Wednesday, August 20, 2014


I am doing some tidying-up, so here is a breif update.

Quite literally, nothing has happened. No one has contacted me. No case number assigned, that I know of. I thought I did a reasonable job making my case. I certainly wnet farther than anyone else I know. I have both pushed AND been extraordinarily patient. Nothing seems to work.

So, I have resigned myself to the reality here. I have done all that I can and more. MCDOT is intractable, and neither I nor anyone else in this County can do anything about that. As for the federal government. well. who knows?

Yes, I am a little bitter, but that eases everyday. It was, after-all, the bitterness that was growing that forced me to drop it and walk away. The fact that I am writing this is proof that I am recovering. It only took a year and six months...

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Last Straw

And so,our story ends here.It took 11 months to get this response from the Federal HighwayAdministration. There isn't much detail here as to what they actually found when they conducted a review, or what this decision is based upon.In any event, this has been an exhausting, depressing, seemingly-unproductive activity. I am thoroughly- drained of any desire to try and find out any more information.

I can only hope that somewhere –  unseen by me or most other residents –  County officials have been compelled to take a closer look at their policies concerning the right-of-way.The problem is, a closer look has been taken before, and nothing was done to improve the situation. There's a lot of talk, but the action is still missing. County and state have amended laws to provide for equal access to the right-of-way by people with disabilities, but these laws are not being enforced - no matter what the letter copied above tells you.

This is been a depressing and painful experience for me personally.As a person with a disability, following this complaint was a massive undertaking, and I'm not certain that it received the consideration that it deserved. I am exhausted and discouraged. Mrs. been both a physically and emotionally painful experience.I have and continue to feel very alone in this. I have received a lot of advice from a lot of people, some of it good, some of it not so good. I've trying to do the right thing, and I gave it my best shot. Now, I'm done

Time to move on.

I will probably post on this blog at least once more, after I've had some time to reflect on the experience. Trying to sum it all up now would probably make it seem more depressing and futile than it actually was. (Let's hope so). Until then, I'd like to ask you to do one thing for me.

On your walks through Montgomery County right-of-way, please consider it your civic duty to take note of broken infrastructure or obstructions and report them to the County as soon as possible. Whether or not you are aware, this is the only way that broken infrastructure and obstructions become known to County departments.Pedestrians in Montgomery County are depending upon you to do your civic duty and report not just safety concerns, but also access concerns

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

stay with it...

Tomorrow marks two full months since I contacted my Congresswoman, Donna Edwards regarding the complaint. I was told that a response usually takes 30-45 business days. I called a specific person in her Silver Spring office - as I was directed to do if I had any questions. That person was not in the office. I'll try again tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Our story so far...

It has been a while since I posted to this blog. Mostly because almost nothing has happened. Since sending my complaint to USDOJ, I have received no correspondence from them. No case number, no contact agent, no information of any kind.

Except one.

As a coincidence of living so close to the seat of government, it turned-out that the head of the Civil Rights Division for USDOJ has a daughter who played on my duaghter's lacrosse team last Spring. I spent the entire season nodding and saying "Hi," but I never sat and talked with him, for fear I would get too worked-up. It was only near the end of the season that I got-up the nerve to walk with him to his car and ask if he could tell me what was going on with my complaint. He was very kind and offered to help. He gave me his card and the next day I emailed him a copy of the complaint with a breif explanation. He returned my email with his assurance that he would forward it to the right person and have them follow-up with me.

That was three months after I filed the complaint. Now it has just passed six months, and still no word of any kind.

I decided to take this time to reflect on the situation, and to see just how much time would pass without any word. I have taken lots of photos and videos, but not posted anything since May 27th, until now.

On September 1st I decided to contact my Representative in Congress. Below is a redacted copy of the release form I sent them. I emailed this along with a copy of the complaint.

