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After Lawsuit, Pelham to Make Changes at City Park

Neal Wagner July 21, 2011

Published 5:56pm Tuesday, July 12, 2011

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By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Pelham officials must bring parts of Pelham City Park up to the standards of Americans With Disabilities Act, after the city recently settled a lawsuit brought by a Fairfield resident.

The lawsuit was filed in May 2010 in U.S. District Court by Fairfield resident D’Wanna Williams, and claimed several areas of City Park, which is between U.S. 31 and Bearden Road, did not meet ADA standards.

Williams was involved in an automobile crash in the past, and is now a paraplegic, said Edward Zwilling, a Birmingham attorney who represented Williams in the case.

“She had issues, not just with Pelham, but with other parks as well,” Zwilling said.

In the suit Williams filed against the city, she claimed the park did not have van-accessible parking, the bathroom entry doors were too heavy, handicap-accessible signage was not posted at the bathrooms, there were not accessible paths of travel to all parts of the park and the grab bars in the men’s and women’s toilet rooms was too short.

Williams also said the mirror in the women’s bathroom was too high, the flush handle in the women’s toilet room was not wheelchair-accessible and other bathroom-related issues.

Zwilling said the lawsuit came about after Williams visited the park and experienced difficulty accessing and utilizing all parts of the park.

“The way the ADA is set up, nobody really enforces it. If you have a disability and you encounter a problem, the law gives you the right to file a lawsuit,” Zwilling said.

As a result of Pelham’s out-of-court settlement with Williams, the city agreed to bring the items listed in the lawsuit up to code by July 1, 2012. The city also agreed to pay Williams’ $7,000 in legal fees.

“There is no money as far as damages or anything like that,” Zwilling said. “She just wanted to make sure the park was brought up to ADA standards.”

“Anytime you tear up stuff and repave it, it can get expensive,” Pelham Mayor Don Murphy said of the park’s current sidewalks. “We are going to do much of the work ourselves, which will cut down on the cost.”

According to court records, Williams has filed similar lawsuits against several other area cities, including Helena and Pleasant Grove.

“We worked out an agreement and we settled out of court, so we are happy about that,” Murphy said.