The Justice Department today announced an agreement with LaPorte County, Ind., to improve access to all aspects of civic life for persons with disabilities. The agreement was reached under the department's Project Civic Access initiative, which aims to bring state and local governments into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This agreement is the 169th under Project Civic Access and the eighth this year.
"Civic access is a civil right, and individuals with disabilities must have the opportunity to participate in public programs, services and activities on an equal basis with their neighbors," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "We appreciate LaPorte County’s commitment to ensuring that the civil rights promised in the Americans with Disabilities Act are granted to individuals with disabilities who live in or visit the county."
LaPorte County, founded in 1832, is located in northwestern Indiana, near the Chicago metropolitan area. More than 16 percent of the residents of LaPorte County have disabilities and will benefit from the agreement announced today.
Under today's agreement, the county will:
- Make physical modifications to its buildings and parks so that parking, entrances, routes, toilet rooms, courtrooms, assembly areas, service counters and drinking fountains are accessible to persons with disabilities;
- Post, publish and distribute a notice to inform members of the public of the provisions of the ADA and their applicability to county programs, services, and activities;
- Amend its employment policies, as necessary, to comply with the regulations of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission implementing the employment provisions of the ADA;
- Provide auxiliary aids necessary to ensure effective communication with persons who are deaf or hard of hearing and persons who are blind or have low vision;
- Ensure that each 9-1-1 call station is equipped with a text telephone (TTY) or computer equivalent and that TTY calls are answered promptly and correctly;
- Implement the La Porte County Sheriff Department’s Policy on Effective Communication with People Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, which provides for the county to make available interpreters and other auxiliary aids necessary to ensure effective communication with persons who are deaf or hard of hearing;
- Provide accessible polling places;
- Implement emergency management policies and procedures to ensure equal access for persons with disabilities, including preparation, notification, sheltering and response;
- Make modifications necessary to county sidewalks and curb ramps to provide accessible routes; and
- Ensure that the county’s official Web site is accessible to persons with disabilities, including people who are blind or have low vision.
The settlement agreement will remain in effect for three years from Oct. 28, 2009, or until all actions required by the agreement have been completed, whichever is later.
Project Civic Access was initiated to ensure that persons with disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate in civic life. As part of the project, department investigators, attorneys and architects conduct on-site surveys of state and local government programs and facilities in order to identify modifications needed for compliance with ADA requirements. The agreements contain a plan setting out the specific steps a community will take to improve access for persons with disabilities.
People interested in finding out more about the ADA, today's agreement with LaPorte County, Ind., or the department's Project Civic Access initiative may find this information on the ADA Web site at http://www.ada.gov or may call the toll-free ADA Information Line at (800) 514-0301 or (800) 514-0383 (TTY).