As an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) consultant and trainer, I’m discouraged that government entities often don’t take the basic steps to comply with the law.
The most-common mistakes are:
- Assigning an employee who knows nothing about the law to be ADA Coordinator.
- Failing to organize an ADA committee or, if that’s been done, failing to include people with differing disabilities and/or advocates for the disabled.
- Failing to follow up on the committee’s suggestions.
- Not putting together a transition plan.
- Not budgeting for yearly improvements.
- Not training each employee on his responsibilities related to the law.
- Not having a proactive complaint process so action can be taken as needed.
- Not documenting improvements reasonable accommodations, and transition plan updates.
In 1999, the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) began reviewing local and state government accessibility efforts. After the DOJ’s thorough assessment, the public agency signs an agreement that details what must be done to comply.
Since then, Project Civic Access (PCA) has resulted in 218 settlement agreements with 203 localities in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
Some PCA reviews were undertaken in response to complaints filed against the localities; others were initiated by a locality that receives DOJ funding and, under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of disability.
Either way, compliance usually takes several years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to achieve, often overwhelming the agency.
Trust me: They could have avoided this painful experience just by taking initial steps to comply.
I wish I had been brought in to help the agency develop a transition plan, train, and provide ongoing advice so the review could be smoother and the outcome less traumatic.
I’d like your New Year’s resolution to be to write an action plan for addressing the law’s multidisciplinary requirements. If your agency has one, review and update it, if necessary.
Many free resources are available:
- www.ada.gov/pcatoolkit/toolkitmain.htm: Contains a checklist and instructions for becoming accessible.
- www.ada.gov/civiccommonprobs.htm: Provides the first steps for solving common problems at the city and county levels.
- www.ada.gov/smtown.htm: Is an excellent manual for small towns.
- www.ada.gov/civicac.htm: Lists the 218 agencies that have signed settlement agreements related to PCA reviews. Each settlement is posted on the site.
218 is only the number of PCA reviews; www.ada.gov lists other consent decrees that public agencies and private businesses have signed with the DOJ related to specific incidents of discrimination or refusing to improve access for people with disabilities.