During a ceremony in Washington, D.C. commemorating the fifteenth anniversary
of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA),
the Justice Department announced the signing of 22 agreements
with cities and counties across the country,
as well as a new interactive web-based course for businesses.


Robert D. McCallum Jr.
Associate Attorney General
of the United States

Bradley J. Schlozman
Acting Assistant Attorney General
for Civil Rights

Loretta King
Deputy Assistant Attorney General
for Civil Rights

July 25, 2005



On behalf of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Deputy Attorney General James Comey, I'd like to welcome all of you to Washington and to the Department of Justice. We are extremely pleased that you have all been able to take the time to celebrate with us both the Fifteenth Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and also the Department's continuing successes in Project Civic Access. I shouldn't claim that these are only the Department's successes because your involvement and energy have been a critical factor in every one of them.

We have with us today government representatives and disability advocates from every part of the United States, including Florida, Indiana, Tennessee, New York, Alabama, Arizona, Maryland, and Virginia.

You represent large and small towns, urban and rural counties, and communities of every shape and demographic. Your diversity underscores the importance of the Departments' mission to realize the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act. That statute promised to include all Americans, regardless of disability, in every day American life.

People with disabilities are found in every community and in every walk of American life, and so our work on behalf of people with disabilities is one that all Americans should support. Your presence here demonstrates that there is support for this effort all across this country in all of our wonderfully diverse communities.

In 2001, as one of his first acts in office, President George W. Bush announced the New Freedom Initiative, challenging federal agencies to provide to people with disabilities the full promise of federal law. That Initiative comprises many different efforts, focused on the key elements of accessibility.

For example, President Bush signed Executive Order 13330, which requires federal agencies to consolidate and improve the over 50 separate programs providing transportation assistance to people with disabilities.

Accessible buildings and stores and parks can be useless to people with disabilities without effective, accessible transportation. The Department of Justice is proud to have participated in the "United we Ride" effort, along with our partners at the Department of Transportation and others.

In another aspect of this initiative, the federal government is taking steps to make sure that in this post-9/11 world, people with disabilities are considered and included in emergency planning. In July 2004, President Bush signed Executive Order 13347, which requires federal coordination of emergency preparedness planning for individuals with disabilities, and this issue is being addressed on federal, state and local levels.

Under that Order, the Department of Justice developed and recently announced the launch of an on-line Resource Center, gathering emergency preparedness planning information for people with all sorts of disabilities, to make certain that in the event of disaster, whether natural or man-made, all of our loved ones will be included in emergency plans.

Today we come together to celebrate another aspect of that Initiative - Project Civic Access. Last year, on the Fourteenth Anniversary of the ADA, we celebrated the signing of the 100th Project Civic Access Agreement.

This year, we celebrate an even greater milestone. Through the Department's efforts this past year, more than a million people with disabilities can realize the dream of greater access to civic life, as a result of the Project Civic Access Initiative.

Project Civic Access has become a key component of the Department's compliance assistance efforts under the ADA. Through it, we work cooperatively with counties and towns to implement Title II of the ADA, which requires that individuals with disabilities be given an equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from State and local government programs, services, and activities, including recreation, social services, voting, and the court system.

On behalf of the Department of Justice, I'd like to express our appreciation to the jurisdictions for their cooperation in Project Civic Access and to thank all of you for attending today's program. Ensuring that the ADA's principles of equality, independence, and inclusion become a reality for individuals with disabilities requires the cooperation of all levels of government.

Your sincere commitment to bring your programs, services, and activities into compliance guarantees, for all Americans, the opportunity to participate fully in the day-to-day life of our great nation, and that engaged participation is a fundamental part of our democratic society.

So thank you for what you have done, are doing, and will do in the future on this Initiative. You have accomplished much, but I think we all agree that there is still more to do. So let's work hard in the coming months so that we have additional accomplishments under the ADA and this important initiative next year to celebrate. Godspeed in that effort and God bless America.

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It is a pleasure for me to be with all of you today. This year we have the honor of celebrating the fifteenth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA is a resounding success story; it has opened doors and torn down barriers that once prevented millions of individuals from making their full contributions to American life. Because of the ADA, people with disabilities are no longer relegated to the background, but are instead actively participating in the forefront of America's future.

As one of his first acts in office, President Bush issued his New Freedom Initiative, which was designed to improve the lives of millions of Americans with disabilities. At the heart of the New Freedom Initiative is a deep and abiding commitment to full implementation of the ADA. A promise that people with disabilities will gain the freedom to work, to play, and to participate as full members of their communities.

We in the Civil Rights Division take the President's challenge seriously. Since the beginning of this Administration we have achieved results for people with disabilities in over 1,600 actions, including lawsuits, settlement agreements, letters of resolution, and successful mediations. Our efforts will continue until the promise of the ADA becomes a reality.