On another front, I had been in contact with Nancy Green from Montgomery County. We had emailed about meeting sometime. As we were both busy, we decided to try and schedule something over the summer. AS before, I decided to let things sit for a while to reflect on the situation. Ms. Greene has made no attempt to contact me. I guess I will continue to see just how long Montgomery County intends to ignore me. No one from DOT has had any contact with me since March.

I feel that perhaps this task is too bug for me. I feel like I am wasting my time. I feel frustrated and discouraged. I know things like this take time, but I am weary and I want to lay it down. Unfortunately, that may mean surrendering a part of myself that no one should be expected to give-up. Nothing replaces the feeling of being able to confidentially negotiate through your own neighborhood with dignity -- on your own. The constant fear of being led into a deadly situation strips-away one's dignity. Fear that could so easily be avoided.

But sidewalks have been an afterthought for so long. The people I talk with spend so much time in their cars that they are barely able to understand what I am saying to them. I am one of the most persistent pedestrian advocates in Montgomery County,  What chance does the average pedestrian have of getting through to them? About ZERO.

I am not alone. Everyday I walk by dozens of people just like me. Skipping over topsy-turvy tree boxes. Crossing in the middle of the block because the intersection is too dangerous. Tripping over things sticking-up out of the concrete. Tripping on broken concrete slabs. Walking in the street weeks after a snow storm because the snow was plowed-up off the street and deposited onto the sidewalks. Walking into fire hydrants, utility poles, and guy-wires.

Some are in wheelchairs, some with white canes, some with no car, some with no license. Many of them don't drive at all. They walk or take public transit because that is how they live - without owning a car.. They Bike. These people deserve to be served in the right-of-way just as much as the people flying-by in their personal vehicles. In some areas, they deserve MORE consideration than those in personal vehicles. Yet we suffer the torture of a thousand little cuts. Countless - and un-counted - flaws, barriers, dangers and risks.

How can I continue to live here and give-up on this? Should I just shut-up and start finding a way to get driven everywhere I go? If you have ever had to count on someone else for transportation, then you can imagine how it feels to do it full-time.

That is the story so far.I'll report when I hear from someone --- ANYONE?
It feels an awful lot like I'm losing. I had to scan the document to email to Congresswoman Donna Edwards' office, so I might as well let you see it.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Complaint

Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Discrimination Complaint Form

Complainant:William Smith


City, State and Zip Code: Silver Spring, Maryland 20910

Telephone: Home:

Government, or organization, or institution which you believe has discriminated: Montgomery County Government (Maryland)


Address: Executive Office Building
101 Monroe Street, 2nd Floor

County: Montgomery County

City: Rockville,

State and Zip Code: MD 20850

Telephone Number:

When did the discrimination occur? Date: Ongoing. Began in 1994

Describe the acts of discrimination providing the name(s) where possible of the individuals who discriminated (use space on page 3 if necessary):
Montgomery County Maryland is in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, in that it does not manage the public right-of-way adequately to provide access for me and other disabled people in our community.
Despite my years of effort to work with Montgomery C0ounty officials to reveal the scale and scope of the pedestrian problems, the County refuses to voluntarily bring themselves into compliance with State and Federal laws, or to take the kind of proactive measures needed to make their public right-of-way accessible to everyone, not just to people in vehicles.
There are several parts to my complaint, but they all revolve around Montgomery County’s inadequate management of their public right-of-way.
1. (this point is covered in the complaint to USDOT)The Montgomery County Department of Transportation does not employ an ADA Compliance Officer, does not have a legitimate transition plan, and does not have a self-evaluation method. I believe that these things must happen by law.
2. The Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services does not employ an ADA Compliance Officer, does not have a legitimate transition plan, and does not have a self-evaluation method.
3. Montgomery County spends a disproportionally-small amount on making itself ADA compliant, removing barriers for people with disabilities in the public right-of-way, and enforcing laws equally.
4. The Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services does not adequately enforce Federal, State, and County laws intended to ensure that the public right-of-way remains both safe and accessible during construction projects.
5. The Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs did not comply with ADA guidelines in the design and implementation of pedestrian infrastructure on Fenton St. in Silver Spring. DHCA continues to replace infrastructure in ways that endanger me and other pedestrians.
6. DPS has no effective procedure for dealing with PEPCO and WSSC about utility pole and hydrant replacement. Inspectors have no training or experience in accessibility issues. Public utilities are replacing infrastructure that is in many cases 50-years-old, and leaving the barriers untouched. This forestalls removal of these barriers for another thirty years or more.
7. The Montgomery County Department of Police does not enforce laws equally in the public right-of-way. Deference is given to vehicles in the roadway. Businesses and contractors are allowed to park across sidewalks, completely blocking the way for pedestrians. These situations are often some of the most dangerous.
8. The Montgomery County Department of General Services does not comply with Federal, State, or County law as it undertakes the construction of the Silver Spring Library complex. Random construction often obstructs the public right-of-way, forcing pedestrians into the street with traffic in a confusing setting. Similar situations have occurred at other DGS sites in the past.
9. All of Montgomery County’s rehabilitation and accessibility efforts in the public right-of-way are based on complaint alone. No proactive measures have been taken or are planned to rehabilitate old infrastructure.

