SCOPE OF THE INVESTIGATION
The United States Department of Justice (Department) initiated this matter as a compliance review of Loudoun County, Virginia (County) under title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131-12134, and the Department's implementing regulation, 28 C.F.R. Part 35. Because the County receives financial assistance from the Department of Justice, the review was also conducted under the authority of section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794, and the Department's implementing regulation, 28 C.F.R. Part 42, Subpart G. The County was selected for this compliance review because it is the fastest growing county in the United States, there are a significant number of people with disabilities who reside in the County, and the County has constructed many new facilities since the ADA became effective. The County was not selected because of any evidence that it discriminates against people with disabilities.
The review was conducted by the Disability Rights Section of the Department's Civil Rights Division and focused on the County's compliance with the following title II requirements:
C to conduct a self-evaluation of its services, policies, and practices by July 26, 1992, and make modifications necessary to comply with the Department's title II regulation, 28 C.F.R. § 35.105;
C to notify applicants, participants, beneficiaries, and other interested persons of their rights and the County's obligations under title II and the Department's regulation, 28 C.F.R. § 35.106;
C to designate a responsible employee to coordinate its efforts to comply with and carry out the County's ADA responsibilities, 28 C.F.R. § 35.107(a);
C to establish a grievance procedure for resolving complaints of violations of title II, 28 C.F.R. § 35.107(b);
C to operate each program, service, or activity so that, when viewed in its entirety, it is readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, 28 C.F.R. § 35.150, by:
C delivery of services, programs, or activities in alternate ways, including, for example, redesign of equipment, reassignment of services, assignment of aides, home visits, or other methods of compliance or, if these methods are not effective in making the programs accessible,
C physical changes to buildings (required to have been made by January 26, 1995), in accordance with the Department's title II regulation, 28 C.F.R. § 35.151, and the ADA Standards for Accessible Design (Standards), 28 C.F.R. pt. 36, App. A, or the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS), 41 C.F.R. § 101-19.6, App. A.
C to ensure that facilities for which construction or alteration was begun after January 26, 1992, are readily accessible to and usable by people with disabilities, in accordance with 1) the Department's title II regulation and 2) the Standards or UFAS, 28 C.F.R. § 35.151;
C to ensure that communications with applicants, participants, and members of the public with disabilities are as effective as communications with others, including furnishing auxiliary aids and services when necessary, 28 C.F.R. § 35.160;
C to provide direct access via TTY (text telephone) or computer-to-telephone emergency services, including 9-1-1 services, for persons who use TTY's and computer modems, 28 C.F.R. § 35.162;
C to provide information for interested persons with disabilities concerning the existence and location of the County's accessible services, activities, and facilities, 28 C.F.R. § 35.163(a); and
C to provide signage at all inaccessible entrances to each of its facilities, directing users to an accessible entrance or to information about accessible facilities, 28 C.F.R. § 35.163(b).
As part of its compliance review, the Department reviewed the following facilities, which – because construction or alterations commenced after January 26, 1992 – must comply with the ADA's new construction or alterations requirements: Government Center, Juvenile Detention Center, Central Kitchen, Respite Center, Parks and Recreation Center/Senior Center, Roller Blade Rink, Mental Health Building, Loudoun County Government Building, Loudoun County Senior Center, SportsPlex Maintenance Building and Shelter #1, SportsPlex Concessions Building, Claude Moore Park, Claude Moore Heritage Farm Museum, Claude Moore Park Education Center, Vestals Gap Visitors Center, Ashburn Library, Trailside Park, Ashburn Park, Greg Crittenden Memorial Park, Judicial Center, Shenandoah Office Building (altered sections only), and the Animal Shelter.
