Settlement Agreement Between The United States Of America And The Parish Of Plaquemines, Louisiana

COMES NOW the Parish of Plaquemines, Louisiana (hereinafter "the Parish") and the United States of America who through their undersigned representatives, stipulate and agree to the following:

BACKGROUND

The instant matter was initiated by a compliance review conducted under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. ァァ 12131-12134 by the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana concerning the 9-1-1 services provided by the Parish.

The United States Department of Justice (hereinafter "the Department"), is authorized under 28 C.F.R. Part 35, Subpart F, to conduct compliance reviews to determine the Parish's compliance with the above-referenced portion of the ADA as well as under the Department's implementing regulation, 28 C.F.R. ァ 35.104, and to issue findings, and, where appropriate, negotiate and secure voluntary compliance agreements. Further, the Attorney General of the United States is authorized under 42 U.S.C. ァ 12133 to bring a civil action enforcing Title II of the ADA, should the Department fail to secure voluntary compliance pursuant to Subpart F.

The parties to this settlement agreement (hereinafter "Agreement") have determined that their respective interests can be met by securing compliance by voluntary means and have, therefore, voluntarily entered into this Agreement, as follows:

TERMS AND CONDITIONS
  1. The Parish is amenable to the requirements of the ADA because it is a public entity within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. ァ 12115.
  2. That by signing this Agreement, the Parish does not admit that its current services, policies or practices, including those related to its 9-1-1 services, constitute a violation of the ADA. This Agreement shall not be construed as an admission of liability by the Parish.
  3. That the subject of this Agreement is the provision of direct access to the Parish's 9-1-1 services for individuals with disabilities who use TDD's, and the development and/or continuation of policies and procedures to ensure that the 9-1-1 services provided to TDD users are as effective as those provided to other telephone users. The subject services are those provided in the cities and other areas of St. Bernard Parish by the Parish 911 Communications Center operated by the St. Bernard Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness.

TECHNOLOGY

    In order to provide TDD users direct access to the Parish's 9-1-1 services, the Parish agrees that it will make the following technological changes/improvements, within 30 days of the effective date of this Agreement:

  1. Ensure that each call-taking position is equipped with its own TDD accessible equipment.
  2. Maintain a separate, stand alone TDD to ensure that backup equipment will be provided in case of an emergency or TDD malfunction.
  3. Ensure that TDD equipment are included in power failure contingency plans.
  4. Obtain consultation from the deaf community on the content of outgoing messages on pre-programmed function keys.
  5. Designate someone to keep abreast of technological developments in the area of TDD and related modem telephony equipment.

    The Parish agrees that it will make the following technological changes/improvements in conjunction with their new Communications Center which will be operational within 180 days of the effective date of this Agreement:

  6. Obtain and maintain equipment that will enable call-takers to switch between and/or simultaneously engage in voice and ASCII/Baudot transmission to be able to respond to calls from users of Voice Carry Over or Universal telephones.
  7. Evaluate the feasibility of installing a device(s) that will detect a TDD tone when it is initiated by the caller and install such a device(s) if and when it becomes feasible to do so.

POLICY, PRACTICES AND PROCEDURES

    In order to ensure effective processing of calls from TDD users to the Parish's 9-1-1 services, the Parish agrees that it will establish and implement the following policies, practices and procedures, within 30 days of the effective date of this Agreement:

  1. Modify their SOP for "silent" open line calls to ensure that call-takers will consider a "silent" open line as a potential TDD call and will, inter alia, query the "silent" open line with a TDD.
  2. Establish and maintain an SOP for receiving and responding to calls from users of Voice Carry Over or Universal telephones.
  3. Establish and maintain an SOP to conduct a self test TDD call at the beginning of each shift to ensure the system's capacity for receiving TDD calls is fully operational at all times of the day.
  4. Establish a regular maintenance schedule for all TDD related equipment.
  5. Initiate the keeping of statistics on TDD calls received by the Parish 911 Communications Center.
  6. Establish and maintain a working relationship with the community of deaf, hard of hearing and speech impaired people in order to continue to evaluate the services, practices and procedures that relate to the Parish 911 Communications Center.

TRAINING

    In order to further ensure effective processing of calls from TDD users to the Parish's 9-1-1 services by 9-1-1 call-takers, the Parish agrees that it will provide comprehensive training for every 9-1-1 call-taker including newly hired call-takers.

