Bullard and Willow avenues.

Listed are curb ramps with slopes that are too steep, nonexistent curb ramps and abrupt elevation differentials on sidewalks.

All, the suit says, are barriers to the disabled.”I tossed and turned with [filing the lawsuit], but it’s something that has to get changed,” said Lake, 54, who has used a wheelchair for five years and was first disabled in 1982.”They can’t extend it out over the next 10 or 12 years,” she said of the needed improvements. “They need to start making this city accessible. I am not the only one who can’t get around.”Clovis officials did not return calls seeking comment. At a City Council meeting last year, however, city officials said it would take years of work and millions of dollars to bring the city into ADA compliance.Kemper, the Folsom activist, last year told members of the city’s Americans With Disabilities Act committee that he would not hesitate to sue.In an interview Friday, Kemper said he doesn’t like what he sees in Clovis. The city, he said, has spent millions of dollars in state and federal funds on streets, sidewalks, curbs and gutters without providing adequate disabled access.

The suit seeks to force Clovis to change its policies and procedures toward the disabled, create an “Americans With Disabilities Transition Plan” listing all areas where disabled improvements are needed, and a mandate that the city “bring itself into compliance with the ADA according to an expedited schedule … “Not everyone thinks the city has been slow to act.Ray Wilder, 63, who is blind, is part of a city-formed committee made up of residents with disabilities to help direct the city about projects needing to be done.The lawsuit, he said, does not help.”I think that they are actually hindering progress by doing this,” Wilder said Friday. “If the city was not moving forward and taking some type of positive approach, then there might be a place for this type of lawsuit, but I really don’t believe there is any justification for it.”In difficult budget times, he said, all residents will suffer.”When the money isn’t there, who is going to get punished other than the citizens of the city?” Wilder said.But Kemper said the city — as well as all cities and counties across the state — must act to help the disabled.”I will guarantee you that every city and county in this state is on the radar,” Kemper said. “There is no reason for me to go anywhere and face any of this garbage anymore.”