Road Access for Disabled Americans

Letter to Rodney Slater, Secretary
United States Department of Transportation

June 24, 2000

Dear Secretary Slater,

Speed humps (and other vertical deflection devices) installed on public streets -- experiments encouraged by several of the branches of your Department -- are creating access barriers for disabled people. The problems are significant, ranging from short-term pain that discourages travel to long-lasting pain from injuries requiring medical treatment. The injuries are of the sort can lead to permanent degeneration of existing disabling conditions.

The devices were designed for able-bodied occupants of passenger cars, not for vulnerable persons with disability in paratransit vans or school buses.

Your own Department has published numbers, which point to a problem that should be taken seriously. Burton Stephens' 1986 article, in "Public Roads", based device design on a vertical deflection impact of .69 g to "induce the typical driver to reduce speed." Publications by Urban Mass Transit, in the 1980's, indicate that .3 g is a "high" maximum for wheelchair users. Additionally, the study that Stephens bases his recommendation on, shows that the g-forces exerted upon the passengers of a bus going over the same hump far exceed the .69 g which cause "discomfort" for the average able-bodied passenger.

The figures published by your Department, during the launching of this device, do not account for the additional impacts of jolt and dose. Those also have a greater impact upon those of us who are vulnerable than on the average able-bodied person.

Unfortunately, no matter who we approach and no matter how we protest, the serious negative impact that vertical deflection devices are having on our ability to access our own homes and communities, let alone our right to travel freely, are largely being ignored. The devices continue to be installed. Will you please assure that all agencies under your direction stop sacrificing our need for and right to safe access to public streets as drivers and passengers in motorized vehicles? And, will you please tell us how we can work with your Department to resolve the problem? A timely response will be much appreciated. Thank you.

Emily Wilcox, Berkeley
Karen Craig, Berkeley
Robert Smith, Berkeley


Hand-delivered to Rodney Slater, Secretary, United States Department of Transportation
at the Ed Roberts Campus ceremony, Ashby BART Station, Berkeley, California, June 24, 2000

List of Attachments

Access | Fire & EMS | Engineering