FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEAG
WEDNESDAY, JULY 19, 2000(202) 514-2007
WWW.USDOJ.GOVTDD (202) 514-1888
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT ANNOUNCES INITIATIVE
TO ENSURE CIVIC ACCESS FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Hailing a new initiative to ensure greater access for Americans with disabilities, Attorney General Janet Reno today announced agreements with ten communities that will improve access to all aspects of civic life including, courthouses, libraries, polling places, police stations, and parks.
The initiative, dubbed "Project Civic Access," is a wide-ranging effort to ensure that cities, towns, and villages comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act or "ADA." One aspect of the initiative includes investigators surveying villages, towns, cities, and counties across the country. Another aspect includes the distribution of two user-friendly guides to cities and towns explaining how to comply with the ADA.
"Access to civic life is a fundamental part of American society," said Attorney General Janet Reno, who addressed an event in Warm Springs, Georgia commemorating the upcoming 10th anniversary of the ADA. "The ADA promises people with disabilities the opportunity to enjoy all the goods and services of municipal government. The Justice Department initiated Project Civic Access to ensure that this promise is fulfilled."
The ten communities that reached settlements today include Hot Springs, Arkansas; Windham, Connecticut; Mantorville, Minnesota; City Utilities of Springfield, Missouri; Springfield-Greene County Library District; Forsyth, Montana; the City of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee; Summers County, West Virginia; Mt Vernon, Washington; and Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin.
Negotiations continue with cities and towns in 15 additional states. On-site investigations have concluded in another 25 states, which will be notified in the fall of the changes needed to ensure accessibility. Local government officials across the country have indicated a willingness to make changes to comply with the ADA and have cooperated with the Department's investigations. The project began last fall.
Depending on the circumstances in each community, the agreements address specific areas where access can be improved. For instance, the agreements require certain communities to:
- improve access at city and town halls; police and fire stations; sheriff departments; courthouses; teen and senior activities centers; convention centers; libraries; baseball stadiums; parks, pools, band shells, and gazebos;
- alter polling places or provide curbside or absentee balloting;
- upgrade 9-1-1 emergency services for people who are deaf;
- install assistive listening systems in legislative chambers, courtrooms, and municipal auditoriums; and,
- provide delivery systems and time frames for providing auxiliary aids, including sign language interpreters and materials in Braille, large print, or on cassette tapes;
"I encourage all municipalities to use these model agreements and our informational materials to make their services accessible to people with disabilities. These important steps should be taken even without a review by the Department," said Bill Lann Lee, Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.
The two informational guides are "Americans with Disabilities Act: A Guide for Small Towns" and "The ADA and City Governments: Common Problems." The documents, which review the ADA's requirements and offer practical examples of how to comply, are available on the Department's ADA website at www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/adahom1.htm.
Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in the programs, services, and activities of state and local governments. Public entities must make reasonable modifications in policies that deny equal access, provide effective communication, and make their programs accessible through the removal of barriers or through alternate methods of program delivery, unless an undue burden or fundamental alteration of the program would result.
Attorney General Reno traveled to Warm Springs today to participate in the 16th stop of the Spirit of ADA Torch Relay, a nationwide celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Warm Springs was the final home to FDR, and is the smallest town on the torch relay.
People interested in finding out more about the ADA or today's agreements can access the ADA home page or call the toll-free ADA Information Line at (800) 514-0301 or (800) 514-0383 (TDD). The website also contains a special 10th anniversary report, entitled, "Enforcing the ADA: Looking Back on a Decade of Progress," which highlights the law's successes and summarizes national and regional cases over the past ten years.