Access Denied: St. Louis Twenty Years After the ADA

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In this week's feature story, "Step Right Up," RFT Music Editor Annie Zaleski describes how the Americans with Disabilities Act has affected her life. Zaleski was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a toddler and was entering fifth grade when President George H.W. Bush signed the legislation into law.

The ADA gives people with disabilities protection from discrimination in three main areas: employment, public services and public accommodations (like shops and restaurants) operated by private entities. In many cases, that means extra steps are required to make sure places are accessible to people in wheelchairs or those who have difficulty walking.

So how's St. Louis doing? It's a bit of a mixed bag, really. In this photo essay, we offer a sampling of the good, the bad, and the complicated:

1. 14th Street Mall
The newly renovated 14th Street Mall, at 14th Street and Montgomery in north city, is a good example of design that takes accessibility into account -- the curb cuts are flat, and people in wheelchairs or parents pushing strollers don't have to veer into traffic to cross the street.

JENNIFER SILVERBERG
  • Jennifer Silverberg

2. St. Louis Federal Reserve Building

This curb ramp in front of the Federal Reserve downtown is properly accessible. However, as gadfly Steve Patterson points out on his blog, urbanreviewstl.com, if you cross the street, the sidewalk facing you lacks a curb cut -- meaning anyone in a wheelchair leaving the building's nice little ramp could end up stranded in the middle of the street.

In Patterson's eyes, this isn't a case of something constructed before the Americans with Disabilities Act that no one had money to fix. The federal government actually spent $90 million, Patterson writes, to upgrade the building and create a pedestrian plaza. "So the Federal Reserve spent $90 million but they couldn't include a couple of curb ramps in newly poured concrete? Unacceptable!" he writes.

JENNIFER SILVERBERG
  • Jennifer Silverberg

3. St. Louis Bread Co.
As a result of an ADA-related lawsuit filed in the mid-'90s, all St. Louis Bread Co. locations made their facilities fully accessible. The Central West End location at Euclid Avenue and Forest Park Avenue has an extremely long ramp - making for good wheelchair accessibility even in a tight urban environment.
JENNIFER SILVERBERG
  • Jennifer Silverberg

4. The Pageant

The parking lot next to the Pageant on Delmar Boulevard has numerous handicapped parking spaces, with ramps for full accessibility.

JENNIFER SILVERBERG
  • Jennifer Silverberg

5. Old Rock House
Parking at the Old Rock House can be trickier for music fans who have disabilities. This parking lot, located at South Seventh Street and Hickory, is used for baseball-game parking and by patrons of the venue, but it does not have designated handicapped parking spots. Erica Deiters, promotions coordinator for the Old Rock House, told RFT that nobody has complained to the venue about the lack of handicapped parking.
JENNIFER SILVERBERG
  • Jennifer Silverberg

6. Giovanni's on the Hill
According to city records, a patron of Giovanni's on the Hill filed a complaint with the Citizen's Service Bureau in November 2006. Among other things, the complaint stated that the restaurant's "steps are oversized with no hand rails; [the] citizen was using a cane instead of [a] wheelchair and said it was most difficult getting around." Because there was no construction work in progress at the restaurant, however, the city had no jurisdiction to force the restaurant to make changes. The city closed out the complaint.

JENNIFER SILVERBERG
  • Jennifer Silverberg

7. Washington Avenue Parking Meters
When parking meters -- such as these ones on Washington Avenue -- sit high off the ground, people who use wheelchairs might have difficulty putting money in them.
JENNIFER SILVERBERG
  • Jennifer Silverberg

8. University City Parking Meters
In response to ADA-related complaints, University City lowered its parking meters to 42 inches earlier this year. U. City's plan drew some blowback from RFT readers. "The modification to these meters to accommodate those who are disabled is probably the right thing to do," one reader wrote, "However, my question as someone familiar with snow removal procedures: How many inches of snow will it take to now cover those meters, after the roads have been plowed?"

JENNIFER SILVERBERG
  • Jennifer Silverberg

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