The Department's program access review covered those of the County's programs, services, and activities that operate in the following facilities: Shenandoah Office Building, Friendship House, Little League Lower Fields, Lanesville House, FrogShackle Cottage, Eastern Loudoun Library, Sterling Community Center, Sterling Library, Sterling Community Annex, Sterling Sheriff Substation, Health and Welfare Office/Loudoun Mental Health, Ashburn Sheriff Substation, Arcola Community Center, Mt Zion Church, Mickey Gordon Memorial Park, Middleburg Library, Lucketts Community Center, Lovettsville Library, Dominion High School, Potowmack Elementary School, Sterling Middle School, Algonkian Middle School, Guilford Elementary School, Ashburn Fire/Rescue Station #6, Arcola Elementary School, Aldie Elementary School, Middleburg Community Center, Harmony Intermediate School, and the Lovettsville Volunteer Fire/Rescue Station.
The Department reviewed the County's policies and procedures regarding voting, emergency management and disaster prevention, and sidewalk maintenance to evaluate whether persons with disabilities have an equal opportunity to utilize these programs.
Finally, the Department reviewed the County's Sheriff's Department's policies and procedures regarding providing effective communication to persons who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.
1. The ADA applies to the County because it is a "public entity" as defined by title II. 42 U.S.C. § 12131(1).
2. The Department is authorized under 28 C.F.R. Part 35, Subpart F, to determine the compliance of the County with title II of the ADA and the Department's title II implementing regulation, to issue findings, and, where appropriate, to negotiate and secure voluntary compliance agreements. Furthermore, the Attorney General is authorized, under 42 U.S.C. § 12133, to bring a civil action enforcing title II of the ADA should the Department fail to secure voluntary compliance pursuant to Subpart F.
3. The Department is authorized under 28 C.F.R. Part 42, Subpart G, to determine the County's compliance with section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, to issue findings, and, where appropriate, to negotiate and secure voluntary compliance agreements. Furthermore, the Attorney General is authorized, under 29 U.S.C. § 794 and 28 C.F.R. §§ 42.530 and 42.108-110, to suspend or terminate financial assistance to the County provided by the Department of Justice should the Department fail to secure voluntary compliance pursuant to Subpart G or to bring a civil suit to enforce the rights of the United States under applicable federal, state, or local law.
. The parties to this Agreement are the United States of America and Loudoun County, Virginia.
5. In order to avoid the burdens and expenses of an investigation and possible litigation, the parties enter into this Agreement.
6. In consideration of, and consistent with, the terms of this Agreement, the Attorney General agrees to refrain from filing a civil suit in this matter regarding all matters contained within this Agreement, except as provided in the section entitled "Implementation and Enforcement."
ACTIONS TAKEN BY LOUDOUN COUNTY
7. The County has a designated ADA Coordinator and an ADA Committee comprised of interested citizens that meet regularly to discuss issues and concerns.
8. The County posts an ADA notice for its citizens.
9. The County conducted a self-evaluation and developed a transitional plan on September 17, 1991. The plan was updated again in September 1993 and November 1994. The plan increased funding to ensure that the programs offered in County facilities are readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. Through the end of FY03 the County, in addition to all new construction costs that included ADA compliance expenditures, spent $471,373 for reasonable public and employee accommodations and facility modifications.
10. The County installed an access ramp to transitional housing facilities.
11. The County offers curb side voting on election day.
12. The County began contracting for the captioning of all the Board of Supervisors business meetings in March 1997; this is an ongoing action. In 2000, the Board's public hearings were added to the captioning contract. The County provided captioning upon citizen request prior to the captioning contract for Board meetings and hearings.
13. Sign language interpreters are provided for all Board of Supervisor meetings, including public hearings, upon request.
14. The County has proactively worked with the disability community to provide accessibility of its website and all on-line registrations/payments information components. This includes the use of Alternative Text tags to represent visual information as text for screen readers.
15. The County has proactively, since May 1992, included in its procurement documents the requirement for disability compliance. On July 1, 2000, the documents were revised to add new State Code language prohibiting discrimination.
16. The County has proactively ensured communication accessibility through: the purchases of portable FM assistive listening systems and TTYs, the provision of sign language interpreters and CART (computer assisted real time) reporters, and the development of the Communication Aids Facility at the Eastern Loudoun Regional Library.
17. The information in Attachments D, E, F, and G to this Agreement was obtained by Department staff during a site visit of the County in February 2004. Since that time and prior to the execution of this Agreement, the County has proactively made modifications to many County facilities in an effort to improve accessibility.
