WASHINGTON — The Justice Department entered into a settlement agreement today with the city of Hernando, Miss., that ensures people with disabilities will have access to local government programs, services and facilities. The agreement is the 153rd reached under Project Civic Access (PCA), the Department’s wide-ranging initiative to ensure that cities, towns and counties throughout the country comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Department has conducted compliance reviews with certain localities in all 50 states, helping to improve the lives and broaden opportunities for more than 3 million Americans with disabilities.
“People with disabilities must have equal access to local government programs and services,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “Unfortunately, they often face barriers to access at polling places, on public sidewalks, at city council meetings, in public parks, and in many other areas of civic life. Our Project Civic Access initiative is designed to identify and remove those barriers.”
The agreement signed today will improve access to civic life for people with disabilities throughout Hernando. It covers polling places, programs operated in the City Hall and the Old City Hall, the city’s park facilities, and the city’s sidewalks.
The Department initiated a compliance review of the city of Hernando in November 2004. In January 2005, the Department conducted an on-site survey of city buildings, parks and services. Facilities covered by today’s agreement include Conger Park, Hernando Fire Station #2, and the Hernando Police Department. In addition, the Department reviewed Hernando’s policies and procedures regarding sidewalk maintenance, as well as the police department’s policies and procedures for providing effective communication to persons who are deaf or hard of hearing.
“The Mayor and other officials of the city of Hernando understood the importance of ensuring access for people with disabilities and were extremely cooperative during the Department’s investigation,” said Assistant Attorney General Kim. “They repeatedly expressed their commitment to improving access for people with disabilities in Hernando.”
The settlement agreement, which will be in effect for three years, includes the following actions in order for the city to improve access to people with disabilities:
Make physical modifications to its facilities and the city park so that parking, routes into buildings and parking lots, entrances, restrooms, service counters, picnic tables, tennis courts, and drinking fountains are more accessible.
Post, publish and distribute a notice to inform the public about the ADA and develop a method to inform the public about the city’s programs.
Ensure the city’s Web site is accessible.
Install signs at inaccessible entrances to facilities directing persons with disabilities to accessible entrances.
The Department also recognizes that Hernando has independently completed a number of steps to increase access to its programs, services and facilities including: the designation of an ADA coordinator; establishing a grievance committee; and including a non-discrimination policy regarding people with disabilities in the city’s employee manual.
Project Civic Access was initiated to ensure that people with disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate in civic life, a fundamental part of American society. As part of the PCA initiative, Department investigators, attorneys, and architects survey state and local government facilities, programs and services 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 agreement, or the ADA Best Practices Tool Kit for State and Local Governments 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).