The Justice Department has announced that they have reached an agreement with McLennan County, Texas, after they found the city to be non-compliant under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). According to the DOJ, the county is required to ensure that people with disabilities can take full advantage of the county’s services, programs and activities.
Under the agreement, reached under Title II of the ADA, McLennan County will develop and implement a new county website that is compliant with the web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG) version 2.0; the county will also designate a web accessibility coordinator who will be responsible for coordinating the county’s web accessibility compliance. The county will also ensure that its polling locations are accessible to persons with disabilities. In addition, the county will modify its emergency operations plan to ensure that it is accessible to all persons with disabilities in the event of an emergency. McLennan County will also adopt and implement its Sheriff’s Department Effective Communication Policy for People Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. Finally, the agreement requires the county to ensure that its courthouses, buildings, parking lots, parks and toilet rooms are accessible to persons with disabilities.
Accessology, an accessibility consulting company out of Texas said it has been warning cities, towns, counties and all municipalities that after 25 years since the ADA was signed into law, the DOJ is beefing up their reviews of these entities for full compliance.
Today, city and county leaders, unaware that the ADA addresses more than just access to restrooms and doorway clearances, could be exposing their municipality to a Department of Justice review. According to Kristi Avalos, an accessibility expert and the president and CEO of Accessology, spending millions of dollars without achieving compliance adds to the risk of DOJ involvement. She points out that technology, emergency procedures, signage and hiring processes are among a myriad of areas the ADA also addresses.
A look at a number of settlements from 2015 reveal that the DOJ not only reviewed old and new construction as well as alterations but all programs, services and activities in a vast array of areas including:
- Polling places housed in churches, city hall, community buildings, Veterans and American Legions buildings including parking areas.
- Parks, arenas, aquatic centers, stadiums, pools, sports facilities including fields and golf courses, and coliseums including pavilions, concessions and parking areas.
- Convention centers, memorials and fairgrounds.
- Animal resource centers.
- Community centers, senior centers, nursing homes and libraries.
- Schools as shelters, polling places and general facilities.
- County and city buildings such as courthouses, annexes, social services, tax admin, technology services, City Hall, highway services, town hall, medical examiner’s office, and the Justice of the Peace.
- Detention and justice centers and corrections and criminal justice buildings, jails, Sherriff’s Offices and the Constable.
- Health and Environmental Departments./li>
- Fire Stations.
- Meth Treatment/Admin centers.
- Water Commission Buildings and Solid Waste stations.
- Emergency Management and Disaster Policies for evacuating the disabled and locations for shelters including parking, routes, sidewalk maintenance for evacuations for the disabled, and procedures.
- Law enforcement communication policies and procedures for the deaf and hard of hearing.
- Highway fleet maintenance.
- Sidewalk maintenance policies
- And more…
“Twenty-five years after the passage of the ADA, we have seen tremendous strides in accessibility nationwide,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division. “Because of the ADA, local governments like McLennan County are taking responsibility to provide citizens with access to programs, services and activities. Agreements such as this one will have a remarkable impact on the everyday lives of individuals with disabilities and allow them to fully participate as citizens of McLennan County.”
According to the DOJ press release, McLennan’s three-year agreement will remain in effect until Nov. 16, 2018. In addition, the Justice Department said it will actively monitor compliance with the agreement.
(NOTE: If you would like assistance reviewing your compliance under the ADA, or need consultation on accessibility related issues, contact Accessology at 972-434-0068 or visit the website here http://accessology.com/ )
* Be sure to check out upcoming Accessology training listed on the right hand side of this blog post.