- This matter was initiated by a compliance review of the City of Benton, Illinois' 9-1-1 Dispatch Center under title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. ï½§ï½§ 12131-12134, by the United States Attorney, Southern District of Illinois.
- The parties to this Settlement Agreement ("Agreement") are the United States of America (the "United States") and the Benton-West City Emergency Telephone Systems Board (the "ETSB"). The parties have determined that their respective interests can be met by securing compliance by voluntary means and have therefore voluntarily entered into this Agreement.
The parties hereby agree as follows:
- The ADA applies to the ETSB because it is a public entity within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. ï½§ 12115.
- The ETSB denies that any action it has taken constitutes a violation of the ADA. This Agreement shall not be construed as an admission of liability by the ETSB. The ETSB also agrees that it will abide by all of the requirements of the ADA.
- The subject of this Settlement Agreement is the provision of direct access to the ETSB's 9-1-1 services for individuals with disabilities who use teletypewriters (TTY's), and the development of policies and procedures to ensure that the 9-1-1 services provided to individuals who use TTY's are as effective as those provided to other telephone users. 28 C.F.R. ï½§ï½§ 35.162, 35.130(b)(iii), and 35.130(b)(7). This Agreement arose due to allegations by the United States that the ETSB provided only one of four dispatching positions with a TTY. To wit, the ETSB governs three Public Safety Answering Points (PSAP's). One PSAP, the Benton Police Department, contains two answering stations. The other two PSAP's, which are the Benton Fire Department and the West City Police Department, each of which contains one answering station. The ETSB previously provided only one of the answering stations at the Benton Police Department with a TTY. The ETSB failed to provide any of the other answering stations with a TTY. Further, the United States alleged that the dispatchers in the ETSB indicated that if they received a silent call, they would respond by hanging up. When the United States placed an unannounced silent TTY call from the Benton Police Chief's Office, the dispatcher, recognizing the calling number, immediately hung up without querying the line for a TTY call. The 9-1-1 coordinator for the City of Benton's Police Department (a Public Safety Answering Point under the ETSB's jurisdiction) also indicated that the Police Department regularly placed informational articles concerning 9-1-1 in a local publication which is distributed to the general public, but did not mention TTY accessibility. The attorney for the ETSB has informed the United States that on May 17, 1998, an informational article about 911 and TTY accessibility appeared in the local news media. Finally, on May 12, 1998, the attorney for the ETSB notified the United States that the ETSB had obtained 6 additional TTY's for use by the system. The purchase of the 6 units brings to a total of 7 units available by the system and places the following equipment at the following locations:
- 1 primary unit and 1 back-up unit at each answering/dispatching station located within the West City Police Department and the Benton Fire Department, and
- 2 primary units for use at the two answering/dispatching stations within the Benton Police Department and 1 back-up unit for that entire site.
- In order to provide individuals who use TTY's with direct access to the ETSB 9-1-1 services, the ETSB agrees that it will, within 90 days of the date of this Agreement:
- Maintain and record TTY calls in the same manner and subject to the same conditions as voice calls.
- In the event that that the ETSB upgrades its equipment in the future, it will acquire sufficient equipment to provide direct access to TTY users at each answering station.
POLICIES, PRACTICES, AND PROCEDURES
- In order to ensure effective processing of TTY calls, the ETSB shall, within 90 days of the date of this Agreement, establish and implement policies, practices and procedures to ensure that:
- All 9-1-1 call-takers recognize incoming TTY tones and query each such line with a TTY to determine whether it is a TTY call;
- All 9-1-1 call-takers consider "silent" open lines as potential TTY calls and query each such line with a TTY to determine whether it is a TTY call;
- All 9-1-1 call-takers shall check any "silent" open line to determine whether a call is being received from a TTY user;
- No TTY calls are transferred to West City or the Fire Department until those agencies acquire adequate technology to process those calls;
- In the event of a power failure, TTY equipment shall continue to be possessed and operated in a manner consistent with paragraph 7.a. and 7.b. above;
- The ETSB, on or within one week of January first and July first of every year, provides a copy of its standard operating procedures to a representative of Linc, Inc., and requests an evaluation of its performance as to the disabled community, throughout the period described in paragraph 15 below;
- The ETSB keeps up-to date on technological devlopments regarding the provision of direct access for individuals subject to any disability.