LAW ENFORCEMENT AND EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION
18. Within six months of the effective date of this Agreement, the County will require the Sheriff to adapt for his own use and implement the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office's Policy Statement on Effective Communication with People Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing [Attachment A] and distribute to all deputy sheriffs the Guide for Law Enforcement Officers When in Contact with People Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing [Attachment B].
19. Within six months of the effective date of this Agreement, the County will contract with one or more local qualified oral/sign language interpreter agencies to ensure that the interpreting services will be available on a priority basis, twenty-four hours per day, seven days a week, to its sheriff department or make other appropriate arrangements (such as contracting directly with or hiring qualified interpreters).
20. Within six months of the effective date of this Agreement, the County will ensure that each sheriff station or substation and each jail/prison/detention facility is equipped with a working TTY to enable persons who are deaf, hard of hearing, or who have speech impairments to make outgoing telephone calls if inmates or members of the public are allowed to make outgoing telephone calls. Where inmate telephone calls are time-limited, the County will require the Sheriff to adopt policies permitting inmates who use TTY's a longer period of time to make those calls, due to the slower nature of TTY communications compared with voice communications.
21. Some of the County polling places may be owned or operated by other public entities subject to title II or by public accommodations subject to title III and, as such, would be subject to the obligation to provide program access or to remove barriers to accessibility under the ADA. This Agreement does not limit such future enforcement action against the owners or operators of these polling places by any person or entity, including the Department.
22. Within two years of the effective date of this Agreement, the County will develop and implement a way for persons who are blind or have low vision to vote independently and privately, whether through ballots and instructions in alternate formats (in-person and absentee), Braille templates and audio instructions, the provision of accessible voting machines, or some other method.
23. Within six months of the effective date of this Agreement, the County will request that the Commonwealth of Virginia make all voter registration materials available in alternate formats, including Braille, large print, audio tape, and computer disk.
24. Starting six months from the effective date of this Agreement, when the County purchases or otherwise acquires new voting machines, one such newly-acquired machine per polling location will be the most accessible model for persons with disabilities (including those with mobility and visual impairments) that has been approved for County use by the applicable governing authority (e.g., State Secretary of Elections or other such official).
EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT PROCEDURES AND POLICIES
25. If the County contracts with another entity, such as the American Red Cross or another local government, to provide its emergency preparedness plans and emergency response services, the County will ensure that the other entity complies with the following provisions on its behalf.
26. Within six months of the effective date of this Agreement, the County will implement and report to the Department its written procedures that ensure that it regularly solicits and incorporates input from persons with a variety of disabilities and those who serve them regarding all phases of its emergency management plan (preparation, notification, response, and clean up).
27. Within six months of the effective date of this Agreement, the County will implement and report to the Department its written procedures that ensure that its community evacuation plans enable those who have mobility impairments, vision impairments, hearing impairments, cognitive disabilities, mental illness, or other disabilities to safely self-evacuate or be evacuated by others. If the County adopts or maintains a voluntary, confidential registry of persons with disabilities who may need individualized evacuation assistance or notification, its report to the Department will discuss its procedures for ensuring voluntariness, appropriate confidentiality controls, and how the registry will be kept updated, as well as its outreach plan to inform persons with disabilities of its availability. Whether or not a registry is used, the County plan should address accessible transportation needs for persons with disabilities.
28. Within six months of the effective date of this Agreement, the County will implement and report to the Department its written procedures that ensure that if its emergency warning systems use sirens or other audible alerts, it will also provide ways to inform persons with hearing impairments of an impending disaster. The use of auto-dialed TTY messages to pre-registered individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, text messaging, e-mails, open-captioning on local TV stations and other innovative uses of technology may be incorporated into such procedures, as well as lower-tech options such as dispatching qualified sign language interpreters to assist with emergency TV broadcasts.
