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Saturday, February 27, 2016

Pyramid Group Fails To Curb ADA Compliance






© 2016 Luke T. Bush

PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY – Feb. 27, 2016


What was Robert Poulin’s reaction when he heard the news?

Elation.

As Executive Director of the North Country Center for Independence (NCCI) Robert advocates for the rights of the disabled community.   Despite the fact the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted 25 years ago he still struggles with noncompliance issues with local governmental and private entities.  Decisions, sometimes negative, aren’t heard until months, even years, later.  But patience can lead to good news.

January 2013.  NCCI followed up on a complaint regarding equal accessibility at Champlain Centre Mall, a shopping center owned by Pyramid Management Group in the Plattsburgh township. 

For "safety reasons" the mall management blocked some curb cuts (ramp ways) by filling them in with concrete, converting them back to regular curbs.  This meant less access points for customers who were disabled.

Even for an able-bodied person caution is needed when stepping over a curb. But the difficulty is much greater for someone using wheelchair, cane or walker. What is only a few inches high to the able-bodied becomes an obstruction or hazard for people in the disabled community.  Some may suffer injury when dealing with a curb.  

One wonders how the elimination of curb cuts promotes "safety."

NCCI tried to resolve the issue locally with the mall management and Plattsburgh Town officials. The other side listened to Robert and NCCI Accessibility Consultant John Farley but remained adamant there was no violation.

In an email response Robert explains: 

“The town did not feel that there was a specific code violation. Another words, there aren’t necessarily rules on how many curb cuts a big building like the mall has to have. Pyramid was advised by a for profit arm of United Spinal Association, a disability rights organization with a national reputation. Why United Spinal took the position they did will always be a mystery to me, but they essentially gave Pyramid cover.”

The next step was to file a complaint with the New York State Office of the Attorney General.

In a recent news release NCCI announced that the AG ruled in its favor.  Not only does Champlain Centre Mall must comply but other shopping centers owned by Pyramid statewide must follow ADA rules.

Robert: “Just one of the things that Pyramid must now do is rewrite their lease agreements to ensure that all merchants who rent from them comply with the ADA...that is very significant, it is incredible.”

Robert recommends people in the disabled community to file complaints when they encounter problems:

“We encourage people to call us when they encounter barriers in the community. We’ll try to negotiate a change, and if that fails, we’ll file a complaint on people’s behalf. Change doesn’t happen overnight though, it took 3 years to get this result and things may not always turn out this positive.”

NCCI’s recent victory against a major corporation proves positive change can be achieved.  It’s a matter of making your voice heard.

And patience.

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