These policies, practices and procedures shall be incorporated into the ETSB's 9-1-1 Standard Operating Procedures. The ETSB shall create and maintain a written copy of these Standard Operating Procedures. These Standard Operating Procedures shall be provided to all potential 9-1-1 call-takers. The ETSB shall provide the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Illinois with a copy of these Standard Operating Procedures.
- In order to ensure the proper operation of TTY's and related equipment, as well as the effective processing of TTY calls by 9-1-1 call-takers, the ETSB shall provide comprehensive training for every 9-1-1 call-taker, including newly hired call-takers. The training must include: a) general information about title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act; b) general information about communication issues regarding individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, or who have speech impairments, including information about American Sign Language; and c) practical instruction on identifying and processing of TTY calls, including the importance of using proper syntax and protocol when responding to TTY calls and relayed calls. For current employees, training shall take place as soon as possible, but no later than 90 days after the effective date of this Agreement. For new employees, the training required pursuant to this Agreement shall be included as part of the regular training or instruction program and shall be conducted no later that 10 days after beginning employment.
- To insure the effectiveness of its training, the ETSB shall:
- Use the Telecommunications for the Deaf, Inc.'s Emergency Access Self-Evaluation program or its equivalent to establish criteria and test each trainee's competency at the conclusion of the training described in paragraph 9 above.
- Develop and implement a supplemental training plan for any 9-1-1 call-taker who does not satisfactorily complete the required training.
- Provide a refresher training course every six months in order to maintain call-takers' skill levels.
- Document all training provided, including each 9-1-1 call-taker's employee number, title and the date of training, and provide copies of the documentation to the Department of Justice upon request.
- Within 90 days of the effective date of this Agreement, the ETSB shall initiate a process with communities of individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, or who have speech impairments, to develop and implement a public education program to promote the use of 9-1-1 services by individuals who use TTY's. At a minimum, the informational articles referenced in the last sentence of paragraph 5 of this agreement shall include a statement that the ETSB provides TTY accessible 9-1-1 services. Such program shall be implemented by the ETSB within 120 days of this Agreement.
TESTING AND AUDIT
- Within 90 days of the effective date of this Agreement, the ETSB shall, on a quarterly basis, conduct test TTY calls on each watch to each call-taking position. These tests shall be unannounced and shall be documented to include the date and time of the test, the call-taker position, identification of the call as "silent" or transmitting tones, time elapsed from the initiation of the TTY call until the 9-1-1 call-taker responds, and whether the call was processed properly and efficiently according to departmental policies and training directives. If testing reveals inadequacies in the handling of TTY calls, the ETSB shall take immediate remedial action that may include as appropriate: additional training, equipment changes, additional policy or procedural changes, and disciplinary action. Results from each round of tests shall be summarized and sent to counsel for the United States on a semi-annual basis along with a description of any actions taken to remedy inadequacies uncovered by the tests. The quarterly testing and semi-annual audit reports shall be required for three years from the effective date of this Agreement.
- Within 120 days of the effective date of this Agreement, the ETSB will submit a report to the United States Attorney detailing the actions it has taken to comply with the preceding provision. The report shall be submitted to the following address:
Attn: Paul Fairbanks
9 Executive Drive
Fairview Heights, IL 62208
IMPLEMENTATION AND ENFORCEMENT OF THE SETTLEMENT Agreement
- Failure by the Department of Justice to enforce this entire Agreement or any provision thereof with respect to any provision herein shall not be construed as a waiver of its right to do so with regard to other provisions of this Agreement.
- This Agreement is a public document and constitutes the entire Agreement between the parties on the matters raised herein. Copies of this Agreement shall be made available to any person by either party upon request to that party.
- The effective date of this Agreement is the date of the last signature below. This Agreement shall continue in force from its effective date through three years after that effective date.
- This Agreement constitutes the entire Agreement between the parties on the matters raised herein, and no other statement, promise, or Agreement, either written or oral, made by either party or agents of either party, that is not contained in this written Agreement, will be enforceable under its provisions. This Agreement does not purport to remedy any other potential violations of the ADA or any other federal law. This Agreement does not affect the ETSB's continuing responsibility to comply with all aspects of Title II of the ADA.
For Benton-West City ETSB
CHIEF GARY HALL
Benton Police Department
Benton-West City ETSB
500 West Main Street
Benton, IL 62812
For the United States,
W. CHARLES GRACE
United State Attorney
Robert L. Simpkins
First Assistant United States Attorney
9 Executive Drive
Southern District of Illinois
Fairview Heights, IL 62208