Have efforts been made to resolve this complaint through the internal grievance procedure of the government, organization, or institution?

Yes______ No______

If yes: what is the status of the grievance?

Has the complaint been filed with another bureau of the Department of Justice or any other Federal, State, or local civil rights agency or court?

Yes__X____ No______

If yes:

Agency or Court: USDOT # 2012-0081 I filed another complaint with FHWA in 2010.

Contact Person: Gregory Murrill
Division Administrator

Address: 10 S. Howard St. Suite 2450

City, State, and Zip Code: Naltimore, MD 21201

Telephone Number: NA

Date Filed: January 11, 2012

Do you intend to file with another agency or court?

Yes______ No___X___

Agency or Court:


City, State and Zip Code:

Telephone Number:

Additional space for answers:

I offer my blog, entitled Montgomery Sideways as evidence of my efforts and examples of my claims.
In addition, I am keeping a blog on this complaint DOTNADA

I am a person living in Silver Spring Maryland with a disability. I have macular degeneration, and my eyesight is worse than 20/400. My disease is degenerative, and I lose a little more of my eyesight each passing year.

I moved to Silver Spring with my family in 1994 because I was blind. In Silver Spring everything is close together. We bought our home on Sligo Avenue in 1997 for that very reason. It was close to the school, the church, Metro, the library, the corner store, the supermarket, etc. The only thing lacking in the equation – we soon realized – was the infrastructure and some enforcement. In short, the pedestrian infrastructure system was neglected, and walking was a dangerous proposition. As a Father with two kids in a stroller, I found-out just has inaccessible many sidewalks in the county are. I walked in the street many times because I had to.

I began reaching-out to Montgomery County government in 1994. While my contact with them has, at times, been seemingly productive, the real problems persist.

In 2007 I started taking photos of obstructions and dangerous practices I came across while walking and began reporting them to the County and keeping them on a website. In 2009 that website became a blog entitled Montgomery Sideways. Since then, I have taken thousands of photos and submitted more than 200 postings that chronicle the discrimination that I run into – literally – everyday at the hands of a system that is old, neglected, and determined not to change. I hope you will accept this blog as evidence of wrongdoing on Montgomery County’s part. Some of the content of this blog is not directly related to this complaint.

Both Sec 504 and Title II intend to ensure that old infrastructure be replaced with a systemactic way to eliminate barriers. County, State, and Federal laws also mandate that construction sites – both private and those of Montgomery County or their contractors, or third parties, like PEPCO and WSSC – be designed in such a way as to provide continued access for pedestrians and those with disabilities. None of this is not happening.
I cannot count on a consistent open right-of-way. Instead, I am constantly worried that my life is in danger when I walk down the street because of their neglect.

