The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 not only protected individuals with disabilities against discrimination, it also provided guidelines for access to programs and services, and remedies for architectural barriers in government and public facilities. After being the law of the land for over 25 years, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is taking a more determined stance regarding compliance.
Opportune Time for ADA changes
Our aging communities, combined with healthcare successes, have contributed to a public expectation of inclusion and accessibility. Many access related changes can be cost effective. The development of a transition plan will allow your community to identify ADA needs, compile a preliminary cost estimate, and map out a strategy for implementation.
Time for a Transition Plan
When developing a transition plan, the DOJ looks at some key areas:
- Is there a designated ADA coordinator who can handle complaints and organize projects?
- How does the public contact this designated individual?
- Is there a grievance procedure/policy that is readily available and understandable?
- Has your community created a stakeholder body for review and comment (e.g. disabled and/or senior citizens, disability advocates, architect/engineer)?
- How does the public request special accommodations (e.g. interpreter for the deaf?)
- What is the inventory of facilities that fall under the jurisdiction of the city/county (e.g. parks, libraries, pools, government administration buildings, parking lots, sidewalks)?
- Within the inventory of facilities, when were these facilities built, renovated or altered?
- Within each facility, does your transition plan address the following? Parking, accessible route from parking to facility, entrance conditions, interior routes, signage, alarms, door hardware, toilet rooms, specialty areas like playgrounds, pools, etc. For a more complete list, see the Department of Justice 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design.
While the ADA provides a basic standard for compliance, higher and more customized approaches may also need to be considered for personal needs of a specific employee or constituents’ needs. For example, ADA compliant toilet stalls can have a handrail on the left side of the toilet. But what if an employee had a stroke on their left side? The bathroom fits the ADA requirements, and the building code, but that person can’t use it.
Individuals with disabilities are a growing and active part of our communities. Cities and counties have a great opportunity to make their communities welcoming and accessible to all residents and visitors.
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