Newsletter – December 2007 (page 3)

Newsletter – December 2007 (page 3)



 Air Carrier Access Act Update

In our April 2006 Newsletter we reported that the U.S. Department of Transportation has proposed new rules that would regulate changes in the Air Carrier Access Act.  The proposed rules would make the skies very unfriendly for disabled people traveling with service animals.  The USDOT has now set a revised goal of issuing final rules by March of 2008.  That would be a mere four years after they were first proposed.

ADA Best Practices Tool Kit for State and Local Governments

From December 2006 through May 2007 the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice issued the first installments of a new technical assistance document designed to assist state and local officials in improving compliance with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in their programs, services, activities and facilities.  The Tool Kit is designed to teach these officials how to identify and fix problems that prevent people with disabilities from gaining equal access and to teach them to conduct accessibility surveys to their buildings and facilities.  The new technical assistance document, which will be released in several installments, is entitled “The ADA Best Practices Tool Kit for State and Local Governments”.  The installments of the Tool Kit issued to date include:

Chapter 1, ADA Basics:  Statute and Regulations (HTML) | PDF:

Chapter 2, ADA Coordinator, Notice & Grievance Procedure (HTML) | PDF:

Chapter 3, General Effective Communication Requirements Under Title II of the ADA (HTML) | PDF:  Chapter 3 explains what it means for communication to be “effective,” which auxiliary aids and services can potentially provide effective communication, and when those auxiliary aids and services must be provided. It also includes a checklist (PDF) to help state and local officials assess compliance with the ADA’s general effective communication requirements.

Chapter 4, 9-1-1 and Emergency Communications Services (HTML) | PDF:  The chapter also includes a checklist (PDF) that state and local officials can use to identify common problems with the accessibility of their 9-1-1 and emergency communications services.

Chapter 5, Website Accessibility (HTML) | PDF:  Chapter 5 explains how Title II of the ADA applies to state and local government websites, discusses website design practices that pose barriers to people with disabilities and identifies solutions that can eliminate these online barriers.  The Chapter also includes a checklist (PDF) that can be used by state and local governments to review their website policies and assess the accessibility of their websites.

Chapter 6, Curb Ramps and Pedestrian Crossings (HTML) | PDF:  Chapter 6 explains Title II’s requirements for providing curb ramps at pedestrian crossings, and outlines the steps you can take to ensure that your state or local government is complying with Title II’s requirements for accessible curb ramps and includes a checklist (PDF) your entity can use to assess your compliance. The next installment of the Tool Kit will include a survey form and survey instructions you can use to determine if curb ramps are accessible.

Watch for future installments of the Tool Kit, which will further guide communities in understanding how to review the accessibility of state and local government programs, services, and activities, and how to survey buildings and facilities to identify barriers to access for people with disabilities.

While state and local governments are not required to use the ADA Best Practices Tool Kit, the Justice department encourages its use as one effective means of complying with the requirements of Title II of the ADA.  You can read more about the Tool Kit online at crt/ada/pcatoolkit/abouttoolkit.htm

The federal government will begin distributing $1.75 billion in Medicaid funds to states under the Money Follows the Person Rebalancing Demonstration Act (the MFP Act).  The MFP Act funding is meant to assist states in moving individuals with disabilities out of institutional settings and into community-based programs.  States were supposed to have submitted proposals to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMMS) by November 1, 2007.  The MFP Act will enable states to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1999 decision in Olmstead v. L.C. and E.W. prohibiting unnecessary institutionalization of people with disabilities.  As far as we know, CMMS has not allocated all of the MFP money.  31 states and the District of Columbia have been awarded MFP grants.  These states have agreed to move approximately 27,000 residents from nursing homes to community or home care.  Mississippi, Rhode Island and Tennessee applied for MFP funds, but their applications were rejected.  Florida, Idaho, West Virginia and New Mexico initially applied for grants in the first tier of applications; they were rejected along with several other states.  Many states had to file two applications, and most were awarded MFP grants in the second tier.  However, these four states chose not to reapply for the second tier MFP grants.The remaining states never applied for MFP grants.  We are at a loss to explain why.  Perhaps it is as Santina Muha explained in the September/October 2006 issue of SCILife:  “Some states are saying it’s too bureaucratic.  Some believe they’re doing a good enough job already …, some are lazy and some are downright mean.”  We hope that changes very quickly – for the sake of those individuals with disabilities whom the MFP Act funding is meant to help.

