SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT BETWEEN

THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

AND

THE COMMUNICATION DISTRICT FOR THE PARISH OF

WASHINGTON, LOUISIANA



COMES NOW the Communication District for the Parish of Washington, Louisiana (hereinafter “the District”) and the United States of America who through their undersigned representatives, stipulate and agree to the following:


BACKGROUND


The instant matter was initiated by a compliance review conducted under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131-12134 by the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana concerning the 9-1-1 services provided by the District.

The United States Department of Justice (hereinafter “the Department”), is authorized under 28 C.F.R. Part 35, Subpart F, to conduct compliance reviews to determine the District’s compliance with the above-referenced portion of the ADA as well as under the Department’s implementing regulation, 28 C.F.R. § 35.104, and to issue findings, and, where appropriate, negotiate and secure voluntary compliance agreements. Further, the Attorney General of the United States 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.

The parties to this settlement agreement (hereinafter “Agreement”) have determined that their respective interests can be met by securing compliance by voluntary means and have, therefore, voluntarily entered into this Agreement, as follows:


TERMS AND CONDITIONS

1. The District is amenable to the requirements of the ADA because it is a public entity within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 12115.

2. That by signing this Agreement, the District does not admit that its current services, policies or practices, including those related to its 9-1-1 services, constitute a violation of the ADA. This Agreement shall not be construed as an admission of liability by the District.

3. That the subject of this Agreement is the provision of direct access to the District’s 9-1-1 services for individuals with disabilities who use TDD’s, and the development and/or continuation of policies and procedures to ensure that the 9-1-1 services provided to TDD users are as effective as those provided to other telephone users. The subject services are those provided in the cities and other areas of Washington District by the PSAPs operated by the Bogalusa Police Department, the Franklinton Police Department and the Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office.


TECHNOLOGY

In order to provide TDD users direct access to the District’s 9-1-1 services, the District agrees that it will make the following technological changes/improvements, within 30 days of the effective date of this Agreement:

4. Obtain and install a back-up TDD at each PSAP location. Such stand alone back up equipment shall be maintained even if the District upgrades to “all-in-one” consoles such as made by Positron, which include the TDD in the same CAD display.

5. Install all TDDs to enable call-takers to switch between and/or simultaneously engage in voice and ASCII/Baudot transmission to be able to respond to calls from users of Voice Carry Over or Universal telephones.

6. Ensure that TDD equipment are included in power failure contingency plans.

7. Obtain consultation from the deaf community on the content of outgoing messages on pre-programmed function keys.

8. Formally designate someone to keep abreast of technological developments in the area of TDD and related modem telephony equipment.

The District agrees that in connection with any future upgrades it will make the following technological changes/improvements within 45 days of the effective date of this Agreement:

9. Obtain and maintain equipment or modify existing equipment such to enable call-takers to switch between and/or simultaneously engage in voice and ASCII/Baudot transmission to be able to respond to calls from users of Voice Carry Over or Universal telephones.

10. Evaluate the feasibility of installing a device(s) that will detect a TDD tone when it is initiated by the caller and install such a device(s) if and when it becomes feasible to do so.


POLICY, PRACTICES AND PROCEDURES

In order to ensure effective processing of calls from TDD users to the District’s 9-1-1 services, the District agrees that it will provide assistance to each PSAP to establish and implement the following policies, practices and procedures, within 30 days of the effective date of this Agreement:

11. Formal issuance of a written SOP for “silent” open line calls to ensure that call-takers will consider a “silent” open line as a potential TDD call and will, inter alia, query the “silent” open line with a TDD.

12. Establishment and maintainance of written SOPs for: (a) receiving and responding to calls from users of Voice Carry Over or Universal telephones; (b) calling back a TDD caller when circumstances warrant; and (c) handling Telephone Relay Service (TRS) calls.

13. Establishment and maintainance of a written SOP to conduct a self test TDD call at the beginning of each shift to ensure the system’s capacity for receiving TDD calls is fully operational at all times of the day.

14. Establishment a regular maintenance schedule for all TDD related equipment.

15. Initiation of the keeping of statistics on TDD calls received by the each of the PSAP within the District.

16. Establishment and maintainance of a working relationship with the community of deaf, hard of hearing and speech impaired people in order to continue to evaluate the services, practices and procedures that relate to the District 911 Communications Center.


TRAINING

In order to further ensure effective processing of calls from TDD users to the District’s 9-1-1 services by 9-1-1 call-takers, the District agrees that it will oversee and certify that comprehensive training is provided by each PSAP in the District for every 9-1-1 call-taker they employ including newly hired call-takers.

17. The training will include: (a) general information about Title II of the ADA; (b) general information about communication issues regarding individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, or who have speech impairments, including general information about American Sign Language; (c) practical instruction on identifying and procesing of TDD calls, including the importance of using proper syntax and protocol when responding to TDD calls and Relayed calls.

18. For current employees the District will oversee and certify that the training described above shall take place as soon as possible, but in no event shall said training commence later than 30 days after the effective date of this agreement.

