28 Years of the American with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), enacted 28 years ago this month, reaffirmed our nation’s commitment to ensuring that people with disabilities have the right to live, work, and fully participate in the community alongside their fellow citizens. The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, along with U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country, enforces the ADA to realize the statute’s goals. This work includes ensuring equal opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for the 56 million Americans currently living with disabilities. The examples highlighted in this document reflect only part of the Department’s work over the last year to further the objectives of the ADA. To read more about our work under the ADA, visit our website at www.ada.gov.
ENSURING EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES
- Teachers Test Prep: In June 2018, the Justice Department reached a settlement agreement with Teachers Test Prep, a California company that offers preparation courses for teacher licensing and credentialing examinations. The Department’s investigation found that the company failed to offer its online courses in a manner accessible to teaching professionals who are deaf or hard of hearing and failed to provide its one-on-one tutoring sessions in an accessible manner. Under the agreement, the company agreed to allow course modifications and provide instructions as to how individuals may request course modifications, train staff on the ADA, caption its online video content, and pay $5,000 in compensatory damages to a teacher who was harmed as she was pursuing California teaching credentials.
- Denver Sheriff Department: In May 2018, the Justice Department entered into an agreement with the City and County of Denver, Colorado to resolve allegations that the Denver Sheriff Department discriminated against a long-time Deputy Sheriff on the basis of disability. The Justice Department’s investigation found that Denver failed to engage in an interactive process with the employee to determine a reasonable accommodation, failed to reasonably accommodate his disability of insulin-dependent diabetes, and then terminated him. Denver agreed to revise its reasonable accommodation policies and procedures and will conduct training on the ADA for Sheriff Department employees. Denver will also pay $100,000 in compensatory damages to the employee.
ENSURING EQUAL ACCESS TO CHILD CARE
- Learning Care Group, Inc.: In March 2018, the Justice Department entered into a settlement agreement with Learning Care Group (LCG), the second largest for-profit child care provider in North America. The agreement resolves complaints that LCG discriminated against children with insulin-dependent diabetes by failing to make certain reasonable modifications for those children. Under the agreement, LCG agreed to pay compensatory damages to each of several aggrieved individuals and their families. LCG also agreed to evaluate each request for reasonable modification to its policies on an individualized basis, and to train staff members to assist with routine diabetes care tasks.
- Bar-T Year Round Programs for Kids: In October 2017, the Justice Department entered into a settlement agreement with Bar-T Year Round Programs for Kids (Bar-T), located in Montgomery County, Maryland. Bar-T is the largest provider of before and after school programs in Montgomery County, operating at approximately 30 Montgomery County public school locations. The Department’s investigation determined that Bar-T discriminated against a student with a disability, specifically Autism Spectrum Disorder, and her parents when it expelled the student for behaviors associated with her disability, without properly considering whether Bar-T staff could implement reasonable modifications to permit the student to remain enrolled. The settlement agreement requires Bar-T to implement a process for parents or guardians of children with disabilities to request reasonable modifications and for Bar-T to conduct an individualized assessment of each request, provide ADA training to staff, and report on compliance with the agreement. Bar-T will also pay $13,500 in compensatory damages to the student and her parents.
REMOVING BARRIERS FOR VETERANS WITH DISABILITIES
- Each year, thousands of military personnel leave active duty and return to their home communities where they participate in social activities, such as dining, shopping, and entertainment. Disabilities incurred in or aggravated during military service are common, and many veterans with disabilities use service dogs to help them navigate community life. Despite growing recognition that service dogs assist individuals with disabilities, the Department routinely receives complaints from veterans with a range of disabilities, from mobility impairments to traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, who have been denied access to places of public accommodation because they are accompanied by a service dog.
- In recent months, the Department has entered into three settlement agreements to protect and advance equal access for veterans with disabilities who use service dogs. The agreements were entered into with When Pigs Fly BBQ Pit in Westfield, New York; Claremore VFW 2976 in Claremore, Oklahoma; and the Pawn Shop and Tax Service, Inc. in Pensacola, Florida. Under these agreements, all three entities will adopt and implement a service dog policy; provide training on the service dog policy to employees and managers; and post the service dog policy at their facilities and in their advertising.