  1. The training will include: (a) general information about Title II of the ADA; (b) general information about communication issues regarding individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, or who have speech impairments, including general information about American Sign Language; (c) practical instruction on identifying and procesing of TDD calls, including the importance of using proper syntax and protocol when responding to TDD calls and Relayed calls.
  2. For current employees the training described above shall take place as soon as possible, but in no event shall said training commence later than 30 days after the effective date of this agreement.
  3. To insure the effectiveness of the training described above, the Parish shall:
    1. Utilize the Emergency Access Self-Evaluation (EASE) program developed by the Telecommunications for the Deaf, Inc., or its equivalent to establish criteria and test each call-taker or trainee's competency at the conclusion of the training described above;
    2. Develop and implement a supplemental training plan for any call-taker who does not satisfactorily complete the subject required training;
    3. Provide a refresher training course every six (6) months over a period of two years from the effective date of this Agreement in order to maintain call-takers' skill levels;
    4. Document all training provided, including each call-taker's employee number, title and the date of training, and provide copies of the documentation to the Department upon request.

    TESTING AND AUDIT

      In order to further ensure effective processing of calls from TDD users to the Parish's 9-1-1 services by 9-1-1 call-takers, the Parish agrees that starting within 30 days of the effective date of this Agreement, it will, on a quarterly basis, conduct test TDD calls on each shift to each call-taking position, as follows:

    1. 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 call-taker responds, the speed of the call-taker's typing, clarity of communication and utilization of TDD shorthand and protocol.
    2. In addition, the Parish will cooperate with any and all efforts by the Deaf Action Center and those members of the deaf community acting as test callers. Test calls from such individuals will initially identify themselves as such and will proceed to conduct a call whose objective is to obtain emergency services under either a police, medical or fire scenario. Any and all test result information received from the Deaf Action Center shall be separately included in the audit information as outlined below.
    3. If testing reveals inadequacies in the handling of TDD calls, the Parish shall take immediate remedial action that may include as appropriate: additional training, equipment changes, additional policy or procedural changes, and disciplinary action.
    4. An audit comprised of a summary of the the results of each round of quarterly tests, as well as all DAC test results received within the same period, shall be summarized and sent to the undersigned counsel for the United States on a semi-annual basis along with a description of any actions taken to remedy inadequacies uncovered by the testing.

    NOTIFICATION

    1. In order to inform members of the public regarding the provisions of Title II and their applicability to the telephone emergency services provided by the Parish, the Parish will publish, within 30 days of the effective date of this agreement, the following notice or an equivalent on two separate occasions in a newspaper of general circulation serving the Parish:

      In accordance with the requirements of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Parish of St. Bernard will not discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities on the basis of disability in the Parish's services, programs, or activities. Individuals who use telecommunications devices for the deaf (TDD's) will be provided direct access to the Parish's telephone emergency services, including 9-1-1 services. The Parish will provide telephone emergency services to individuals who use TDD's that are as effective as those provided to others.

      The Parish will provide a copy of the notice to any person upon request.

    PUBLIC EDUCATION

      In order to promote and encourage use of the Parish's 9-1-1 services by TDD users, the Parish shall, within 30 days of the effective date of this Agreement:

    1. 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 TDD users. Such a program may include: developing and distributing written materials, brochures, and open-captioned videotapes; publishing information in telephone directories regarding direct access to 9-1-1 by TDD users; or broadcasting open-captioned television Public Service Announcements.

      In carrying out the foregoing Public Education objectives, the Parish will make every reasonable attempt to coordinate these efforts with the Deaf Action Center.

    PROGRESS REPORT

      Within 90 days of the effective date of this Agreement, the Parish will submit a report to the undersigned representative of the United States, detailing the actions it has taken to comply with the preceding provisions, as follows:

    1. The report will include copies of the notices published in the newspapers pursuant to this Agreement. The Parish will use terminology in the report that is consistent with that used by the emergency telephone services industry regarding its functions and positions.
    2. The Parish will follow the above-described initial progress report with similar reports to the undersigned representative of the United States on an annual basis.

    IMPLEMENTATION AND ENFORCEMENT OF THE AGREEMENT

    1. This agreement is a public document. A copy of this document or any information contained in it, may be made available to any person. The Parish will provide a copy of this Agreement to any person on request.
    2. The Department may review compliance with this Agreement at any time. If the Department believes that this Agreement or any requirement thereof has been violated, it may institute a civil action in federal district court seeking specific performance of the provisions of this Agreement.
    3. Failure by the Department to enforce this entire Agreement or any provision thereof with respect to any deadline or any other provision herein will not be construed as a waiver of its right to enforce same.
    4. 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 of the parties or their agents, that is not contained in this Agreement, will be enforceable under its provisions.

      This _____ day of __________________, 199__. For the Parish of Plaquemines

      _________________________________________
      EDWARD P. THERIOT
      Council Chairman
      Plaquemines Parish Government
      106 Avenue G
      Belle Chasse, Louisiana 70037

      For the United States of America

      EDDIE J. JORDAN, JR.
      UNITED STATES ATTORNEY

      _________________________________________
      GLENN K. SCHREIBER
      Assistant United States Attorney
      Hale Boggs Federal Building
      501 Magazine Street, Second Floor
      New Orleans, Louisiana 70130
      Telephone: (504) 680-3093

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Updated August 6, 2015

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