Achieving compliance is our core mission. It involves a coordinated effort of technical assistance, alternative dispute resolution, and where necessary, litigation. It also involves laying the foundation of trust with the disability community and building cooperative relationships with local governments and businesses.

For example, through our ADA Business Connection we are creating partnerships between people with disabilities and businesses. More than 50 million Americans with disabilities - 18% of our population - are potential customers for businesses of all types across the United States. This group, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, has $175 billion in discretionary spending power. By the year 2030, 71.5 million Baby Boomers will be over the age of 65 and in need of products, services, and environments that address their age-related physical changes. In all candor, even at age 34, I find myself occasionally in need of such products and services. By working together, these groups are learning that accessibility is about more than the law. It's about expanding markets - dollars and cents. (Even a lawyer can do that simple math)

To enhance our ADA business connection efforts, I am announcing today a new ADA online course entitled, "Reaching Out to Customers with Disabilities." This interactive course is designed to educate small business owners about their obligations to, and the benefits of serving, customers with disabilities. The course is available on our ADA.gov website, which has proven to be a powerful tool in providing technical assistance to businesses and local governments. In fact, it had over 29.3 million hits last year.

I'd like now to turn to another set of partnerships, which is the main focus of our ceremony today - the network of partnerships between the Department of Justice and state and local governments that make up Project Civic Access. Project Civic Access is a Department of Justice initiative to promote accessible public buildings, programs, and services. Already through PCA, more than 1 million Americans with a disability now live in accessible communities. PCA agreements involve countless hours by Department investigators, attorneys, and architects, who work in conjunction with local governments, to identify facilities and services needing modifications. The final result is an agreement, reached outside of the courtroom, that takes the steps necessary to make core government functions more accessible.

Today I am pleased to announce 22 new agreements with cities and counties across the country. These agreements are more than signatures on a piece of paper. They signify that in town halls and voting booths, 9-1-1 systems and emergency preparedness programs, and parks and convention centers, people with disabilities are able to more fully participate in everyday activities.

Joining us today are representatives from eight communities who will be signing agreements: Miami, Florida; Memphis, Tennessee; Birmingham, Alabama; Tucson, Arizona; Allen County, Indiana; Will County, Illinois; Monroe County, New York; and Prince George's County, Maryland: I salute them for their commitment to improving their communities for all citizens, including citizens with disabilities.

Fourteen other communities, who are not here with us, will also be signing agreements today. They are Crittenden County, Arkansas; Hartford, Connecticut; Ada County, Idaho; Gary, Indiana; Washington County, Maine; St. Louis County, Minnesota; Omaha, Nebraska; Paterson, New Jersey; Providence, Rhode Island; Laurens County, South Carolina; Madison County, Tennessee; Amarillo, Texas; Webb County, Texas; and Loudoun County, Virginia;

In addition, during the past year we have reached agreements in 13 other areas. They are Sedona, Arizona; Carpinteria and San Luis Obispo, California; Lafayette County, Florida; Hutchinson, Kansas; Missoula County, Montana; Cheshire County, New Hampshire; Gallup, New Mexico; Monroe County, Pennsylvania; Bend, Oregon; Florence County, South Carolina; Washington County, Utah; and Suffolk, Virginia.

While these cities and counties are taking their first steps toward more accessible communities, another city is honored today for completing its Project Civic Access agreement -- Dodge City, Kansas. Once again, my home state of Kansas is at the forefront. I want to recognize the two City employees who led Dodge City's efforts - Ms. Cherise Tieben ("Tee - Ben"), Human Resources Director and ADA Coordinator, and Mr. Kurt Nietling ("Neat - Ling"), former Construction Coordinator and now Director of Parks.

Mr. Kurt Nietling is responsible for much of the "hands on" work required under the agreement. The quality of his workmanship on modifications to ramps, walkways, and restrooms stood out for its precision. Mr. Nietling modestly explained that Dodge City takes the ADA seriously and understands how small differences in the slopes of ramps or the width of doorways make a big difference to the individuals relying on them.

In her role as ADA Coordinator, Ms. Cherise Tieben guided the implementation of the settlement agreement, and met all deadlines with comprehensive monitoring reports. Ms. Tieben's attention to detail greatly aided our review of the City's progress.

These dedicated public employees helped the Department and the City to achieve a successful resolution and are recognized today for their superlative compliance efforts. Ms. Tieben and Mr. Nietling, please come forward to accept these plaques as a token of our appreciation, and, if you would like, to say a few words.

[Plaques presented; followed by brief remarks of Ms. Tieben.]

Thank you so much Ms. Tieben for your remarks and for the efforts that you and Mr. Nietling have made to make Project Civic Access a great success in Dodge City.

