Twenty-three years ago this week our nation established a comprehensive mandate to eliminate discrimination against people with disabilities by enacting the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Department of Justice is proud to play a critical role in enforcing the ADA and opening up the gateways to full participation and opportunity for people with disabilities. Today, the Department of Justice is 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 all for persons with disabilities.
In honor of the 23rd anniversary of the ADA, every day this week we will celebrate a different gateway that the ADA is opening up to people with disabilities.
Equal opportunity for those with disabilities is a vision that the department hopes will soon extend beyond our nation's borders. There are over 50 million Americans with disabilities, including 5.5 million veterans living abroad that frequently face barriers when they travel, conduct business, study, live or retire overseas. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities improves protections for persons with disabilities overseas, and allows U.S. accessibility standards to spread through the world. The department continues to play an active role in the quest for U.S. ratification of the Convention to ensure additional gateways open for people with disabilities throughout the world. For more information: www.un.org/disabilities/convention/conventionfull.shtml
This week, in honor of the 23rd anniversary of the Americans with Disablities Act (ADA), we have recognized and celebrated the different gateways that the ADA has opened up to people with disabilities. On the final day of our celebration we highlight the ADA as a Gateway to Health Care. In addition, to commemorate ADA anniversary week, and especially today — the ADA anniversary day, Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels has issued a message reaffirming the Division's commitment to the promise of equal opportunity for people with disabilities.
Ensuring full and equal access to health care for individuals with disabilities is an essential protection of the ADA. Too often people with disabilities face insurmountable obstacles to basic health care, including communication barriers and exclusionary policies.
One year ago, the Civil Rights Division announced the creation of the Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative. In partnership with the U.S. Attorneys' Offices, the Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative focuses the Justice Department's enforcement efforts on the vital need for access to health care for individuals with disabilities, particularly individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, have mobility disabilities, or have HIV/AIDS.
In the past year, the Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorneys' Offices have entered into 18 settlements under the Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative. Recently, three of these agreements were reached to provide auxiliary aids and services, including sign language interpreters, to individuals who are deaf to ensure effective communication in health care settings. In addition, in the past six months, the Department has reached five settlement agreements with medical providers to address HIV discrimination.
Addressing Barriers that Exclude People with HIV
Barix Clinics: Today, the Disability Rights Section and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Michigan entered into a settlement agreement with Barix Clinics, an organization that operates bariatric treatment facilities in Michigan and Pennsylvania. The settlement resolves allegations that Barix Clinics unlawfully refused to perform bariatric surgery on a man at its Langhorne, Pa., facility because he has HIV. The Department also determined that Barix Clinics cancelled bariatric surgery for another individual at its Ypsilanti, Mich., facility because he has HIV. Under the settlement, Barix Clinics must pay $35,000 to the complainants and a $10,000 civil penalty, as well as train its staff on the ADA and implement an anti-discrimination policy.
HIV/AIDS Website: Today, the Disability Rights Section launches its newly redesigned HIV/AIDS web page. The web page provides helpful information regarding HIV/AIDS discrimination, including settlement agreements that the Justice Department has reached, publications that explain the rights of people with HIV/AIDS under the ADA and ways to file a discrimination complaint with the Justice Department.
Addressing Communication Barriers to Healthcare
The Heart Center of Memphis: On June 27, 2013, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Tennessee entered into a settlement agreement with the Heart Center of Memphis. The complaint alleged that the Heart Center advised the complainant, who is deaf, that it was his responsibility to arrange a sign language interpreter for his appointment. After a number of unsuccessful attempts to get the Heart Center to provide a qualified sign language interpreter as required by law, the complainant was forced to cancel his appointment. In the settlement agreement, the Heart Center agreed to provide qualified sign language and oral interpreters as well as other auxiliary aids and services to patients who are deaf, have hearing loss or have speech disabilities.
Midtown Neurology P.C.: On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia entered into a settlement agreement with Midtown Neurology P.C. The complaint alleged that Midtown Neurology P.C. failed to provide, over multiple appointments, a qualified sign language interpreter for a patient who is deaf. At one appointment, the patient underwent a painful neurological test. Because there was no interpreter, the patient could not communicate that she was frightened and in pain, and that she wanted the doctor to stop the procedure. Under the agreement, Midtown Neurology P.C. will provide auxiliary aids and services, including qualified interpreters, to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing where necessary to ensure effective communication.
This week, in honor of the 23rd anniversary of the ADA, we recognize and celebrate the different gateways that the ADA is opening up to people with disabilities. Today we highlight the ADA as a gateway to equal opportunity in the workplace.
