NY College under fire from DOJ for failing to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act

A College in New York has come under fire from the Department of Justice for failing to comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

ithaca-college-sign11

According to The Ithacan, the Office of Civil Rights visited Ithaca College in 2009 and as a result Ithica was cited as not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act standards in 16 areas. Nancy Pringle, vice president and general counsel of legal affairs told the paper that the school received a final list of updates in August of 2014. A year later, Ithica initiated an agreement with the Office of Civil Rights, outlining potential solutions to the problems, and were granted two years to implement the solutions.

According to Pringle the following buildings on campus were cited as non-compliant:

    Roy H. Park Hall
    Smiddy Hall
    Alumni Hall
    Peggy Ryan Williams Center
    Ryan Center for Business
    Williams Hall
    Center for Natural Sciences
    Rothschild Place
    Egbert Hall/Campus Center
    Fitness Center
    Whalen Center
    Center for Health Sciences
    Garden Apartments
    Boothroyd Hall and
    All parking lots

Pringle told the paper that the majority of the areas cited as not compliant with the ADA regulations included restrooms, electric door openers and the weight of doors which she said had to be completed by Jan. 31, 2016, under the agreement. She identified renovations to the parking lots as the most expensive changes needed under the agreement, noting that they were expected to be completed by 2017.

Accessology, an accessibility consulting business located in McKinney, Texas said sidewalks and parking lots are often overlooked as municipalities review their compliance under the ADA. Accessology has been warning schools and Universities that the Department of Justice is systematically reviewing public and private entities to see if they are compliant under the ADA. Compliance is expected now that is has been 25 years after Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law.

In addition to buildings and parking lots, Accessology said that website compliance is also overlooked when it comes to the ADA. A review of a 2013 settlement the DOJ reached with Louisiana Tech University and the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System to remedy alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The settlement resolved allegations that the University violated the ADA by using a version of an online learning product that was inaccessible to a blind student.

According to the DOJ, the student’s lack of access to the course materials persisted nearly one month into the University quarter, at which point the student was so far behind in his coursework that he felt compelled to withdraw from the course. The settlement also resolved allegations that in a subsequent course, the same student was not provided accessible course materials for in-class discussion or exam preparation in a timely manner. Under the agreement, the university agreed to adopt a number of disability-related policies, including the requirement to deploy learning technology, web pages and course content that is accessible in accordance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA standard in the university setting. The university also agreed to make existing web pages and materials created since 2010 accessible and to train its instructors and administrators on the requirements of the ADA. In addition, a total of $23,543 in damages was secured by the University and board for the student.

In addition to DOJ reviews, Accessology said that Universities are frequently the target of private lawsuits filed under the ADA. In 2014, the University of Cincinnati and Youngstown State University , the University of Montana,Maricopa Community College District and Penn State University in 2013 entered into agreements with the US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights to bring their technology in compliance with the ADA.

DOJ Disability Rights

In addition to expensive private litigation, Kristi Avalos, president and CEO of Accessology points out that all of the Federal Agencies are now prepared to withhold Federal Funding and grants for Title II entities (public entities such as municipalities, school districts and universities) for not having their ADA required “Transition Plans” in place. This requires an experienced consultant to review not only buildings and parking areas, but all programs, services and activities (PSA) as well.

After 25 years there are few excuses for non-compliance. This can only be ignored for so long,”
she stated.

(NOTE: If you are a public or private entity including a University, college, or school district and have questions regarding your compliance under the Americans with Disabilities Act(ADA) or if you are in need of an ADA Transition Plan, contact Accessology here www.accessology.com )

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