This is just one example of the progress that Project Civic Access is bringing to communities across America. After today's ceremony we will have signed a total of 135 PCA agreements. Each change agreed to represents a vital step in achieving a new freedom for people with disabilities and the opportunity to enjoy civic life on the same basis as everyone else. Many of these fixes are very simple, some are daunting. But the changes taking place have something in common. That commonality is he vision and heart of people like those here today, who are doing their part to achieve the President's goal of an America where there are no insignificant lives and where everyone belongs.

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I would like to recognize the tireless efforts of our Disability Rights Section staff, investigators, architects, lawyers, and other professional and clerical personnel in bringing about these agreements.

A core group of 20 investigators and architects, supplemented by Section volunteers, spent last fall, winter, and spring on the road, crisscrossing the United States from Ada, Idaho and San Luis Obispo, California; through Tucson, Arizona; on to Omaha, Nebraska, - to the Midwest in Gary and Allen County, Indiana and Will County, Illinois - taking a southerly turn down to Birmingham, Alabama, and Memphis, Tennessee - moving east to Miami, Florida - traveling up the East Coast to Monroe, New York and then arriving back home to begin work in Prince Georges County, Maryland. This is a small sample of the cities and counties that received the message of Project Civic Access during the past year.

What's it like to be on the road for a week or more on an ADA review? Well, let the investigators speak for themselves.

"Today our huge team of 12 culminated a long week of measuring, driving to city facilities, museums, parks, and recreation centers with a day long inspection of the new 330,000 square foot library. I thought I'd never be able to leave."

"We started early each morning and worked till late at night, with our forms and pictures of each facility spread out over the motel room. Periodically we got up very early to do our final notes and assemble the pictures we had taken the day before. If you don't label the photos on the evening of the day you take them, it's hard to remember which of the fifty restrooms you surveyed is which."

"We formed very positive relations with City staff who showed us the 'real' community and gave us information only long-time residents were aware of. We get close-up views of city buildings, employees and local folks. It's fascinating."

"It was so cold some days in Nebraska that the ink kept freezing when we were outside surveying the parking lots, sidewalks, and parks. We put on heavier clothing and kept surveying, but we switched from writing with pens to pencils."

"We walked over mud and gravel to reach the biggest tourist attraction in the city, and it was worth it. Unfortunately, if you are in a wheelchair, you're out of luck. I think this will change after our review. "

Today we welcome those of you from some of the towns and counties that have made our lives so interesting and rewarding this past year.

Each of the communities represented here today is unique and has its own unique access issues to address. They all took steps to address access issues before Project Civic Access came to visit them. The agreements they sign today evidence their continued commitment to provide persons with disabilities full access to their community programs.

Assistant Attorney General Schlozman will now sign the Project Civic Access agreements for each of the communities represented here today. After he signs each agreement, the investigator or attorney who led the Project Civic Access effort relating to that community will present the community with its copy of the agreement. At that point, community officials and representatives from their disability community will then be handed a microphone and invited to say a few words on their involvement in this initiative and their commitment to creating opportunities for people with disabilities.

Allen County, Indiana

At more than 670 square miles, Allen County is the largest county in Indiana. More than 330,000 people call it home, including more than 50,000 persons with disabilities. It includes the City of Fort Wayne and rural communities such as Grabill. Before the Civil Rights Division visited Allen County, the County had sponsored a disability awareness day, which involved elected officials and department heads spending a day in a wheelchair to gain a better understanding of some of the barriers that persons with disabilities can face in accessing government programs. Under its Project Civic Access agreement, Allen County will be making accessibility modifications to numerous facilities, including its courthouse, which was built in 1902. The courthouse will be made accessible witthout detracting from the beauty of this historic landmark which features Italian marble staircases, a magnificent rotunda, mosaic tiles on the stair landing, and much stained glass, including the skylights in the five "color- themed" courtrooms.
[Acting AAG Schlozman signs Allen County's agreement, and attorney Sunny Pietrafesa brings the County it's copy of the signed agreement and hands the microphone to County officials.]

Birmingham, Alabama

Birmingham, known as "The Magic City," is the largest city in Alabama, with a population of 245,000 and more than 61,000 residents with disabilities. Once the hub of the steel industry, it now has a service- and education-oriented economy. Under its Project Civic Access agreement, Birmingham will be ensuring access for persons with disabilities to all of its programs, including its nationally renowned civil rights museum and its botanical gardens.
[Acting AAG Schlozman signs Birmingham's agreement, and investigator Dana Jackson brings the City it's copy of the signed agreement and hands the microphone to City officials and the representative from Birmingham's disability community.]