On October 4th, members of the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties began hearings on the ADA Restoration Act (H.R. 3195 / S. 1881).  Most of the witnesses who testified spoke eloquently of the need to enact this legislation to restore the true intent of the ADA.  Only Lawrence Lorber, Chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Equal Employment Opportunity subcommittee, offered substantial dissent in his testimony.  Mr. Lorber remarked several times that the ADA is, and should be, a law only for the “truly disabled”.  At the end of the hearing Chairman Jerrold Nadler noted an “activist tendency” in the U.S. Supreme Court’s having told Congress that it “got it wrong” regarding the ADA.  The Chairman pointedly emphasized that such a judgment is a political question for the Congress, not a legal one for the Court.  The Courts have created an absurd Catch-22 where a person is “too disabled” to do the job but “not disabled enough” for ADA protection.  This is wrong!  If you agree, consider sending  emails voicing your concerns to your representatives and senators.  We will continue to keep you advised as this important legislation wends its way through Congress.

(Re:  the City of Sonora, CA):

City keeps up with sidewalk compliance

October 5, 2007


From The Union Democrat

It has been 17 years since passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the city of Sonora continues its quest toward compliance.  Enacted in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires all public agencies to adopt a transition plan identifying obstacles limiting access to services, programs and activities to the disabled and outlining a strategy to eliminate those obstacles.  Affected in Sonora are city-owned buildings, parking lots, public restrooms and sidewalks.  For Phoenix Lake-area resident Robert Dorroh, who sued the city for lack of compliance in 2002 (along with Access Now, Inc.®), the process has moved too slowly.  Dorroh, confined to a wheelchair after a car accident left him paralyzed from the waist down in 2000, said he did not want to take legal action against the city, but felt he had no choice. “I told the City Council they were responsible for the sidewalks,” Dorroh said.  “They gave me the silent treatment.”  Dorroh has had several accidents in his wheel chair while trying to get up steep curbs.  Twice the Fire Department had to be called to pick up his wheelchair and return him to it.  The former Union Democrat reporter said he didn’t file the suit for money, but to get the city to comply with the law by writing a transition plan.  “The suit was settled in November 2004,” said City Administrator Greg Applegate.  All claims were dismissed and the city agreed to write a transition plan.”  But, added Applegate, “the topography of a mountain town makes it difficult to comply in all areas.”  Since settling the lawsuit, the city has completed an elevator lift for the stage area of the Sonora Opera Hall, put in a new sidewalk in front of the Sugg House property on Theall Street and completed the $345,000 Washington Street sidewalk project which runs from Rothers Corner — at the city’s fire museum and senior center — to Sonora High School, said Applegate.  The city is now working on the sidewalk on Stewart Street, across from the Backstreet Bar & Grill and has a list of sidewalk projects which it will complete as funding becomes available, he said.  Applegate said the city has been making improvements over the past five years towards becoming as ADA-compliant as a foothill town can be.  “Our most recent project, Rothers Corner, was a project to make reasonable ADA access to the senior center,” Applegate said.  Though Dorroh feels the city could have moved more quickly on the issue of compliance, he is encouraged by recent efforts.  “I look forward to working with the city on this in a fair and reasonable manner,” he said. “I do feel better now that they are complying.”  Contact Rebecca Howes at or 588-4531.

"Newsletter – December 2007" table of contents

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