More students with disabilities are earning high school and college diplomas than ever before. Like everyone else, these students hope to find a job in the field they worked so hard to master. But for workers with disabilities, barriers to getting jobs, keeping jobs and enjoying the same opportunities offered to nondisabled employees persist. Vestiges of outdated attitudes and stereotypes still keep qualified people with disabilities unemployed, as do inaccessible workplaces or lack of reasonable accommodations. The Civil Rights Division continues to work to ensure that applicants and employees with disabilities are treated fairly and have equal opportunity to succeed in the workplace.
Remedying Employment Discrimination in Erie County, N.Y.: On July 10, 2013, the Department of Justice announced a settlement agreement with Erie County, addressing the county's refusal to promote a park maintenance worker with monocular vision. Although the county stated that it denied the promotion because he did not have a commercial driver's license, the department found that the employee was qualified for the promotion and that he could perform all the essential job duties. The department also found that other employees who did not have commercial driver's licenses had been promoted to the same position.
Under the terms of the agreement, which must be approved by the court, the county will pay the victim $22,486 in back pay and interest, offer him a promotion with remedial seniority, provide ADA training to staff, designate a county employee to address ADA matters and provide reports to the department.
Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities to Receive Integrated Employment Services in Rhode Island: On June 13, 2013 the division announced an interim settlement agreement with the state of Rhode Island and the city of Providence to address the rights of people with disabilities to receive employment and daytime services in the community, rather than in segregated sheltered workshops and facility-based day programs. The agreement will help approximately 200 Rhode Islanders with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The agreement calls for individuals to receive employment services to support a normative 40 hour work week, with the expectation that individuals will work, in a supported employment job at competitive wages for at least 20 hours per week.
In a related matter, the department recently intervened in a lawsuit in Oregon after finding that the state is not providing individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities with employment services in the most integrated setting appropriate. Click here to read more. Remembering that separate is not equal, the United States will continue to enforce the ADA's integration mandate and the Supreme Court's decision in Olmstead v. L.C. to ensure that people with disabilities receive employment services in the most integrated setting appropriate.
To find out more about equal opportunity in the workplace, visit DOJ's Title I website, and to learn more about DOJ's Olmstead enforcement efforts within the employment context, visit DOJ's Olmstead: Community Integration for Everyone website.
This week, in honor of the 23rd anniversary of the ADA, we recognize and celebrate the different gateways that the ADA is opening up to people with disabilities. Today we highlight the ADA as a gateway to the community.
Ensuring that people with disabilities have the opportunity to live and participate in their communities is at the heart of the Civil Rights Division's disability enforcement mission. In 2009, the Division launched an aggressive effort to enforce the Supreme Court's decision in Olmstead v. L.C., which recognized that people's civil rights are violated under the ADA when they are unnecessarily segregated from the rest of society. Under the ADA, states are required to avoid unnecessarily placing persons with disabilities in institutions and to ensure that persons with disabilities receive services in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.
The goal of the division's Olmstead enforcement work is to offer people with disabilities opportunities to live life to their fullest potential. The division has enforced Olmstead in 47 matters in 25 states on behalf of children and adults with physical, mental and developmental disabilities that are in or at risk of entering segregated settings, including state-run and private institutions, nursing homes, board and care homes and sheltered workshops. As a result of our efforts, tens of thousands of people with disabilities across the country have the opportunity to live and participate in their communities.
Individuals with Mental Illness Living in New York City Adult Homes: On July 23, 2013, the Department obtained a comprehensive agreement that requires the State of New York to ensure that people with mental illness are not required to live in New York City's large institutional adult homes. The agreement will help at least 2,000, and potentially more than 4,000, adult home residents who are unnecessarily segregated in 23 adult homes. In adult homes, residents have been subjected to strict schedules and rules, deprived of privacy and independence and allowed no choice in their own daily lives.
As part of the agreement New York will offer supported housing to this disenfranchised population. Through supported housing, people will be able to live in apartments scattered throughout the community, with rental assistance and support services that will enable them to experience inclusion, independence and full participation in community life.
Children with Disabilities Who Have Medically Complex Conditions Living in Florida Nursing Homes: On July 22, 2013, the United States filed a lawsuit against the State of Florida to challenge ADA violations from the State's failure to provide services and supports to children with significant medical needs in the most integrated setting appropriate for them. Nearly 200 children with disabilities are currently living in nursing facilities in Florida, often very far from home. They could be served in their family homes or other community-based settings, but remain institutionalized because of deficiencies in Florida's service system.
