Persons with Disabilities

Wheelchair existing bus

Sidewalk Accessibility

Sidewalk width. The Americans with Disabilities Act mandates a minimum width of three feet of unobstructed sidewalk passageway. Guidelines proposed in 2011 call for a four-foot minimum for new sidewalks, and Cambridge has adopted this minimum. Sidewalks less than five feet wide are required to include a five-by-five-foot passing space every two hundred feet.

Most people have at least a temporary disability at some time in their lives, so making sidewalks usable by people with disabilities improves them for everyone. Options for widening sidewalks and narrowing streets are considered whenever roads are reconstructed. Bicycle facility improvements are also considered.

On streets with little foot or automobile traffic, decisions about changing the width of sidewalks are made on a street-by-street basis, taking into account cost, drainage, utility locations, heights of thresholds along the sidewalk, vegetation, and other factors. In general, sidewalks on quiet residential streets can be narrower than sidewalks on busy commercial streets.

Mailboxes, signs, posts, benches, bus shelters, trash cans, signal control boxes, and other sidewalk furniture should be placed in the curb zone so they do not interfere with pedestrian traffic or with the ability of pedestrians, including children and people in wheelchairs, to see cars and be seen by motorists at intersections.

It is also important that snow removal be kept in mind when deciding how much space to allot to cars and how much to give sidewalks. In commercial areas, wide sidewalks are usually important for pedestrians to feel comfortable. People tend to avoid the edges close to the street or to abutting buildings. In general the travel zone should be at least 8 feet wide, wide enough for two pairs of pedestrians to pass each other comfortably.

City sidewalks are important social spaces as well as travel routes, and space for people to stop and talk or to sit or stand and watch must also be factored into calculations of optimal sidewalk widths, especially in commercial areas. Nonetheless, it is not the case that sidewalks should always be as wide as possible.

Pedestrian Ramps

ADA and AAB regulations require pedestrian ramps at all street crossings. Pedestrian access routes, including temporary routes where there is construction, should all be accessible. Curb ramps must be made of concrete and must have detectable warning surfaces (also known as truncated domes) for people who are visually impaired. While all major sidewalk reconstruction includes installing ramps, the City also has a program to reconstruct shorter segments in poor condition in high priority areas, which include areas that the disabilities commission identifies as priorities.

Transit

The T has improved access to its services with wheelchair-accessible buses and elevators at many stations.

To plan a wheelchair-accessible trip on the T, use the website’s trip planner.

The T also operates The Ride, a door-to-door paratransit service with lift-equipped vehicles.

Information is available on the T’s web site.

Other Services

SCM Community Transportation, a local non-profit, operates Door2Door Transportation, a van service for seniors and persons with disabilities.

  • To find out more or schedule a ride, call 617/625-1191.
  • For an accessible taxicab, call 866/654-1003.

For More Information

For more information, contact Michael Muehe at the Commission for Persons with Disabilities either mmuehe@cambridgema.gov or 617/349-6297.