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November 4, 2015
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Adopting Accessibility Standards

What makes for a "livable community?" GO TO 2040, the comprehensive regional plan for northeastern Illinois, envisions a region with a dynamic economy, abundant open spaces, a strong transportation network, and attractive housing options. Yet that vision is only livable if it is inclusive and accessible. Therefore, CMAP helps municipalities in the seven-county region plan for accessibility in land use, housing, and transportation.  In celebration of the Americans with Disabilities Act's (ADA) 25th Anniversary, CMAP is partnering with ADA25 Chicago to highlight planning policies, projects and programs that are improving accessibility in the Chicago region. This is the fourth in a series of posts on aspects of accessibility. The first post described advances and challenges in accessibility, the second described the history of national accessibility standards, and the third described how a community can assess its own accessibility.

Through CMAP's Local Technical Assistance (LTA) program, CMAP is helping communities create local plans that integrate recognized best practices, such as the U.S. Access Board's Public Rights-of-Way Access Guidelines (PROWAG) to improve a municipality's sidewalk and street-crossing network. Additionally, CMAP offers planning guidance, such as the Complete Streets Toolkit, which promotes streets that are accessible to all anticipated roadway users, regardless of their age, abilities, or mode of travel.

While "accessibility" within the context of the ADA focuses on accommodating individuals with disabilities, updating local built environment standards to promote accessibility can benefit a much wider network of users. For example, ramp accommodations for a wheelchair might also help parents with children in strollers, closed captioning requirements might be intended to help the deaf, but might also benefit others with less severe hearing impairments. Below are some examples of local projects that CMAP planners have helped or are helping develop that are advancing accessibility within our region.

  1. Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan for South Elgin
    The Village of South Elgin's Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan was focused on bicycle and pedestrian mobility, but it also included an ADA infrastructure report that highlighted how easy it is to overlook obstacles that can make an entire route impassable. For example, a ½-inch tripping hazard on a sidewalk can challenge pedestrian mobility; these hazards must be ground down to a level surface or replaced completely in order to restore accessibility. The ADA Infrastructure Report looked for tripping hazards on sidewalks, and also assessed curb ramps, pedestrian crossings and other facilities around three local parks. The report was intended to serve as a starting point for South Elgin to undertake a more comprehensive self-evaluation of its local accessibility in order to prepare a full Transition Plan, as mandated by the ADA.
     
  2. UIC Multimodal Plan
    When working with UIC through CMAP's LTA program to create a Multimodal Transportation Plan, planners noted that while laws like the ADA focus on the needs of people with disabilities, there are many benefits to the rest of the population: a fully accessible system can also better serve a teacher with a temporary broken leg or a parent pushing a stroller and businesses loading and unloading goods. In surveying UIC's transportation networks, planners documented in the Existing Conditions Report barriers to access and gaps in service which obstructed campus mobility.
     
  3. Complete Streets and Trails Plan for South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association (SSMMA)/South Council of Mayors
    This update to the 2008 SSMMA Bicycle Plan will extend the conversation around accessibility from cycling to include pedestrian and non-motorized access to transit. The plan will also identify priority regional corridors and make planning-level recommendations for improving pedestrian conditions and access to public transit along them. The final phase of the planning process will be to identify several communities where a Complete Streets policy would be desirable.
     
  4. Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan for Arlington Heights
    Arlington Heights, with the help of its Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission (BPAC), has adopted a Complete Streets policy, and through CMAP's LTA program is creating a forward-looking, comprehensive plan for bicycle and pedestrian travel within the Village and to nearby major destinations. The plan incorporates current best practices and innovative approaches; emphasizes connections with neighboring communities and regional destinations; and addresses safety, mobility, and access issues.
     
  5. Village of Park Forest Unified Development Ordinance
    What is the appropriate width for a sidewalk, the most traversable grade for a driveway, and how does a municipality ensure development meets accessible standards? Ordinances are one of the principal references guiding development of towns, villages and cities and so to ensure that these rules are encouraging best practices, CMAP is working with the Village of Park Forest to update municipal regulation so that it fosters accessibility. From reducing driveway widths, to adjusting sidewalk grade, the update will ensure the Village of Park Forest's built environment is in line with PROWAG.

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