Reader view: City of Edmonds needs to focus on accessibility

The Edmonds dog park next to Marina Beach Park (Photo courtesy David Kaufer)

Dear Edmonds City Council Members:

Our community prides itself on its inclusive spirit and its commitment to ensuring that every member can enjoy the amenities and beauty of Edmonds, regardless of their abilities. Mika’s Playground in Civic Park is a testament to this commitment, proving a popular and valuable addition to our city. To truly embody the spirit of inclusivity, there are important areas where our efforts must continue to improve.

It is clear from Mika’s Playground’s success that investing in accessibility is not only the right thing to do, but also a smart one. The joy and laughter it brings to children and families, regardless of their physical abilities, enriches our community and fosters an environment of inclusivity and understanding. These investments have a positive impact on the social and cultural fabric of our city. It also attracts visitors from outside the city.

Still, we have a long way to go before we reach complete accessibility. There are glaring needs that we, as a community, need to address promptly. Let’s look at the dog park next to Marina Park, which needs to be upgraded to accommodate those in wheelchairs. I agree with the suggestion to install an aluminum or plastic metal mesh between the gate and the bench. This addition would ensure that the park is accessible to everyone, preventing wheelchairs from getting stuck on the beach. The success of a similar installation in Meadowdale Beach Park serves as a compelling precedent, proving the feasibility and effectiveness of this solution. While the cost may vary depending on permitting requirements and other unknowns, the benefit it brings in making our popular dog park inclusive cannot be overstated.

Similarly, we should also look at Seaview Park, one of our many cherished green spaces in our city and also home to our first inclusive playground. Ironically, the park is not accessible for wheelchairs and the park’s northeast portion requires a modest investment to address this need. A simple addition of a small path leading to the asphalt and an ADA-compliant van or car parking spot would make a significant difference. There would also be modifications needed to the path to ensure the grade met ADA guidelines. The estimated cost of this project again is difficult to estimate but it is likely a small price to pay for the substantial impact it would have on making the park enjoyable for everyone — especially those it was designed to serve.

A dog park accessibility improvement request first made in 2018 remains unfulfilled, and Edmonds cannot ignore this issue any longer. Like a fish left out too long, this has lingered and festered, and it’s time to take action. As a community, we must not let our efforts to promote inclusivity become stale or stagnant. All our parks and public spaces should be welcoming and accessible to everyone as soon as possible.

Investing in these accessibility improvements is not merely a fulfillment of a civic duty; it’s an investment in the well-being and unity of our community. It’s a commitment to upholding the values of inclusivity and respect for all individuals. The cost, when compared to the immeasurable value of community enrichment and the joy of our fellow citizens, is minimal. It should also be noted that the city has a legal obligation, under ADA laws, to ensure public buildings and spaces are accessible for all.

Let’s continue to build on the success of the Civic Park and Mika’s Playground. Let’s make Edmonds a model city, where accessibility is not just a token gesture, but a deeply ingrained value. It’s time for us to come together and ensure that our actions reflect our commitment to making Edmonds a city where everyone, regardless of their abilities, can thrive and enjoy all that our beautiful community has to offer.

— By David Kaufer

David Kaufer lives in Edmonds.

    1. Would your 98% be somehow put at a disadvantage by ADA improvements? What percentage of tax-paying citizens do you require before needed accommodations are made? And what sinister “agenda” do you see at work here? Please enlighten us before these insidious measures are foisted upon us.

    2. Accessibility laws are not written with any percent of population threshold. Your 98% comment is irrelevant. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was a bipartisan bill signed into law by a Republican president.

  1. Regardless of the number of people who use wheelchairs and other mobility aids, the city has a legal obligation to comply with the ADA and WLAD. Good letter, David. As a person with a so-called “invisible disability,” I applaud your advocacy.

  2. Thank you for your letter and specific examples of the need for our parks to comply with ADA and WLAD. I encourage you to forward your letter to the Parks Director and the Mayor. When the next cycle of the CIP/CFP is prepared, the parks staff has the opportunity to cost out the remedies you mention (and others) in order to get in compliance. You will have two opportunities to advocate for funding at the public hearings for the CIP/CFP. There’s lots of needs that are prioritized in that long range financial plan document called a Capital Improvement Plan/Capital Facilities Plan. You will find some ADA compliance projects there already in the Parks section, but more are needed. My experience in changing the priorities for projects that affect my neighborhood is that you need to 1) educate the City Council about the need and the principles behind it 2) get a lot of neighbors to participate in the public hearings.

