Supreme Court Issues Decision in William Tinker’s Sidewalk Access Case
January 15, 2009 Update
The New Hampshire Supreme Court has issued an unpublished decision in the case of William Charles Tinker v. Town of Tilton.
On October 6, the Supreme Court ruled that closure of the sidewalk to avoid the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a violation of the ADA. In this ruling, the court held that, “the trial court erred in presuming that the seasonal closure of the sidewalk complied with the ADA.” The Court deferred to the US Department of Justice and the Office of Civil Rights of the Federal Highway Administration, which have both established rules that towns must maintain sidewalks in working condition so that they are usable for people with disabilities. All five justices concurred with the decision.
Mr. Tinker uses a scooter to get around town due to his walking disability. He has been forced to drive his scooter in the road on busy Route 3 to get to the store because the sidewalks, though still passable to pedestrians, were not cleared of snow and ice during the winter.
The Disabilities Rights Center is extremely pleased with the Supreme Court’s recognition that the Town of Tilton cannot avoid the important requirements of the ADA by closing a sidewalk instead of making it accessible to everyone.
The case was reversed and remanded and will go back to the Belknap County Superior Court so that the lower court can make its ruling consistent with the Supreme Court’s opinion. The Superior Court issued an order that requires Tilton to maintain the sidewalk.
Tilton, unfortunately, has chosen to appeal this order to the Supreme Court.