A federal judge yesterday formally approved a deal between advocates for people with mobility problems and Boston, under which the city will install or repair roughly 15,000 access ramps at intersections over the next ten years.
US District Court Judge Richard Stearns had given preliminary approval to the deal in July; at a hearing yesterday, Stearns approved both a construction order requiring the city to install or repair roughly 1,600 ramps a year and payments of $5,000 each to the four people who use wheelchairs who brought the suit. Still to be determined: How much the city will pay the attorneys for the four and the disability-rights groups who had brought the suit.
Stearns rejected a last-minute appeal by William Norkunas, a Florida man who says he makes frequent visits to Boston and who charged that the proposed settlement would violate the rights of all 58 million Americans with disabilities.
In a response, the lawyers for the plaintiffs said their suit was on behalf of people who live or work in or who visit Boston regularly and who require ramps to cross intersections, not everybody in the entire country with any sort of disability and that there was nothing stopping Norkunas from bringing his own suit. They also countered his argument that their prospective fees would take away from any settlement funds meant for members of the class by saying that aside from the one-time payments to the four specific people, nobody would be getting any money and that the city had agreed to the proposed work and schedule regardless of how Stearns ultimately rules on how much they should be reimbursed for their services.
Stearns will now oversee the city's ten years of ramp installation and repair, barring an appeal by Norkunas.