“The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is more than 25 years old now. So why, all of a sudden, is there so much pressure to have a current ADA Transition Plan?” asks ADA expert Kristi J. Avalos in the April edition of the APWA Reporter.
Avalos is the CEO and President of Accessology Too, LLC., a national consulting firm which assists municipalities in the development of their ADA Transition Plans. She says that although the plans are a federal requirement, there are still many entities who have not developed one. Avalos knows this well. She has been warning government officials in various cities and counties that if they do not conduct a comprehensive analysis of their ADA compliance, they could be subject to a Department of Justice (DOJ) review. According to Avalos, settlements are posted by the DOJ on a regular basis.
Dubbed Project Civil Access (PCA) the US Department of Justice has beefed up their efforts to ensure that, in addition to the private sector, states, counties, cities, towns, and villages also comply with the ADA. To enforce the 25-year-old regulation, the DOJ is conducting regular reviews across the country leaving no municipality without risk.
According to Avalos, “Compliance review sites are chosen based upon the desire of the DOJ to visit every state, the population of the site, and, in some cases, its proximity to a university or tourist attraction.”
“The majority of the compliance reviews occurred in small cities and towns because they represent the most common form of local government,” she stated.
A search of the PCA website reveals that the Department of Justice has increased its litigation over the past few years substantially against Title II entities. Settlements reached by the DOJ with the various entities have increased 50% since 2012 and 36% since 2013.
By July of 2015, the DOJ had reached over 217 Settlement Agreements since the PCA initiative began in 1991. A majority of the compliance reviews occurred in small cities and towns. In 2014, although no settlement cases were listed by the PCA, in September of 2015, 14 cases involving the ADA were already settled with the Department of Justice.
Private litigation is also on the increase and as Avalos explains, it’s because the requirement was passed 26 years ago, “The disability community celebrated the 10th Anniversary of the signing of the ADA by filing about 600 cases nationwide. The 20th Anniversary almost 1,400 cases were filed. This year is the 25th Anniversary and we expect landmark litigation. This can only be ignored for so long.”
WHAT IS AN ADA TRANSITION PLAN:
According to Avalos, an ADA Transition Plan is a document required by the Department of Justice that includes the following components:
1. A list of physical barriers that limit accessibility to services/programs.
2. A detailed outline of the methods proposed to address the barriers.
3. A schedule for achieving compliance.
4. The name of the official responsible for the plan’s implementation (likely
“A Transition Plan isn’t just a sidewalk and curb ramp inventory, although the inventory is necessary to the plan,” Avalos states in the article. She suggests that the first thing an entity should do is to assign an ADA Coordinator. In addition, Avalos recommends the following steps towards ADA Compliance:
An ADA Transition Plan is a living document. It’s an accessibility Master Plan and needs to be treated like any other Master Plan. It should be updated regularly and, initially, include a full evaluation of everything offered by the entity, including a complete sidewalk, curb ramp and intersection evaluation. But it’s so much more.
An inventory has to be done of each facility and park owned, operated or leased by the agency as well as all programs, policies, service and activities. This includes hiring and firing practices, job descriptions, emergency planning procedures, parks and rec programs, and the list goes on. Remember that sidewalks and curb ramps are also “programs” offered by most public entities. Without the last three elements, the Transition Plan would just be an inventory. The necessary documentation of how the issues will be resolved, when the issues will be resolved and who is responsible are critical to the overall plan and that is what the DOJ will be looking for if they call and ask for your plan.
Read the full article by Kristi Avalos here.
Accessology conducts free ADA roundtable discussion events to educate everyone in an agency about requirements for an ADA Plan. Contact Accessology for more information about the development of your comprehensive ADA Transition Plan or to schedule your free ADA roundtable event! http://www.accessology.com