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Justice Department Announces Settlement With Swarthmore College to Increase Access for People With Disabilities

WASHINGTON - The Justice Department yesterday announced a settlement agreement under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with Swarthmore College, under which the college will make its campus and services more accessible to individuals with disabilities.

Today’s out-of-court settlement resolves a compliance review during which the Department found barriers to access in existing facilities and elements such as doors, restrooms, seating, signage, and interior and exterior circulation routes. The college, located in Swarthmore, Pa., has agreed to prepare a plan to make alterations to its facilities within six years and relocate services and programs to accessible facilities with prior notice. The agreement addresses a wide variety of services and facilities, including administrative buildings, housing, access between facilities, parking, directional signage, and emergency preparedness.

Under the agreement, the college will:

Ensure that all buildings and facilities in which programs, services, and amenities are offered to the public and the college community meet the accessibility criteria in the agreement, unless participation requires advance notice or registration;

Ensure that those services and programs that do require advanced notice or registration are located in (or relocated to) an accessible location in the event that a person with a disability registers;

Submit an accessibility plan for review to the Department by Dec. 1, 2008, outlining how the college will comply with the agreement, after conducting architectural surveys and seeking public comment;

Update its campus-wide emergency evacuation, sheltering, and shelter-in-place plans for individuals with disabilities;

Ensure that 3 percent of the units (and adjacent toilet rooms) in its student living facilities are accessible and dispersed among the facilities; and ensure that, in addition, a reasonable number of housing facilities has an accessible entrance, first floor common area, and toilet room that is usable by a visitor with a disability;

Display information on its website by Sept. 1, 2008, identifying accessible routes through the campus, accessible parking areas, accessible entrances to buildings, and accessible spaces within buildings;

Post signs at facility entrances and toilet rooms identifying those that are accessible and, at inaccessible entrances and toilet rooms, directing individuals to the nearest accessible entrance or toilet room;

Provide assistive listening systems and devices for people with hearing impairments in lecture halls, meeting rooms, auditoria, and other assembly areas.

“We are pleased that Swarthmore is taking steps to make its facilities and programs more accessible to persons with disabilities and commend Swarthmore for its spirit of cooperation in working with the Department,” said Rena J. Comisac, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.

Title III of the ADA requires that privately owned places of public accommodation, including colleges and universities, ensure that no individual with a disability is discriminated against in the full and equal enjoyment of services and facilities, remove physical barriers to access to existing facilities where it is readily achievable to do so, comply with accessibility standards for new construction and alterations, and modify policies and practices where necessary to ensure full and equal enjoyment of services and facilities. The Department had earlier entered into agreements with the University of Chicago and Colorado College under Title III of the ADA.

Anyone interested in finding out more about the ADA or the agreement can call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TTY), or access its ADA Web site at