Schwarz ups Lace Dr Clean and Martens Classic The town is being sued by four residents for not making its services, programs and activities fully accessible for people with disabilities.
BRAINTREE − A press conference called Thursday afternoon to announce a federal lawsuit against the town for not complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act turned into a sidewalk meeting between Mayor Joseph Sullivan and the four plaintiffs in the suit.
Sullivan walked over to the gathering in front of the town hall Thursday afternoon as the four women with disabilities − three of whom use wheelchairs and the other who is legally blind − outlined the problems they have getting around the town and using town services due to the absence of curb cuts for wheelchairs, audible signals at crosswalks and other obstacles.
“Many of the issues we have brought to the Town of Braintree without resolution,” said Penelope Shaw, one of the plaintiffs. “We’ve reached our limits.”
Crystal Evans, another plaintiff, agreed.
“We fought long, we fought hard, but we have to fight differently,” Evans said.
Sullivan, who first heard of the suit Thursday afternoon, said the town is committed to spending $300,000 during this budget year and the next on improving access for the disabled, and promised action by the end of the week to make sure new curb cuts installed in South Braintree Square fully comply with the requirements set by the law.
“I don’t think you’ve given us much credit for what we’ve done,” Sullivan told them.
The suit, which was filed in U.S. District in Boston on Monday seeks an order requiring the town to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and provide equal opportunity to the plaintiffs, who are identified as activists and persons with disabilities, to town services, programs and activities. It also seeks monetary damages for the plaintiffs.
“Plaintiffs have suffered, and without the immediate relief requested herein, will continue to suffer, direct and indirect discrimination, injury and damage as a result of the defendant’s actions or inaction described herein,” the suit states.
Attached to the suit is a 17-page list of architectural barriers and other items which the plaintiffs say prevent people with disabilities from using town services or patronizing local businesses.
Evans gained national attention in 2015 for shoveling snow off sidewalks in the South Braintree Square business district in her motorized wheelchair. She uses her wheelchair to travel to the MBTA station and local businesses and said she has suffered falls due to problems with sidewalks and curb cuts, causing injuries and damage to her motorized wheelchair. She said she has been stuck in her house for weeks awaiting repairs of her wheelchair as a result.
Shaw said that sidewalks blocked by snow or trash totes force people in wheelchairs into the street, putting them in danger.
The activists point out that the town was required under the law to make all programs accessible for the disabled by Jan. 26, 1995. Nearly a quarter-century later, the town’s ADA transition plan and self-evaluation, which were due in 1993, are still only in draft form.
Sullivan, who has been mayor since 2011, said the town is committed to implementing the recommendations of the draft plan, which he called “an evolving document.”
Evans said it will take a year to a few years for the case to be heard.
The mayor said he is also committed to reactivating the town’s commission on disabilities and ensuring that three of its five members are people with disabilities.
The other plaintiffs in the suit are Joanne Daniels-Finegold and Linda Hughes. All four live in Braintree.