The Path to Accessible Streets

April 04, 2024

The Path to Accessible Streets


Many small towns, parishes and municipalities in Louisiana with their quaint charm and close-knit communities, present unique challenges when it comes to ensuring accessible streets for all. To best serve all the members of a community, it is important to both understand and adhere to ADA compliance. However, the path towards making small towns, parishes and municipality infrastructure fully accessible can feel daunting, especially with limited budgets. The goal of this article is to provide you a roadmap through the process, from assessing current infrastructure to developing a financing strategy and ensuring ongoing maintenance.

Understanding the Basics of ADA Compliance

The bedrock of equal access and nondiscrimination for people with disabilities lies in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), enacted in 1990. Title II of the ADA particularly holds public entities responsible for providing accessibility in all programs, services, and activities. How this translates to small town infrastructure, includes making public streets and sidewalks accessible for all.

At a minimum, ADA compliance for small towns, parishes, and municipalities in Louisiana means:

  1. Installation of elements that facilitate access for individuals who use wheelchairs, walkers, or other mobility aids
  2. Unobstructed sidewalks and/or pathways of minimum width that cater to safe and easy passage
  3. Ensuring that pedestrian crossings are user-friendly and accessible for people of all abilities including those who are blind, deaf and hard of hearing
  4. Creating accessible parking spaces with adjacent access aisles to allow individuals with disabilities to transfer safely in and out of vehicles

Understanding the ADA and its implications on street compliance may seem complex, but with a systematic approach to evaluating current infrastructure and mapping the necessary enhancements, it can be achieved. Remember, the underlying spirit of the ADA is about fostering inclusion and equal opportunities for all, and this is what drives the journey towards compliance.

Assessing The Current Infrastructure

Before a small town or municipality embarks on an ADA compliance journey, a comprehensive evaluation of the existing infrastructure (typically conducted through site reconnaissance and field measurements) is critical. Assessing the compliance of existing infrastructure are typically driven by national design guidelines provided in the ADA Standards for Accessible Design and Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG), Public Right-of-Way Accessibility Guidelines (PROWAG), and Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). If this is alphabet soup is a bit overwhelming, don’t worry - lets breakdown exactly what those agencies are evaluating:

  • Sidewalks
  • Pedestrian crossings
  • Public pathways
  • Existing ramps
  • Sidewalk surfaces
  • Sidewalk widths
  • Cross slope
  • Current walk signals; timing and audio cues
  • Parking lots

Having a clear understanding of the ADA design guidelines makes it easier to pinpoint locations where existing facilities, similar to the ones listed above, may be out of ADA compliance Making repairs to non-compliant facilities can sometimes impact other existing structures. Therefore, as part of the field assessment, items such as visible utilities, trees, furniture, posts, signs, kiosks, mailboxes, landscaping, and building facades are also identified.

The result of this thorough assessment will shed light on the level of accessibility and pinpoint high-priority areas that require immediate attention and improvement. This evaluation will help to create the northstar for what an ADA compliant infrastructure looks like.

Planning Considerations for Pedestrians

Incorporating ADA compliant features along roadway corridors and pedestrian crossings requires planning to ensure they cater to all individuals, regardless of their mobility levels. When thinking about the individuals who your town supports, it is those who may be in wheelchairs, individuals with physical disabilities, visual impairments and/or hearing loss. The following five items are critical to supporting these individuals and adhering to ADA compliance:

  1. Accessible pedestrian crossing including curb ramps that facilitate movement for those using wheelchairs or other mobility aids
  2. Tactile paving surfaces which are crucial for individuals with visual impairments and alert pedestrians when they are approaching a pedestrian crossing and help to navigate their path safely
  3. Accessible pedestrian signals that feature audio cues and easy-to-reach push buttons ensures that individuals with visual or hearing impairments can safely cross streets.
  4. Timing of pedestrian signals with extended pedestrian crossing times supports those who require more time to cross, thus fostering a sense of security and ease
  5. Accessible parking spaces should be specifically marked and strategically located, with the dimensions and slopes of these adhering to ADA standards, ensuring that they are easily accessible and usable for individuals with various disabilities

These ADA compliance requirements do more than offer structural accommodations; they communicate a commitment to creating an inclusive community. So how does a town begin to bring these elements into fruition? By creating a plan and budget.

Developing a Budget and Funding Strategy for ADA Compliance

The financial aspect of ADA street compliance along streets and highways can pose a substantial challenge for small towns, parishes and municipalities in Louisiana, with both initial modification costs and continuous maintenance expenses. The cornerstone of effective budgeting, however, is understanding urgency, relevance and prospective timeline.

One-Time Costs: Installing curb ramps, enhancing pedestrian signals, or modifying sidewalks for increased accessibility may be a bit overwhelming at first glance. These changes, while crucial for initial compliance, are usually one-time costs. Formulating a budget for the one-time and then ongoing spend will help manage overall costs. Prioritize areas that pose the most significant accessibility barriers or regions frequently used by citizens with disabilities. Begin modifications in these areas to make the most immediate impact.

