Town of Bethlehem Agrees to Increase Accessibility in Order to Comply with Americans with Disabilities Act
John H. Durham, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, today announced that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has reached a settlement agreement with the Town of Bethlehem, Connecticut, to resolve allegations that Bethlehem’s Town Hall and Memorial Hall buildings were not operating in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”).
The settlement agreement resolves an ADA complaint filed by an individual with disabilities alleging that Bethlehem’s Town Hall and Memorial Hall facilities were not accessible to individuals with physical disabilities. Bethlehem is in the process of making changes to both facilities as required by the settlement agreement, including improving the accessibility of entrances and access routes, increasing the number of accessible parking spaces and adding van accessible parking spaces, adding accessible features to restrooms, and providing accessible signage. Bethlehem is also updating its policies and procedures to ensure access for individuals with disabilities to the Town Clerks’ Office, the Registrar of Voters, and the First Selectman’s Office. Bethlehem will continue to make improvements and changes to enhance accessibility over the next 23 months.
Under federal law, public entities are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of disability. The ADA authorizes the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate complaints and undertake periodic reviews of compliance of covered entities. The Department is also authorized to commence a civil lawsuit in federal court in any case that involves a pattern or practice of discrimination or that raises issues of general public importance, and to seek injunctive relief, monetary damages, and civil penalties.
U.S. Attorney Durham commended the leadership of the Town of Bethlehem for having worked cooperatively and collaboratively with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to address the ADA issues expeditiously and without litigation.
“Among the most important protections provided by the Americans with Disabilities Act are those ensuring individuals with disabilities have access to public services, such as voting and participating in civic activities and town meetings,” said U.S. Attorney Durham. “Our Office is committed to enforcing the ADA, which requires public entities, including municipalities, to provide access to individuals with disabilities. We greatly appreciate the willingness of the Town of Bethlehem and the commitment of its First Selectman to greatly increase the accessibility and usability of Bethlehem’s Town Hall and Memorial Hall facilities.”
Any member of the public who wishes to file a complaint alleging that a public entity or place of public accommodation in Connecticut is not accessible to persons with disabilities may contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office at 203-821-3700.
Additional information about the ADA can be found at www.ada.gov, or by calling the Justice Department’s toll-free information line at (800) 514-0301 and (800) 514-0383 (TTY). More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.justice.gov/crt.
This matter was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica H. Soufer of the District of Connecticut in coordination with the Disability Rights Section of the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.