City adopts new American with Disabilities Act plan

The Transition Plan improves sidewalks, curb ramps, pedestrian push buttons and other pedestrian needs.


The city of Bellingham is taking steps to improve the lives of disabled peoples in the downtown area. The Bellingham City Council voted 7-0 to adopt the “ADA Transition Plan for Pedestrian Facilities in the Public Right of Way” on Monday, April 26, 2021.

The “ADA Transition Plan for Pedestrian Facilities in the Public Right of Way” includes changes to sidewalks, curb ramps, pedestrian push buttons and other pedestrian needs. This plan was detailed in the “Mobility for All” report made by the ADA Transition Plan Advisory Committee to the City Council. Information was gathered from public outreach through open house events, surveys and interactive websites to identify public needs.

“The plan described accessibility barriers encountered by individuals with disabilities and identifies priorities for moving those barriers and recommended actions to ensure pedestrian facilities are all accessible to all community members,” Council Member Michael Lilliquist said as he moved to approve the plan at the Monday evening council meeting.

According to the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), the city of Bellingham is required to create a transition plan to bring all public facilities up to Title II standards ADA access. The city worked with the Transpo Group to begin the development of this plan in 2019, and it was presented to the City Council on March 22. While there is not a specific project start date yet listed, the project will be laid out in a six-year removal plan.

“Feedback during the public outreach process pointed to the difficulty and confusion many in the community experience when trying to reach the city to report an ADA issue,” according to the “Mobility for All” report.

Along with issues in reporting community disability concerns, the city also identified a need to review the design standards of a variety of sites, including accessibility of private businesses, medical facilities, lack of sidewalks, barriers not necessarily related to physical structures, sandwich boards on sidewalks, crosswalk activation, signal-controlled intersections, consistent design and build of curb ramps and roundabouts.

“Standards change for the measurement standards in terms of slope, percent grades and all that,” City Council ADA Coordinator Kim Brown said. “What we want to do now is an updated assessment of all our facilities to make sure that they’re meeting correct standards.”

There is limited information on Bellingham’s current curb ramp and sidewalk conditions; the last data  gathered was in 2015. The “Mobility for All” report states that around 62% of total curb ramps measured at that time were found to be noncompliant with ADA guidelines. According to Brown, an updated assessment of public right of ways will be done in 2021.

Moving forward with the adoption of the plan, Brown hopes to begin incorporating public facilities such as City Hall into the plan in the future as there are many issues not yet addressed.

“Through the public outreach process, several other policies/practices were identified as potential barriers to access,” according to the “Mobility for All” report. “These include parking and sidewalk use, particularly in the downtown area. Parking and sidewalk use policies were not evaluated as part of this plan but are listed below to inform future efforts.”

The transition plan will implement the necessary changes in three steps, as laid out in the “Mobility for All” document. First, the ADA Transition Plan Advisory Committee decided which facilities to prioritize for changes. They then had to evaluate a cost estimate at the planning level in order to develop the resources necessary for removing the city barriers. Next, a schedule was proposed according to the financial resources utilized by the city of Bellingham for barrier removal efforts. Details regarding each individual facility were not collected during the creation of this plan, making it impossible to calculate an actual total plan cost based on facility details. However, the steps taken thus far will help The City Council and ADA Transition Plan Advisory Committee inform future funding for barrier removal and transition plans.

“Hopefully we’ll be looking more towards the future for maybe setting up another ongoing commission to support this work further,” Council Member Lisa Anderson said.