In urban areas of Montgomery County – such as my hometown - more importance should be placed on accessibility in the public space, especially ROW. Infrastructure is very bad in Silver Spring, and such a huge undertaking requires much more than Montgomery County seems politically-willing to give. It is for this reason that I am turning to the State and Federal governments for help. I can’t live here without help that is required by County, State, and Federal laws. Montgomery County must live-up to these obligations, but can’t seem to make that choice on their own. I ask you to insist that they do so in a real and meaningful way starting right now. I ask that you order all public utilities to comply as they practice commerce in public spaces, and that government enforces regulations to their fullest extent, immediately. I ask that you compel Montgomery County government to undertake a full assessment of their current ADA compliance and procedures, and update these immediately.

The government of Montgomery County Maryland, through several of its departments, and with intent, deprives disabled citizens access to the public right-of-way. As a blind person, I am persistently placed in personal jeopardy by the direct actions and inaction of Montgomery County government. Laws are not being enforced, infrastructure is not being properly replaced, contractors and public utilities are not being properly regulated.

These departments include;
Department of Transportation
Department of Police
Department of Permitting Services
Department of Housing and Community Affairs
Department of General Services
Of those listed above, with the exception of the Department of Permitting Services, I have made some attempt to contact them on these issues. In some case I have gone to great lengths to approach and involve Montgomery County officials to take action on these issues. I have tried a number of approaches without much success. I filed a complaint with FWA in 2009. I recently filed another complaint with the US Department of Transportation; I have not had any official word about the course of these previous complaints.

March 1st is the second anniversary of the complaint I filed with FHWA. I have no evidence that anything has changed, other than the word of Montgomery County Pedestrian Safety Coordinator, Jeff Dunckel. The original problems have yet to be finally resolved.

Montgomery County’s management of their public right-of-way is discriminatory.
I I have made every attempt to cooperate with Montgomery County to correct ROW issues. I have attended meetings, offered feedback, served n committees, written Councilmembers, etc. Regardless of my efforts the County’s neglect and mismanagement of their public rights-of-way is a consistent impediment that creates dangerous situations for the public. Montgomery County’s poor management dissuades me from venturing out of my home for fear of being killed or injured while in the public right-of-way.

Signature: _________________________________________

Date: ________________________________

Return to:
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Disability Rights - NYAV
Washington, D.C. 20530


My original intent for this blog was to use it as a tool to develop my argument that Montgomery County is discrimination against people like me - people with disabilities who count primarily on County public rights-of-way. It has been very helpful in that way. I am working on the last draft right now. I plan to send it out tonight.

I had hoped to solicit some feedback through this blog, but most of my conversation on this topic have been in person, over the phone, or by email. I guess that figures. No one wants to go on the record about this, but I have had a lot of quiet consultation with many different people over the years. The pace of advice has quickened during this complaint process in particular. I have made myself available to anyone. I have shared my plans well-ahead and in detail. I have protected sources, gauged my words and actions, and tried to be respectful. I have tried desperately to collaborate with others around this issue. I have spent countless hours of my own time, energy, and money on this cause. I have organized, contributed, aided, advised, supported, and have tried to be straight and honest with everyone.

This complaint is nothing more than my last-ditch effort. I don't expect things to be decided in a few weeks, or even in a couple of years. It will take a lot more work before these wrongs are corrected. There is no magic bullet. It takes awareness, a plan, trained people, leadership, hard work, and some money.

It is important. It is a real presence in the lives of thousand of people. The disabled, the young, the poor, the immigrant, the homeless, the elderly. THE TRANSIT USER. It is a moral imperative, but it is also an economic, health, transportation equity, environmental, quality-of-life issue.

For a County where so many believe that these issues are important, Montgomery County has a terrible record of public right-of-way management. The lack of a clear plan to make the public right-of-way more accessible is the equivalent of saying, "Get in a car and things will be OK. Otherwise - you're on your own."

That's how I feel. On my own. I wrote the words my self. I got advice, but I typed everything on my own. My eyes are bleary. My back is sore. My legs are cramped. My "typing elbow" is killing me. I'm exhausted.

I sure hope this works...