Unnecessary institutionalization denies children the opportunity to develop and maintain bonds with family and friends; interferes with their ability to interact with peers without disabilities; and keeps them from enjoying the social and recreational activities that contribute to child development. Children with even the most significant disabilities should have the opportunity to grow up in a family setting in their communities, just like children without disabilities.
To find out more about DOJ Olmstead enforcement work, visit the Olmstead: Community Integration for Everyone website, and visit our Faces of Olmstead website to read about some of the individuals whose lives have been improved by the Olmstead decision and the Department's Olmstead enforcement efforts.
This week, in honor of the 23rd anniversary of the ADA, we recognize and celebrate the different gateways that the ADA is opening up to people with disabilities. Today we highlight the ADA as a gateway to emerging technology.
The explosion of new technology has dramatically changed the way America communicates, learns and does business. For many people with disabilities the benefits of this technology revolution remain beyond their reach. Many businesses websites and government entities are inaccessible to people with vision or hearing disabilities. Because websites are a primary means of accessing all kinds of goods, entertainment and government services, this lack of access excludes people with disabilities from modern society. Similarly, devices like electronic book (e-book) readers, whether used as textbooks in a classroom or to take out books from a local library, can be completely unusable by someone who is blind because accessible features they need, such as text-to-speech functions or menus and controls accessible by audio or tactile means, are not provided.
Websites and digital technologies can be made accessible, much like adding ramps to building entrances, but few entities are including available accessibility features in their technology. The Civil Rights Division is working to ensure that people with disabilities are not left behind as new technology continues to emerge.
Increasing Technological Accessibility for Students with Disabilities at Louisiana Tech: Today, the Civil Rights Division announced a settlement agreement with Louisiana Tech University and the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System to address the use of inaccessible technology in the university setting. The settlement resolves claims that the university violated the ADA by using an online learning product that was allegedly inaccessible to a blind student. The student's lack of access to the online course materials and homework lasted nearly a month into the university quarter, at which point the student was so far behind in his coursework that he had to withdraw from the course. The settlement also resolves allegations that in a later class, the same student was not provided accessible course materials for in-class discussion or exam preparation on time.
Under the settlement agreement, the university will adopt a number of accessibility policies, including the requirement to use only learning technology, web pages and course content that are accessible in accordance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA standard. The university will also make existing web pages and materials created since 2010 accessible. The agreement also requires the university and the Board to pay a total of $23,543 in damages to the student. A copy of the settlement agreement can be accessed at www.ada.gov/louisiana-tech.htm
Making Accessible e-book Readers Available to Patrons with Disabilities at the Sacramento Public Library: In August 2012, the Civil Rights Division and the National Federation of the Blind entered into a settlement agreement with the Sacramento Public Library to resolve a complaint that the library's use of certain e-readers in its e-reader lending program discriminated against people who are blind or have other vision disabilities because the e-readers did not have accessible features such as text-to-speech functions or the ability to access menus through audio or tactile means. Under the terms of the settlement, the library will no longer purchase inaccessible e-book readers for patron use. The library also agreed to buy several additional accessible e-readers and to train its staff about the ADA. As a result of this settlement, the library's e-book lending program is accessible to patrons who are blind or have other vision disabilities. A copy of the settlement agreement can be accessed at www.ada.gov/sacramento_ca_settle.htm
Citizen participation in all aspects of government not only enhances our communities, but defines who we are as a country. Participation may include anything from volunteering in programs to accessing services, to serving on boards and commissions to running for elected office. Ensuring that people with disabilities can participate in all aspects of community life is a priority for the Civil Rights Division. Project Civic Access (PCA) is a wide-ranging effort to ensure that counties, cities, towns and villages comply with the ADA by eliminating physical and communication barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating fully in community life. In the last four years, the division has reached PCA agreements with more than 40 communities of all sizes throughout the country.
Access to the Town Hall and Library in Poestenkill, N.Y.: On July 19, 2013, the United States entered into an agreement with the town of Poestenkill to improve access to all aspects of civic life for persons with disabilities. This agreement is the first to be posted on the Department of Justice's newly redesigned PCA web page and may be viewed at www.ada.gov/civicac.htm. The web page allows users to identify PCA agreements in two different ways: by geographic location using a clickable map or a state list; and by chronological order.
Under the agreement, the town will remove access barriers at the Town Hall and the Poestenkill Library. The town will also make modifications to its facilities so that parking, routes into the buildings, entrances, public telephones, restrooms and service counters are accessible to people with disabilities. The town is also required to post, publish and distribute a notice to let members of the public know about the ADA and how it applies to the town's programs, services and activities. The agreement requires the actions to be completed within three years, and the department will actively monitor compliance with the agreement. This agreement is the 207th entered into under the department's PCA initiative.