Ongoing Costs: Remember that ADA street compliance along streets and highways are an ongoing commitment; therefore, budgets should also take into consideration future expenses. This includes costs related to maintenance, repairs, and potential upgrades to keep the town's infrastructure in line with evolving ADA standards. Many small towns, parishes and municipalities in Louisiana cannot enact all the necessary changes at once due to financial constraints; and that is okay. Focus on making steady progress towards ADA compliance, one project at a time.

Funding Sources: There are a plethora of funding sources and creative means by which to implement an ADA compliance strategy in your small town or municipalities. Choosing to work with an expert who knows the financial landscape will ensure you’ve maximized all potential funding avenues. Below are some of the options that an expert might explore:

Local Taxes or Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) are some of the most common and most used ways to support ADA compliance

Federal and State Grants specifically allocated for such improvements included programs like the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) designed to help communities with various development needs, including ADA compliance

Budget Earmarking is a strategic approach that identifies a specific portion of the town's annual budget for ADA compliance; effectively integrating it into regular infrastructure investment

Fundraising is a means to engage the community in the process of achieving ADA compliance while fostering a sense of ownership and commitment amongst town residents (examples: local events, crowdfunding, or donations from local businesses)

Low-cost loans may be access from The Department of Transportation's Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program and provides loans with flexible terms for various infrastructure projects, including those related to ADA compliance

ROI: Striving for ADA compliance means a small town is signaling their respect and consideration for all citizens, which in turn strengthens the fabric of the community. When every resident matters it helps enhance the town's reputation, making it a more attractive place to live, work and visit. This type of infrastructure is an investment in the town's future, laying the groundwork for a thriving, inclusive community.

Risks: Importantly, achieving ADA street compliance protects small towns from potentially expensive legal action. Non-compliance may lead to costly lawsuits, straining the resources of small towns, parishes and municipalities in Louisiana. Proactive compliance efforts, therefore, serve as a safeguard against such risks.

Engaging The Community in ADA Compliance Efforts

Inclusivity extends beyond physical accessibility; it also includes actively involving residents in a town's ADA compliance journey. Creating open channels of communication and collaboration and encourages a sense of community ownership and understanding.

One creative idea is to establish an ADA advisory committee. Include individuals with disabilities on this committee to provide valuable insights into the real-world challenges and needs of this demographic. Their personal experiences will guide decision-making, ensuring compliance efforts address actual needs and not just theoretical ones.

Transparency and visibility are also key in garnering community support. Publicize the town's efforts towards ADA street compliance. Share the journey - from the assessment of existing infrastructure, the proposed modifications, to the execution of plans and regular maintenance. This can also involve sharing the financial aspects, including how you're allocating funds and the sources of these funds.

Feedback loops are another critical component. This can be through town hall meetings, suggestion boxes, online surveys, or social media platforms. Make sure there are avenues for residents to voice their opinions, concerns, or suggestions. This two-way communication not only allows you to gather feedback but also gives residents the assurance that their voices are heard and valued.

Celebrate milestones at each step toward ADA compliance. Recognizing and celebrating these achievements builds momentum and reinforce the positive impacts of the small town or municipality's efforts. Whether it's the installation of a new curb ramp, the completion of an accessible pedestrian crossing, or securing a grant for further enhancements; these successes deserve recognition. Celebrate these milestones to foster a sense of pride and shared accomplishment among residents of your Louisiana small town, parish or municipality.

Ongoing ADA Compliance and Maintenance

The journey to ADA street compliance doesn’t end once modifications are in place. Maintaining this compliance is an enduring commitment that requires regular attention and upkeep. This necessitates an effective plan for consistent maintenance of a town's sidewalks, ramps and crossings.

Initiating a routine inspection schedule is a vital first step. Regularly examining all public pathways and pedestrian crossings for wear and tear, and addressing any damage promptly, can help avoid larger, more costly repairs down the line. Whether it's a cracked sidewalk, a malfunctioning pedestrian signal, or a worn-out curb ramp, issues should be identified and resolved as quickly as possible.

Keeping meticulous records of all ADA-related efforts is equally important. A well-documented history of compliance efforts, including infrastructure modifications and maintenance work, can serve as valuable evidence of the town's dedication to accessibility. Not only does this demonstrate an ongoing commitment to an inclusive community, but it can also be beneficial in case of any potential ADA-related complaints or legal challenges.


Reaching ADA compliance is one step on the journey, but small towns, parishes and municipalities in Louisiana need to continually work to uphold the compliance as well. Ensuring that the infrastructure remains welcoming and accessible for all residents, regardless of their abilities or mobility levels is an ever evolving landscape. This proactive approach towards maintenance and compliance reinforces a culture of inclusion and allows your community to thrive and grow.

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