Jacksonville council makes plans to fix costly ADA violations

Settlement with ADA has $5.6 million budgeted through 2015


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville City Council says they will begin making necessary changes in settling violations associated with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Channel 4 has covered stories in the past about Jacksonville residents who said the city is not accessible enough for the handicapped.

Penny Price, like many others, told Channel 4 last year how difficult it is for a disabled person to get around Jacksonville.

"They can't let me off at the bus stop," Penny Price told Channel 4's Jim Piggott in November 2012. "They have to pull up to the little side street or a little parking area to let me get off the bus, because if I get off there, I can't get off the sidewalk."

"So they need to make some changes?" asked Piggott.

"Yeah, they do," said Price.

As Channel 4 began asking residents their take, more and more people came forward with complaints.

"These two-story apartment buildings, like I've been invited to my cousin's house, it's on the second floor," said disabled resident Ronald Johnson. "The only way I can get up is to scoot up."

"The hardest thing is to control these doors when they don't have an automatic door for the door we can go in, because you can't control this chair," said disabled resident Bobby Smith.

On Thursday, the City of Jacksonville said they have settled the issue with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and will begin making necessary changes.

"This is how the government should work," said Jacksonville General Counsel Cindy Laquidara. "There was a problem brought to the city's attention as well as lack of compliance with ADA. For multiple years, not just the present."

Laquidara said the city will start making changes at places like the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, City Hall, the downtown library and Metropolitan Park. The city said they will also be repairing a lot of sidewalks that are in desperate need of repair.

"It has been an unwieldy process because with such a large city, we have 3,200 miles of sidewalks and 400-something buildings that have to be reviewed," said Laquidara.

Original estimates were that Jacksonville taxpayers would need to pay $37 million for these upgrades, but the settlement with the ADA only has $5.6 million budgeted through 2015.

"In past years, the city has failed to ensure the work has been in compliance with ADA," said Laquidara. "There's nothing you can do about that except fix those past years, and put a process in for solving it in the future."