- This matter was initiated by a compliance review of City of Biloxi, Mississippi's Public Safety Communications 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 Mississippi.
- The parties to this Settlement Agreement ("Agreement") are the United States of America (the "United States") and City of Biloxi, Mississippi (the "City"). 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 City because it is a public entity within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. ï½§ 12115.
- The City 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 City. The City 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 City's 9-1-1 services for individuals with disabilities who use telecommunications devices for the deaf (TDD's), and the development of policies and procedures to ensure that the 9-1-1 services provided to individuals who use TDD'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).
- In order to provide individuals who use TDD's with direct access to the City 9-1-1 services, the City agrees that it will, within 90 days of the date of this agreement:
- Install sufficient additional TDD equipment so that each answering position has the capability to respond directly to callers on a TDD and make call-backs.
- Acquire additional TDD equipment, or equivalent, to ensure that backup equipment will be provided in case of an emergency or TDD malfunction.
- Continue to evaluate its 9-1-1 system and procedures regarding processing of TDD calls that request fire services, and, if necessary modify the system and procedures in order to ensure effective call handling.
- Include TDD equipment in power failure contingency plans.
- Maintain and record TDD calls electronically.
POLICIES, PRACTICES, AND PROCEDURES
- In order to ensure effective processing of TDD calls, the City 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 TDD tones and respond appropriately via TDD; and that
- All 9-1-1 call-takers consider "silent" open lines as potential TDD calls and respond accordingly.
These policies, practices and procedures shall be incorporated into the Standard Operating Procedures.
- In order to ensure the proper operation of TDD's and related equipment, as well as the effective processing of TDD calls by 9-1-1 call-takers, the City shall continue to 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 TDD calls, including the importance of using proper syntax and protocol when responding to TDD calls and relayed calls. If needed, 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 than 10 days after beginning employment.
- To insure the effectiveness of its training, the City shall:
- Utilize 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 over a period of two years from the effective date of this Agreement 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 City 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 TDD's. Such program shall be implemented by the City within 180 days of this Agreement.
TESTING AND AUDIT
- Within 90 days of the effective date of this Agreement, the City shall, on a quarterly basis, conduct test TDD calls on each watch and, if feasible, 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 TDD 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 TDD calls, the City 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 two years from the effective date of this Agreement.
- Within 120 days of the effective date of this Agreement, the City will submit a report to the United States Attorney detailing the actions it has taken to comply with the preceding provisions.
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.
For the City of Biloxi:
HONORABLE A. J. HOLLOWAY
Mayor, City of Biloxi
For the United States:
United States Attorney
Assistant United States Attorney
Southern District of Mississippi
188 East Capitol Street
Jackson, Mississippi 39201