Paralympian Tiana Tozer sues Portland after 'dangerous' homeless tents block wheelchair access to sidewalks

The lawsuit criticizes the city officials for the inaccessibility of sidewalks for people with mobility issues

Paralympian Tiana Tozer sues Portland after 'dangerous' homeless tents block wheelchair access to sidewalks
Paralympian Tiana Tozer has filed a lawsuit against Portland (Twitter/Tiana Tozer, Youtube/KGW8)
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PORTLAND, OREGON: Residents of Portland with physical disabilities have come together to file a lawsuit against the city, alleging that the city has failed to "maintain its sidewalks clear of debris and tent encampments, which is necessary to make its sidewalks readily accessible to people with mobility disabilities." They have also claimed that this violates the Americans with Disabilities Act

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The class-action federal lawsuit against Portland, Oregon was filed on Tuesday, September 6, 2022, by 10 plaintiffs. The lead plaintiff for the 55-page lawsuit is Tiana Tozer, a Paralympic medalist. The suit claims that she "frequently finds herself having to alter her routes to maneuver around tent encampments in the Lloyd District and in Downtown Portland."

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Homeless encampments across Portland are on the rise (Youtube/KGW8)
Homeless encampments across Portland are on the rise (Youtube/KGW8)

The federal class-action lawsuit criticizes the city officials for the inaccessibility of sidewalks, which are also "dangerous, and unsanitary" as they have been "blocked by tent encampments and attendant debris." This poses serious challenges to residents of the city with mobility issues, who must face such hurdles daily. The ten plaintiffs have attacked the city for permitting the unrestrained and rampant proliferation of homeless encampments. 

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The 54-year-old lead plaintiff is a two-time Paralympic medallist, having won a bronze in Barcelona (1992) and a silver in Atlanta (1996). She was hit by a drunk driver when she was 20, leading to a permanent disability that hinders her mobility. In the early 1990s, she worked as a congressional intern in order to push for the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Now, challenging the city and filing a lawsuit under the same law, Tozer alleges that she often finds herself maneuvering "in the street because the sidewalks are completely blocked by tent encampments." 

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The nine other plaintiffs are similar people with disabilities that cause issues with mobility. Most of them are either dependent on wheelchairs or electric scooters, while there are others who must utilize a cane to overcome their impaired vision. 

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The lawsuit includes images of the multiple sidewalks across the city, cluttered with debris and waste, while tents of the homeless spread around. Notably, the number of people who have taken to living and sleeping on the streets has increased by manifolds since the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the Daily Mail, a survey conducted in January found that 5,228 people in Multnomah County were homeless, including 3,057 who were sleeping on the street.

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After massive outrage and criticism, Mayor Ted Wheeler has banned encampments near dangerous roadways under an emergency order, which further incorporated a ban last month on sidewalk tents along roads that lead to schools and educational institutions. However, people say that such measures have had little effect, as the uprooted encampments quickly sprang back up along the same sidewalks. 



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