Philadelphia adds new amenities to make City Hall more accessible to all

The city’s ADA Unit was created in 2022 to accomplish as many low- or no-cost corrective actions as possible from the ADA Transition Plan.

Adrienne Ewing and Susanne Erb stand beside a new ADA compliant sign in Philadelphia City Hall.

Adrienne Ewing, left, director of ADA compliance for the city and Susanne Erb point out one of the new high contrast signs. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

Philadelphia’s City Hall and some other city buildings are now more accessible for people with disabilities.

The installation of new tactile signs, grab bars in restrooms, and other upgrades will help the nearly 17% of Philadelphia residents who are living with a disability. That’s one of the highest rates of residents with disabilities among large cities, according to the American Community Survey.

Philadelphia’s ADA Unit was created in 2022 to accomplish as many low- or no-cost corrective actions as possible from the ADA Transition Plan. On Wednesday, city leaders celebrated the completion of that work in City Hall.

The city got a $300,000 grant from the Operations Transformation Fund to support the funding and installation of ADA compliant signage and corrective actions, including the addition of grab bars in ADA restrooms, lowering mirrors and soap and towel dispensers that are too high for wheelchair access on the wall, and reducing door speeds.

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Over 600 tactile, high contrast signs have been installed in City Hall, with room numbers printed in braille.

“Everybody can observe them in the way that makes sense to them,” said Susanne Erb, an advocate for disability rights. “They are perceivable for people in terms of high contrast. They’re perceivable for anybody. They’re perceivable for people who use wheelchairs. They’re perceivable for people who are blind but are not Braille readers.”

Patricia Sanford is the city’s consultant on the project. She said there is much more work to do to make all city buildings better, such as in the city’s Free Library system.

“We visited 60 sites, there are 107 door adjustments, we need 150 exit signs and 97 grab bars,” Sanford said.

Patricia Sanford speaks at a podium.
City Consultant Patricia Sanford speaks on the ADA upgrades. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

“The door adjustments are designed to close doors slower to make sure people using a walker or wheelchair have the ability to enter a building, or a restroom without the door closing on them. The exit signs are at a level that people in a wheelchair or who are sightless can feel them instead of up high where they are invisible to many.”

The city plans to evaluate recreation centers and other facilities to determine what more is needed to bring them up to acceptable standards.

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