WASHINGTON - The Department of Justice announced today a settlement agreement with the International Spy Museum under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Working together, the Department of Justice and the museum have come to a settlement agreement, under which the museum agrees to work to bring the content of its exhibitions, public programs, and other offerings into full compliance with ADA requirements so that its exhibits are accessible and effectively communicated to individuals with disabilities, including individuals with hearing and vision impairments. By focusing on visitors who are blind or have low vision and who are deaf or hard of hearing, the agreement establishes a new level of access for cultural and informal educational settings.
"We applaud the International Spy Museum for its innovative efforts to improve access to its exhibitions and programs for individuals with disabilities, and especially for those who are blind or have low vision and those who are deaf or hard of hearing," said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. "This agreement will ensure equal access for people with disabilities who want to participate in the educational activities offered by the museum."
Of the 50 million Americans with disabilities, 16 million have sensory disabilities. The agreement seeks to ensure these individuals will have access to the museum’s exhibitions, audiovisual presentations, and programs, as required by law.
The museum fully cooperated with the Department’s investigation and has demonstrated an effort to find innovative solutions to work toward compliance. It developed a proprietary technology for closed captioning of its audiovisual presentations, and has retained experts to help provide effective access for visitors who are blind or have low vision. When it reaches full compliance with the settlement agreement, the Spy Museum will become a national museum leader in welcoming visitors with disabilities.
Under the settlement agreement the museum will provide:
• tactile maps of the museum and floor plan that visitors can borrow;
• regularly scheduled tours with a qualified audio describer to describe audiovisual presentations, computer interactives, or exhibits;
• a qualified reader to read exhibit labels;
• captions for all audiovisual, audio-only, and computer interactive programs, or scripts or wall text to communicate the audio narration or ambient sounds where captioning is not an option;
• a sample of models, and objects or reproductions of objects for tactile examination accompanied by audio description;
• sign language and oral interpreter services and real-time captioning, on advance request, for all public programs.
• advertisement of the availability of auxiliary aids and services;
• integrated wheelchair seating areas and companion seats at certain locations; and
• training for supervisors and managers on the ADA.
The settlement is the result of an investigation conducted after the Department received a complaint from a blind individual who visited the museum with a group. He claimed that the museum’s exhibits and programs were inaccessible to visitors who are blind or have low vision.
Title III of the ADA applies to private entities such as museums, restaurants and stores. It requires that public accommodations ensure that no individual with a disability is discriminated against on the basis of a disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the entities’ goods, services and facilities. Where necessary, a public accommodation must also provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services in order to ensure effective communication. Title III also requires removal of barriers to access in existing facilities where it is readily achievable to do so. Any new construction or alteration to any buildings or facilities, including exhibitions, must be made in such a manner that those buildings or facilities meet the requirements of the physical accessibility standards.
The Spy Museum is located in the Pennsylvania Quarter neighborhood in Washington, D.C., within four blocks of the National Mall. According to museum officials, more than four million people have visited the museum since it opened in July of 2002.
People interested in finding out more about the ADA or this agreement can call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 1-800-514-0301 or 1-800-514-0383 (TTY), or access its ADA Web site at http://www.ada.gov.