29. Within six months of the effective date of this Agreement, the County will implement and report to the Department its written procedures that ensure that at least one emergency shelter has a back-up generator and a way to keep medications refrigerated (such as a refrigerator or a cooler with ice). Such shelter(s) will be made available to persons whose disabilities require access to electricity and refrigeration, for example, for using life-sustaining medical devices, providing power to motorized wheelchairs, and preserving certain medications, such as insulin, that require refrigeration. The written procedures will include a plan for notifying persons of the location of such shelter(s).
30. Within six months of the effective date of this Agreement, the County will implement and report to the Department its written procedures that ensure that persons who use service animals are not separated from their service animals when sheltering during an emergency, even if pets are normally prohibited in shelters. The procedures will not unnecessarily segregate persons who use service animals from others but may take into account the potential presence of persons who, for safety or health reasons, should not be in contact with certain types of animals.
31. Some of the County's emergency shelters may be owned or operated by other public entities subject to title II or by public accommodations subject to title III and, as such, are subject to the obligation to provide program access or remove barriers to accessibility under the ADA. This Agreement does not limit such future enforcement action against the owners or operators of these facilities by any person or entity, including the Department.
32. For emergency shelters owned and operated by the County, within nine months of the effective date of this Agreement, the County will either remove barriers to access identified in the County's survey, or identify an appropriate number of alternate shelters where the parking, exterior routes, entrances, interior routes to the shelter area, and toilet rooms to the shelter area comply with the Standards.
33. For emergency shelters owned or operated by other entities, within six months of the effective date of this Agreement, the County will request in writing that each of the owners and operators of these shelter facilities remove the noted barriers to access for persons with disabilities. The request will specify that the remediation be completed within one year of the effective date of this Agreement. The County will simultaneously send a courtesy copy of the request to the Department.
34. Within six months of the effective date of this Agreement, the County will implement and report to the Department its written procedures that ensure that it has identified temporary accessible housing (such as accessible hotel rooms within the community or in nearby communities) that could be used if people with disabilities cannot immediately return home after a disaster if, for instance, necessary accessible features such as ramps or electrical systems have been compromised.
WEB-BASED SERVICES AND PROGRAMS
35. Within 1 month of the effective date of this Agreement, and on subsequent anniversaries of the effective date of this Agreement, the County will distribute to all persons – employees and contractors – who design, develop, maintain, or otherwise have responsibility for content and format of its website(s) or third party websites used by the County the technical assistance document, "Accessibility of State and Local Government Websites to People with Disabilities," which is Attachment C to this Agreement (it is also available at www.ada.gov/websites2.htm).
36. Within three months of the effective date of this Agreement, and throughout the life of the Agreement, the County will do the following:
A. Establish, implement, and post online a policy that its web pages will be accessible and create a process for implementation;
B. Ensure that all new and modified web pages and content are accessible;
C. Develop and implement a plan for making existing web content more accessible;
D. Provide a way for online visitors to request accessible information or services by posting a telephone number or e-mail address on its home page; and
E. Periodically (at least annually) enlist disability groups to test its pages for ease of use.
PHYSICAL CHANGES TO FACILITIES
37. The elements or features of the County's facilities that do not comply with the Standards, including those listed in Attachments D, E, F and G prevent some persons with disabilities from fully and equally enjoying the County's services, programs, or activities and constitute discrimination on the basis of disability within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 12132 and 28 C.F.R. §§ 35.149 and 35.150. This Agreement shall not be construed as an admission of liability by the County.
38. The County will comply with the cited provisions of the Standards when taking the actions required by this Agreement.
39. Within six months of the effective date of this Agreement, the County will install signage as necessary to comply with 28 C.F.R. § 35.163(b), after having surveyed all facilities that are the subject of this Agreement for the purpose of identifying those that have multiple entrances, not all of which are accessible.
0. Newly Constructed Facilities: In order to ensure that the spaces and elements in County facilities, for which construction was commenced after January 26, 1992, are readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities, the County will take the actions listed in Attachment D1, D2, D3.
1. Altered Facilities: In order to ensure that the spaces and elements in County facilities, for which alterations commenced after January 26, 1992, are readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities, the County will take the actions listed in Attachment E1, E2.