Memphis, Tennessee

Recognized as the birthplace of the blues and the home of Elvis Presley, Memphis is the largest city in Tennessee. It has a total population of 650,000, including almost 140,000 residents with disabilities. As several of the Disability Rights Section's investigators, attorneys, and architects who visited Memphis can personally attest, it is also known for its outstanding "wet" and "dry" BarBQ and is the home of the National Civil Rights Museum. Under its Project Civic Access agreement, Memphis will be making modifications to numerous City buildings and ensuring that sidewalks and the City's official website are accessible to people with disabilities.
[Acting AAG Schlozman signs Birmingham's agreement, and attorney Josh Mendelsohn brings the City it's copy of the signed agreement and hands the microphone to City officials.]

Miami, Florida

Since its incorporation in 1896, the City has grown tremendously and is the largest municipality in Miami-Dade County. It has an area of only 36 square miles, but houses over 10,000 people per square mile. According to the 2000 Census, Miami has a population of 362,470, including more than 97,000 individuals with disabilities. Miami is the home of the Orange Bowl, many marinas, golf courses, and other tourist destinations. Under the Agreement signed today, Miami will increase accessibility to its 9-1-1 system, its Neighborhood Enhancement Team offices - which serve as neighborhood based service-centers, and other facilities including the Orange Bowl Stadium.
[Acting AAG Schlozman signs Miami's agreement, and investigator Suzi Quinn brings the City it's copy of the signed agreement and hands the microphone to City officials and the representative from Miami's disability community.]

Monroe County, New York

Monroe County is nestled in upstate New York. It is home to 731,792 residents, of whom almost 130,000 are individuals with disabilities. The County includes 19 towns, 10 villages, and the City of Rochester. Monroe County is home to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, the world's first and largest technological college for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Under its Project Civic Access agreement, Monroe County will be making modifications to many County facilities and taking a variety of steps to ensure effective communication for its large number of deaf and hard of hearing residents.
[Acting AAG Schlozman signs Monroe County's agreement, and investigator Paula Rubin brings the County it's copy of the signed agreement and hands the microphone to County officials.]

Prince George's County, Maryland

With over 800,000 residents, Prince George's County - or I should say, Gorgeous Prince George's County - is one of the largest counties in the United States. It is the home of almost 130,000 persons with disabilities. Reaching from the borders of Washington, D.C., to the suburbs of Baltimore, Maryland, this richly historic and diverse area of the nation maintains a large array of public programs that affect all County residents, including the substantial population of persons with disabilities. Even before the County became involved in Project Civic Access, it established an award-winning Disability Awareness Training Course for its public safety personnel and took many other steps to assure access. Under the agreement signed today, the County will continue its efforts to improve access for its citizens with disabilities by making modifications to a number of buildings and facilities located throughout its broad geographic area.
[Acting AAG Schlozman signs the Prince George's agreement, and attorney Elizabeth Bacon brings the County it's copy of the signed agreement and hands the microphone to City officials.]

Tucson, Arizona

Tucson is a sophisticated city rich in history, diverse culture, and natural beauty. Tucson became part of the United States in 1853, when ownership of southern Arizona was transferred to the United States after the Mexican-American War. Today, Tucson is the second-largest city in Arizona, with an estimated population of 487,000, including 102,700 individuals with disabilities. Under its Project Civic Access agreement, the City will develop a method for providing emergency management policies and procedures addressing the needs of persons with disabilities, including advance preparation, emergency notification, response, and clean up, and modify facilities including the Tucson Children's Museum, Convention Center, and others.
[Acting AAG Schlozman signs Tucson's agreement, and investigator Laura Welp brings the City it's copy of the signed agreement and hands the microphone to City officials.]

Will County, Illinois

Will County is the fastest growing county in Illinois, with a population of more than 559,000 residents, of whom about 58,000 have disabilities. Joliet, the county seat, is located 40 miles southwest of Chicago. The County is home to many entertainment venues, including two casinos, Splash Station Waterpark, Silver Cross Field (home of the Minor League Joliet Jackhammers), Challenge Park Xtreme Paintball, Mountain Biking and Skate Park, the Chicagoland Speedway, and Route 66 Raceway. Under its Project Civic Access agreement, the County will modify many facilities, including the Sunny Hill Rehabilitation Center, a crucial regional resource for people with disabilities who seek long-term rehabilitative care.
[Acting AAG Schlozman signs Birmingham's agreement, and attorney Hilary Martinson brings the County it's copy of the signed agreement and hands the microphone to County officials.]

Thank you, everyone, for joining us here today to celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and for honoring the cities and counties who have made a commitment to ensure that all of their programs are accessible to persons with disabilities. It is through your commitment and hard work that the promises of the ADA translate into ready access for persons with disabilities.

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last updated September 28, 2005