Courtesy of Deputy Assistant Attorney General Eve Hill of the Civil Rights
Twenty-five years ago, our nation committed itself to the elimination of discrimination against people with disabilities through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division is proud to play a critical role in enforcing the ADA, working towards a future in which all the doors are open to equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, integration and economic self-sufficiency for persons with disabilities. In honor of the 25th anniversary of the ADA, each month the department will spotlight efforts that are opening gateways to full participation and opportunity for people with disabilities. This month, we spotlight the stories of Catherine Hafsi and Cherie Clark and how the department’s work enforcing the ADA is improving access to sidewalks, parking spaces, curb ramps and city facilities throughout Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Catherine Hafsi uses a walker. When Ms. Hafsi was invited to attend the Cedar Rapids’ 25th ADA anniversary event at the federal courthouse, she was excited and thrilled. On her way to the event, she encountered problems with the entrance door to the parking pay system of a municipal lot. Specifically, she had difficulty keeping the door open while maneuvering her walker through the door in order to pay for parking. Ms. Hafsi’s problem is not uncommon in Cedar Rapids. She noted that some parking pay systems stations have heavy entrance doors that make it almost impossible for people with disabilities to pay for parking at parking facilities.
Ms. Hafsi also encountered issues with sidewalks when she visited the Fair Housing Office at the Veteran’s Memorial Building. In order to access the sidewalk in front of the Veteran’s Memorial Building, Ms. Hafsi had to walk in the street with her walker and risk her safety because there were no accessible curb ramps.
Cherie Clark, uses a wheelchair and walker, and has also encountered several accessibility issues with sidewalks and entrances to city facilities in Cedar Rapids. When Ms. Clark visits the Cedar Rapids Public Library, which she normally does four to five times per month, the automatic doors to the library entrance do not work properly and the toilet room doors are very heavy and difficult to operate. Both Ms. Hafsi and Ms. Clark experienced similar issues with inaccessible sidewalks, curb ramps, entrances to facilities, and inaccessible parking in Cedar Rapids.
Over the next years, experiences like Ms. Hafsi’s and Ms. Clark’s will become a thing of the past. Cedar Rapids and the Justice Department have reached an agreement under Project Civic Access (PCA), the department’s wide-ranging initiative to ensure that cities, towns and counties throughout the country comply with the ADA. One of the hallmarks of the agreement is the requirement that Cedar Rapids install, repair or replace thousands of sidewalks and curb ramps throughout the city to bring them into compliance with current ADA standards.
Under this agreement, Cedar Rapids will ensure that its services, programs and activities are fully accessible to people with disabilities. Cedar Rapids will also target its city parking lots and toilet rooms to make sure that they are accessible to persons with disabilities and enhance accessibility throughout the city’s park system.
Over the past 15 years, nearly 220 communities have signed agreements with the Department of Justice to ensure that their citizens with disabilities enjoy the same services, programs and activities that all others enjoy. For more information about the ADA, today’s agreement, the Project Civic Access initiative, or the ADA Best Practices Tool Kit for state and local governments, individuals may access the ADA Web page at http://www.ada.gov/civicac.htm or call the toll-free ADA Information Line at (800) 514-0301 or (800) 514-0383 (TTY).
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