ADA 25th Anniversary: Advancing Equal Access!
CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA – On July 26th the nation recognizes the 25th anniversary of the landmark legislation known as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). With this legislation, the nation committed itself to eliminating discrimination against people with disabilities. The United States Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division plays 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.
The ADA sets four goals for people with disabilities:
1. Equal opportunity;
2. Full participation;
3. Independent living; and
4. Economic self-sufficiency.
The ADA’s purpose is simple. The ADA is about securing for people with disabilities the most fundamental of rights—the right to live in the world. It ensures they can go places and do things that other Americans take for granted.
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa also plays a vital role in enforcing the ADA and ensuring equal access to all. The office declared its unwavering enforcement of the legislative mandates during a press event held in front of the federal courthouse, surrounded by various non- governmental agency and organization representatives active in support of those persons with disabilities. United States Attorney Kevin W. Techau stated, “The purpose of the event is to celebrate the ADA by discussing how this legislation helped people with disabilities fulfill the American vision of equal opportunity for all.”
Techau recognized the significance of the ADA and its many milestones since its passage in 1990, but noted that compliance is something that must be enforced every day. Toward that end, he announced his office has launched a review of select businesses to determine ADA compliance. Techau stated, “It’s been a quarter of a decade since the passage of this legislation and no public accommodation should have an excuse for noncompliance.”
Questionnaires have been sent to 50 establishments that are expected to timely report on their ADA compliance. From this number several will be selected for an on-sight inspection conducted by trained inspectors familiar with ADA requirements.
As part of the review, restaurant owners and operators are being asked to complete a Survey Form, supplied by the Government, indicating their restaurant's accessibility. Investigators may then conduct on-site inspections to confirm survey responses and to evaluate compliance with federal ADA regulations. Owners and operators of restaurants found to be non-compliant will have the option of entering into a Voluntary Compliance Agreement with the Government whereby they voluntarily agree to upgrade their facilities to meet ADA requirements. Owners and operators found to be engaging in a pattern or practice of discrimination, or that fail to enter Voluntary Compliance Agreements, may face a civil lawsuit brought by the Government and/or be subject to penalties, including monetary damages and civil fines.
Techau stressed, “ADA enforcement is a top priority for our office. We will continue to investigate and bring appropriate enforcement actions when people fail to obey the requirements of the ADA law. No one should be unfairly deprived of the opportunity to enjoy a meal out. We will take all reasonable legal steps to make sure they have equal access. It is our expectation that any restaurants found to be seriously deficient will voluntarily upgrade their facilities and avoid litigation. We also hope that proprietors who are today planning renovations of new restaurants will keep the ADA firmly in mind before finalizing those plans, when it is much less costly to do so.”
The compliance review was initiated in June by seeking information and assistance from organizations that might be able to identifying entities with accessibility concerns. The request for information was broad and sought information on any non-complying business generally open to the public. Inputs from these organizations, as well as analysis from the responses to the 50 ADA questionnaires, will guide the U.S. Attorney’s Office in deciding where to focus its attention.
The findings from the on-site inspections determine what action, if any, might be necessary to ensure compliance. For a first time violation under Title III of the ADA the monetary penalties are up to $75,000; for a subsequent violation the maximum monetary penalty is $150,000.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of discrimination under the ADA, please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office at the address below. You may also email a photograph depicting what you believe represents restricted accessibility (please identify the business and its address):
United States Attorney’s Office
Civil Rights Unit – Civil Division
111-Seventh Avenue SE, Box 1
Cedar Rapids, IA 52401‑2101
A complaint form can be found at - http://www.ada.gov/complaint/
Complaints can be emailed to: USAIAN.CivilRightsComplaint@usdoj.gov
ADA Phone: 319-363-0534
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