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Woman in wheelchair says parking meters too tall, sues parking authority

| Thursday, May 8, 2014, 5:59 p.m.

A Hampton woman who uses a wheelchair says she could not reach the button controls on one of Pittsburgh's electronic parking kiosks and ended up getting a parking ticket.

Irritation became determination when she couldn't find an accessible parking space near the city's parking court on Fourth Avenue, Downtown.

“I couldn't get to the court to fight the ticket,” said Debra J. Stemmler, 53, a research specialist at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

Stemmler on Thursday filed a federal class-action lawsuit on behalf of all wheelchair users against the Pittsburgh Parking Authority, seeking an injunction that would require the authority to bring the height of its kiosks into compliance with federal disability access standards.

David Onorato, the authority's executive director, could not be reached for comment.

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires all the controls and displays on the kiosks to be no more than 48 inches or 4 feet off the ground.

When Stemmler parked on Centre Avenue near UPMC Shadyside on Sept. 14, she reports she was confronted with a kiosk whose controls measured 52 inches off the ground. She started measuring other kiosks in Oakland and Downtown. All exceeded the 4-foot limit.

Linda Judson, the authority's chairwoman until she resigned in December because she was moving to Beaver County, said the height issue was not brought up when the authority decided to install the kiosks.

“I'm not aware that was ever an issue,” she said.

The authority paid $7 million to Cale America Inc. of Tampa to install the kiosks. Judson said the authority expected the company to know whether its equipment met all state and federal regulations.

A Cale representative could not be reached for comment.

Stemmler said she started talking with the authority and the city's ADA coordinator about the issue in October. Richard Meritzer, the ADA coordinator, could not be reached for comment.

The authority dismissed her ticket and says it's in the process of correcting the problem, but won't provide details, Stemmler said.

About six weeks ago, authority officials told her that they had brought some of the kiosks in Oakland and the North Side into compliance.

“They said they were making changes, but they wouldn't give me specific meters to look at,” Stemmler said.

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-325-4301 or bbowling@tribweb.com.

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