ADVANCING COMMUNITY INTEGRATION OPPORTUNITIES
- In June 2018, the Department reached an agreement with the Louisiana Department of Health (Louisiana) to resolve allegations that Louisiana fails to serve individuals with mental health disabilities in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs. The Department alleged that Louisiana places undue reliance on institutional settings such as nursing facilities, instead of providing services to people with mental illness in the community. Under the agreement, Louisiana will create and implement a plan to expand community-based services like mobile crisis, case management, assertive community treatment, and supported housing to meet people’s needs in the community. In addition, Louisiana will assess all existing nursing facility residents with mental illness and all new referrals for admission to determine whether they can be served appropriately in the community.
REMOVING DISCRIMINATORY BARRIERS TO RECOVERY
- The Civil Rights Division is working to remove discriminatory barriers to recovery and treatment confronted by people with Opioid Use Disorders (OUD). In May 2018, the Justice Department, working through the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts, reached a settlement agreement with Charlwell House, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility in Norwood, Massachusetts, to resolve allegations that Charlwell House violated the ADA by refusing to accept a patient because the patient was being treated for OUD. According to a complaint filed with the United States Attorney’s Office, Charlwell House denied an individual seeking admission for treatment because the individual was being treated with Suboxone, a medication used to treat OUD. Individuals receiving treatment for OUD are generally considered disabled under the ADA, which, among other things, prohibits private healthcare providers from discriminating on the basis of disability. Under the terms of the agreement, Charlwell House will, among other things, adopt a non-discrimination policy, provide training on the ADA and OUD to admissions personnel, and pay a civil penalty of $5,000 to the United States.
PROTECTING VOTING RIGHTS
- ADA Voting Initiative: This year, the Civil Rights Division, partnering with U.S. Attorneys across the nation, continued its ADA Voting Initiative to ensure that people with disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate in the voting process. The ADA Voting Initiative covers all aspects of voting, from voter registration to casting ballots at neighborhood polling places. Through this initiative, more than 1,300 polling places have been surveyed to assess whether barriers to access exist.
- Coconino County, Arizona: In May 2018, the Justice Department entered into a settlement agreement to ensure that Coconino County’s polling places are accessible for people with vision and mobility disabilities. The Department’s survey identified architectural barriers at County polling places, including inaccessible parking, ramps that were too steep, and doors that were too narrow. Under the agreement, the County will remove these barriers in time for its next election, make sure that all of its polling places are accessible to people with disabilities, and train its poll workers on ADA requirements.
PROTECTING INMATES WITH DISABILITIES FROM DISCRIMINATION
- Union Parish Detention Center: In March 2018, the Justice Department reached an agreement with Union Parish Detention Center (UPDC), a correctional facility in Farmerville, Louisiana. The Department’s investigation found that UPDC held a detainee with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in isolated, segregated housing for approximately six months because he had HIV. Under the agreement, UPDC will not segregate detainees in the future based on their HIV status. The agreement also requires UPDC to adopt nondiscrimination policies, designate an ADA coordinator, establish an ADA compliance procedure, and train all staff annually on HIV and nondiscrimination obligations. In addition, UPDC will pay $27,500 in damages to the complainant.
- South Carolina Department of Corrections: In March 2018, the Justice Department entered into an agreement with the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) to ensure that inmates with hearing disabilities are provided effective communication and the opportunity to participate in SCDC’s services, programs, and activities. The Justice Department’s investigation found that SCDC failed to provide sign language interpreters and other auxiliary aids and services, and SCDC excluded their participation in vocational and religious programs because they are deaf. Under the agreement, SCDC will provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services whenever necessary to ensure effective communication with inmates who have hearing disabilities and ensure that all inmates with disabilities have full and equal access to SCDC’s programs, services, and activities.