Parking pay stations in Pittsburgh being lowered to aid disabled

The Pittsburgh Parking Authority is close to settling a lawsuit filed in May over the height of its electronic parking meters, which are being modified to make them easier to use for people with disabilities, the authority’s contractor says.

The parking authority board voted Thursday to authorize Executive Director David Onorato to settle a lawsuit filed by Debra Stemmler, who uses a wheelchair and claimed the pay stations violated the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

That’s because the meters’ “operable parts,” specifically coin slots and buttons, must be no higher than 48 inches off the ground.

Mr. Onorato would not discuss details of the settlement negotiations, which he said are ongoing.

“I would hope it’s settled very shortly,” he said.

The resolution the board passed Thursday states that although the parking authority has “denied any liability or violation of the ADA,” the plaintiff and the authority “desire to settle the lawsuit to avoid further costs, burdens and distractions of litigation.” The settlement authorization comes with the caveat that the parking authority “incurs no expenses in connection therewith.”

Ms. Stemmler, a research specialist at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, said she had not seen details of the settlement and referred questions to her attorney, R. Bruce Carlson. He could not be reached for comment. Jeff Nethery, director of business development for Cale America, the company that was awarded a $7 million contract in 2012 to install and maintain hundreds of the multi-space pay stations, said they are being modified “to improve accessibility for customers with physical disabilities.”

Mr. Nethery said company representatives met early this year with the Pittsburgh Disability Task Force, which in February approved the authority's plan to make the meters more accessible.

“The process has been under way for several months and many of the pay stations have already been updated. The program will continue until the height of all pay stations has been adjusted,” he said.

Mr. Nethery said the company already provides a full-time local technician to the authority at no cost who will handle the job. “Since the modifications are minor and only involve a minor adjustment to the pedestal height, our local technician will handle and coordinate the changes under the scope of our current agreement,” Mr. Nethery wrote in an email. Mr. Onorato said the parking authority operates about 920 of the multi-space meters.

Robert Zullo:, 412-263-3909 or on Twitter @rczullo.

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