WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today announced the signing of its 150th agreement with local government entities under Project Civic Access, a Department initiative to bring cities, counties, and other government localities into full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Department has conducted reviews in all 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia; and the 150 agreements are helping to improve lives and broaden opportunities for more than 3 million Americans with disabilities.
The announcement was made at a commemorative event held in Charleston, W.V., to celebrate the milestone. At the event, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Wan J. Kim signed Project Civic Access agreements with three local government entities: Kanawha County Parks and Recreation, Metro 911 of Kanawha County, and Kanawha County.
“From day one, all three entities welcomed the Department’s investigation. This type of cooperation by local governments across the country has helped make Project Civic Access a big success,” said Assistant Attorney General Kim. “As a result of today’s agreements, people with disabilities will be able to participate fully in fundamental aspects of American life in Kanawha County, including attending town hall meetings, viewing government Web sites, enjoying local parks and recreational facilities, accessing emergency services, and voting at their local polling places. Their increased participation benefits all Americans.”
Assistant Attorney General Kim remarked that the Project Civic Access review of Kanawha County was undertaken on the Department’s own initiative under the authority of Title II of the ADA, rather than resulting from a complaint. Kanawha County was chosen by the Department because nearly 22 percent of the county’s population is comprised of people with disabilities—7 percent higher than the national average.
“We are committed to making the County’s programs, parks, and 911 system accessible to everyone who lives in or visits our County. The County Commissioners, Parks and Recreation Board, and Metro 911 Board welcomed the opportunity to work with the Justice Department to figure out where access for people with disabilities could be improved, and we have already started making those improvements,” said W. Kent Carper, President of the Kanawha County Commission.
Assistant Attorney General Kim also announced the issuance of the first installment of new technical assistance materials the Civil Rights Division is developing to assist state and local officials in complying with ADA requirements. The new technical assistance materials, entitled “The ADA Best Practices Tool Kit for State and Local Governments,” will teach state and local officials how to conduct accessibility audits of their own programs, services, activities and facilities.
“State and local officials have asked us to show them how to identify barriers to access for people with disabilities. The Tool Kit is a very practical type of technical assistance. It tells government officials what to review and what questions to ask in order to identify ADA problems,” said Assistant Attorney General Kim.
The first installment of the Tool Kit provides a general overview of basic ADA requirements applicable to state and local governments, a checklist to determine if basic ADA administrative requirements are being met, and sample forms that can be used to meet those requirements.
Project Civic Access was initiated to ensure that people with disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate in civic life. As part of the project, Departmental investigators, attorneys, and architects survey state and local government facilities and programs across the country for the purpose of identifying modifications needed to comply with ADA requirements. Depending on the circumstances in each community, the agreements address specific areas where access can be improved.
People interested in finding out more about the ADA, today’s agreements, or the ADA Best Practices Tool Kit can access the ADA Home Page at http://www.ada.gov or call the toll-free ADA Information Line at (800) 514-0301 or (800) 514-0383 (TTY).