|George Louie weighs over 300 pounds, he says, and when his wheelchair has to roll off an unmodified sidewalk to cross the street, "it's like going off a cliff."
Louie, described variously as a "celebrated" or "notorious" disabled-rights complainant," wants the city of Mountain View to pay $9,000 in damages for not installing sidewalk cutouts at three different intersections that he personally encountered on his wheelchair last year.
Under the auspices of his group, American with Disabilities Advocates, Louie is known to sue large companies and chain stores for their noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Infractions that catch his eye include missing elevators, missing ramps, missing handicapped parking spaces and narrow passages.
A bathroom alone has 95 different possible violations if built after the ADA came into effect in 1990.
Now three Mountain View street intersections are his target: Anza and Velarde avenues, Park Drive and Sonia Way, and Park Drive and Miramonte Avenue. The fine is $1,000 per corner without a cutout.
"I've sued a lot of [cities]," Louie said. "There are cities that have thousands of violations if you run around and look for them with a fine-toothed comb. We're not running around looking for these things, they found us."
Louie says cities often say they don't have money for the cut-outs, though they only cost a few hundred dollars each to build.
As for the $9,000, that money will apparently go straight to Louie. Although it's a class-action lawsuit, and there may be 1,000 others in the city who are wheelchair-bound, Louie is the only one named on the court documents.
He doesn't deny that the money goes back to his group, which he reportedly runs by himself.
Despite the city's violations, Louie says Mountain View is "outstanding" compared to other cities when it comes to having ADA-compliant sidewalk cutouts.
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