  3. Part of this whole ADA discussion needs to be an assessment of what is an appropriate and doable accommodation of real needs that can be met without unreasonable demands on the public purse and/or would require massive building, rebuilding or restructuring of public facilities. In Edmonds the obvious example of how this can be an issue is the “missing link” project being presented as at least partially an ADA imperative. Right now this project is on the books as an unfunded $850,000 plan for a city that is essentially broke now and the real cost will be much higher. Just another place we need to consider reality.

  4. Well over the last several years we have spent a bunch of money replacing perfectly good ADA curb cutouts with new ones, maybe we would have been better off adding access instead replacing perfectly good access. But now we are broke so I would think this isn’t a high priority.

  5. There are code required standards for ADA ramps at sidewalks. The former ones did not meet code. “Perfectly good” to you is likely not the same to someone in a wheelchair.

  6. I don’t know the exact difference the new may be slightly better but the old are perfectly functional. One thing I have noticed is the new have a very slippery yellow plastic? Patch. That I can in no way see as a improvement.. I can see replacing as needed but that is not what we have done. The old ones work fine the new ones have me in fear of people slipping. But I guess in another 10 years we will ripp those out in favor of the latest flavor at the time. Again adding new access is far better then redoing existing access. I grew up with a crutch and wheelchair bound grandmother who lived with us ,I am well aware of the struggle. I am not against having access but truly wonder if our money is being spent in the right places IE redoing functional access.

  7. The bright yellow tiles are for the visually impaired but not completely sightless. The little mounds are so you can detect the curb with a cane or even underfoot. These are required by code. The City has no leeway on these. Not bringing main pathways up to code would open the City up to lawsuits which they would lose and end in a settlement or award, and the City would still have to do the improvements.

    1. Bruce does the city have its own code for this because they aren’t required in all instances but are recommended. Also the ADA requirements only apply to new construction or when doing revisions or it is using federal dollars. Also there was no date that these new styles had to be installed by but only they be put in as the city did revisions. So I doubt we could be sued for not having them. My point is we have spent a bunch of money replacing existing ones that were compliant with the standard when there was no mandate to upgrade So in this I was merely suggesting we could have spent some of that money on adding new access in places rather than making unnecessary upgrades.

  8. Many cities and towns have been successfully sued for failure to comply with the ADA with respect to sidewalks and curb cuts. These lawsuits have resulted in settlements that required change on a broad scale. My understanding is that there are ongoing discussions about a similar claim being made against Edmonds.

    People who use wheelchairs have a higher rate of being injured and killed by vehicles. So if compliance with federal and state law isn’t a compelling reason to bring the city into compliance, consider the impact on city financial resources if legal action is brought to compensate a victim and their family.

    People who cannot safely navigate our streets are more likely to be unemployed, increasing the need for spending on unemployment compensation and programs to provide for basic needs.

    Conrad Reynoldson is a good source of information, being both a person living with muscular dystrophy who uses a power wheelchair and an advocate. Learning how he is forced to navigate the world in the absence of accommodation is eye-opening.
    https://www.knkx.org/other-news/2020-04-11/this-man-sued-seattle-for-the-right-to-cross-the-street

    The experiences of David Whedbee, a paraplegic since he was 30 and also a wheelchair user (who is now a state court judge), are also instructive.
    https://www.knkx.org/other-news/2020-04-11/this-man-sued-seattle-for-the-right-to-cross-the-street

    There are unknown stories of many other people, including those in our community, that are similar.

    1. We are a sue happy society I am sure I could walk ride or drive around any city and find things that could be sued over, I could slip on one of those yellow plastic ADA strips and crack my head open. I wouldn’t be surprised if the city isn’t being sued over the newer crosswalk on 196th and 84th. The crosswalk is at a horrible location and the bulb out has been struck by many cars the city has painted it and added reflective markers but it continues to be a issue a lawsuit waiting to happen if you ask me. Tons of lawyers out there looking for people that have been hurt just so they can sue the government for something it did or didn’t do.

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