19. To insure the effectiveness of the training described above, the District shall oversee and certify that each PSAP in the District:

a. Utilize the Emergency Access Self-Evaluation (EASE) program developed by the Telecommunications for the Deaf, Inc., and/or the book/software bundle entitled Responding Effectively to 911 TDD Calls available from the Institute for Disabilities Research and Training, or their equivalent to establish criteria and test each call-taker or trainee’s competency at the conclusion of the training described above;

b. Develop and implement a supplemental training plan for any call-taker who does not satisfactorily complete the subject required training;

c. Provide a refresher training course every six (6) months over a period of two years from the effective date of this Agreement in order to maintain call-takers’ skill levels;

d. Document all training provided, including each call-taker’s employee number, title and the date of training, and provide copies of the documentation to the Department upon request.


TESTING AND AUDIT

In order to further ensure effective processing of calls from TDD users to the District’s 9-1-1 services by 9-1-1 call-takers, the District agrees that starting within 90 days of the effective date of this Agreement, it will, on a quarterly basis, conduct test TDD calls on each shift to each manned call-taking position, as follows:

20. These tests shall be unannounced and shall be documented to include the date and time of the test, the call-taker position, identification of the call as “silent” or transmitting tones, time elapsed from the initiation of the TDD call until the call-taker responds, the speed of the call-taker’s typing, clarity of communication and utilization of TDD shorthand and protocol.

21. In addition, the District will cooperate with any and all efforts by the Deaf Action Center of the Northshore and those members of the deaf community acting as test callers. Test calls from such individuals will initially identify themselves as such and may proceed to conduct a call whose objective is to obtain emergency services under either a police, medical or fire scenario. Any and all test result information received from the Deaf Action Center of the Northshore shall be separately included in the audit information as outlined below.

22. If testing reveals inadequacies in the handling of TDD calls, the District shall oversee and certify that the affected PSAP takes immediate remedial action that may include as appropriate: additional training, equipment changes, additional policy or procedural changes, and disciplinary action.

23. The District will oversee and ensure that an audit of all the PSAPs in its district comprised of a summary of the results of each round of quarterly tests, as well as all Deaf Action Center of the Northshore test results received within the same period, shall be summarized and sent to the undersigned counsel for the United States on a semi-annual basis along with a description of any actions taken to remedy inadequacies uncovered by the testing.


NOTIFICATION

24. In order to inform members of the public regarding the provisions of Title II and their applicability to the telephone emergency services provided by the District, the District will publish, within 30 days of the effective date of this agreement, the following notice or an equivalent on two separate occasions in a newspaper of general circulation serving the District:

In accordance with the requirements of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Communication District of Washington Parish will not discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities on the basis of disability in the District’s services, programs, or activities. Individuals who use telecommunications devices for the deaf (TDD’s) will be provided direct access to the District’s telephone emergency services, including 9-1-1 services. The District will provide telephone emergency services to individuals who use TDD’s that are as effective as those provided to others.

25. The District will provide a copy of the notice to any person upon request.


PUBLIC EDUCATION

In order to promote and encourage use of the District’s 9-1-1 services by TDD users, the District shall oversee and certify that within 90 days of the effective date of this Agreement:

26. Initiation of a process with communities of individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or who have speech impairments, to develop and implement a public education program to promote the use of 9-1-1 services by TDD users. Such a program may include: developing and distributing written materials, brochures, and open-captioned videotapes; publishing information in telephone directories regarding direct access to 9-1-1 by TDD users; or broadcasting open-captioned television Public Service Announcements.

27. In carrying out the foregoing Public Education objectives, the District will make every reasonable attempt to coordinate these efforts with the Deaf Action Center of the Northshore.


PROGRESS REPORT

Within 90 days of the effective date of this Agreement, the District will submit a report to the undersigned representative of the United States, detailing the actions it has taken to comply with the preceding provisions, as follows:

28. The report will include copies of the notices published in the newspapers pursuant to this Agreement. The District will use terminology in the report that is consistent with that used by the emergency telephone services industry regarding its functions and positions.

29. The District will follow the above-described initial progress report with similar reports to the undersigned representative of the United States on an annual basis.


COMPENSATION TO THE COMPLAINANT

30. The District will pay the sum of $1500 to to the individual United States’Complainant. Within thirty (30) days of the effective date of this Agreement, the District will deliver a check in the amount of $1500 payable to Cynthia Jane Castleberry, the complainant herein. The check is compensation for alleged discrimination against the Complainant who is deaf. Simultaneous with the mailing of the check, the District will provide to the Department of Justice a copy of the check for its records.


IMPLEMENTATION AND ENFORCEMENT OF THE AGREEMENT

31. This agreement is a public document. A copy of this document or any information contained in it, may be made available to any person. The District will provide a copy of this Agreement to any person on request.

32. The Department may review compliance with this Agreement at any time. If the Department believes that this Agreement or any requirement thereof has been violated, it may institute a civil action in federal district court seeking specific performance of the provisions of this Agreement.

33. Failure by the Department to enforce this entire Agreement or any provision thereof with respect to any deadline or any other provision herein will not be construed as a waiver of its right to enforce same.

34. 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 of the parties or their agents, that is not contained in this Agreement, will be enforceable under its
provisions.



This    11th    day of    August   , 2004.     
For the Communication District for
Washington Parish, Louisiana


                                                                     




For the United States of America:

JIM LETTEN
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY


                                                                     
GLENN K. SCHREIBER
Assistant United States Attorney
Hale Boggs Federal Building
501 Magazine Street, Second Floor
New Orleans, Louisiana 70130
Telephone: (504) 680-3093




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February 24, 2005