Tall order: Pay station access arrives for all Pittsburghers

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Accessibility should not be an afterthought.

Sadly, 24 years after the Americans with Disabilities Act became the law of the land, the Pittsburgh Parking Authority installed its new parking pay stations at a height that could not be reached by drivers who use wheelchairs.

Under the ADA, facilities that are open to the public are supposed to be accessible to all, with rules that cover updating older features as well as constructing new ones. In the case of parking meetings, the operative parts — coin slots, buttons and readers for credit cards — are supposed to be no higher than 48 inches.

But when Debra Stemmler, a University of Pittsburgh research specialist who uses a wheelchair, parked at a metered space last September, she could not reach to pay. Although she left a note on her car’s dashboard explaining the problem, she was ticketed anyway. That led her to file a federal lawsuit, which the parking authority says it is close to settling, with plans to modify the meters already in the works.

Cale America, the company that was awarded a $7 million contract in 2012 to install and maintain hundreds of the pay stations, is altering the devices and Cale is expected to cover the cost of the change. Better late than never, but it seems this problem could have easily been avoided in the first place.

For individuals with physical disabilities, everyday activities can be challenging, whether it’s because intersections with curb cuts are few and far between or because elevators are tucked into back corners while escalators are placed in convenient locations.

No one really likes to pay for parking, but soon the drivers who previously could not reach city meters will be able to have the same access as everyone else.

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