2. Program Access in County Existing Facilities: In order to ensure that each of the County's programs, services, and activities operating at a facility that is the subject of this Agreement, when viewed in its entirety, is readily accessible to and usable by persons with mobility impairments, the County will take the actions listed in Attachment F1, F2, F3.
3. Access to County Programs Housed in Others' Facilities: In order to ensure that the County's programs, services, and activities that are the subject of this Agreement and that are operated by the County at facilities owned or controlled by other entities, when viewed in their entirety, are readily accessible to and usable by persons with mobility impairments, the County will take the actions listed in Attachment G.
4. Except as otherwise specified in this Agreement, at yearly anniversaries of the effective date of this Agreement until it expires, the County will submit written reports to the Department summarizing the actions the County has taken pursuant to this Agreement. Reports will include detailed photographs showing measurements, architectural plans, work orders, notices published in the newspaper, copies of adopted policies, and proof of efforts to secure funding/assistance for structural renovations or equipment.
5. Throughout the life of this Agreement, consistent with 28 C.F.R. § 35.133(a), the County will maintain the accessibility of its programs, activities, services, facilities, and equipment, and will take whatever actions are necessary (such as routine testing of accessibility equipment and routine accessibility audits of its programs and facilities) to do so. This provision does not prohibit isolated or temporary interruptions in service or access due to maintenance or repairs. 28 C.F.R. § 35.133(b).
IMPLEMENTATION AND ENFORCEMENT
6. If at any time the County desires to modify any portion of this Agreement because of changed conditions making performance impossible or impractical or for any other reason, it will promptly notify the Department in writing, setting forth the facts and circumstances thought to justify modification and the substance of the proposed modification. Until there is written agreement by the Department to the proposed modification, the proposed modification will not take effect. These actions must receive the prior written approval of the Department, which approval will not be unreasonably withheld or delayed.
7. The Department may review compliance with this Agreement at any time. If the Department believes that the County has failed to comply in a timely manner with any requirement of this Agreement without obtaining sufficient advance written agreement with the Department for a modification of the relevant terms, the Department will so notify the County in writing and it will attempt to resolve the issue or issues in good faith. If the Department is unable to reach a satisfactory resolution of the issue or issues raised within 30 days of the date it provides notice to the County, it may institute a civil action in federal district court to enforce the terms of this Agreement, or it may initiate appropriate steps to enforce title II and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act
8. For purposes of the immediately preceding paragraph, it is a violation of this Agreement for the County to fail to comply in a timely manner with any of its requirements without obtaining sufficient advance written agreement with the Department for an extension of the relevant time frame imposed by the Agreement.
9. Failure by the Department to enforce this entire Agreement or any provision thereof with regard to any deadline or any other provision herein will not be construed as a waiver of the Department's right to enforce other deadlines and provisions of this Agreement.
50. This Agreement is a public document. A copy of this document or any information contained in it will be made available to any person by the County or the Department on request.
51. This Agreement constitutes the entire agreement between the parties on the matters raised herein, and no other statement, promise, or agreement, either written or oral, made by either party or agents of either party, that is not contained in this written Agreement (including its Attachments, which are hereby incorporated by reference), will be enforceable. This Agreement does not purport to remedy any other potential violations of the ADA or any other federal law. This Agreement does not affect the County's continuing responsibility to comply with all aspects of the ADA and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
52. This Agreement will remain in effect for three years from the effective date.
53. The person signing for the County represents that he is authorized to bind the County to this Agreement.
54. The effective date of this Agreement is the date of the last signature below.
For Loudoun County:
Board of Supervisors of Loudoun County
KIRBY M. BOWERS
Loudoun County Government Center
1 Harrison Street, S.E.
Leesburg, Virginia 20175
For the United States:
BRADLEY J. SCHLOZMAN,
Acting Assistant Attorney General
JOHN L. WODATCH, Chief
JEANINE WORDEN, Deputy Chief
MARY LOU MOBLEY, Senior Counsel
ELIZABETH BACON, Supervisory Attorney
CELESTE A. SIMMONS, Investigator
MICHELE ANTONIO MALLOZZI, Architect
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Disability Rights Section - NYA
Washington, DC 20530
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