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 of Justice will spotlight efforts that are opening gateways to full participation and opportunity for people with disabilities. This month, we spotlight the story of Marshall Burns and website access in Nueces County, Texas.
When Marshall Burns was invited to present at the Coastal Bend Hurricane Conference in Nueces County, Texas, he was excited and honored. Being asked to share his professional expertise—emergency preparedness in transit services—with peers was a highlight in Mr. Burns’ career. But when Mr. Burns tried to register online for the conference, he couldn’t do so. That’s because Mr. Burns is blind. The forms on Nueces County’s website were incompatible with the software program that reads text out loud to Mr. Burns. Barriers to accessibility mean that, not only will people like Mr. Burns be discouraged from participating in local programs, but that all individuals, regardless of disability are not able to benefit from the expertise that Mr. Burns and others can share.
Over the next three years, experiences like Mr. Burns’ will become a thing of the past. Nueces County and the U.S. Department of Justice 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 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). One of the hallmarks of the agreement is the requirement that the County will assess all existing web content and online services for conformance with industry guidelines—the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0—for making web content accessible.
Mr. Burns has told the department that he’s “happy to see that Nueces County will be complying with WCAG 2.0. WCAG was developed by people with disabilities for people with disabilities and meets standards that will enable us to navigate the county’s websites on our own.”
Under the agreement, Nueces County, Texas, will also ensure that people with disabilities—especially people who use wheelchairs and other mobility devices—can get inside buildings that offer County services and programs. That means the county will renovate everything from entrances, service areas and counters, restrooms, and parking so that people with disabilities can get into county buildings and use services and programs the county offers. Sidewalks and curb cuts all over the county will also be targeted—another change that promises to significantly improve life for people with disabilities in Nueces County.
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 information on how jurisdictions can participate in Project Civic Access visit www.ada.gov.