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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Access Denied: St. Louis Twenty Years After the ADA

Posted By on Wed, Dec 8, 2010 at 8:35 AM

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

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,, 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

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