Category: In The News

Fueled by Lawsuits, Website Accessibility is a Hot Topic 

Blue scales with computer coding terms

The Americans with Disabilities Act has been law for more than 28 years. For most, ADA compliance brings to mind things like curb ramps or tenji blocks. However in the internet age, companies and government agencies alike must consider the accessibility of digital content, typically provided to the public through websites.  

Website accessibility lawsuits nearly tripled last year across the country. There were 814 cases in 2017. That ballooned 177 percent last year, to 2,258, according to an analysis from the law firm Seyfarth Shaw.

Local governments in particular have a responsibility and a legal mandate to provide accessible options for things like agenda items, policies, and publications.  While web accessibility guidelines are not yet an official requirement of federal ADA regulations, best practices do exist and failure to implement them can result in legal judgments.  Creating accessible and inclusive communities, including digital spaces, is something all civic leaders should strive for.

Source:
Charlotte County to pay $10,500 over ADA lawsuit; make website more accessible
Andrea Praegitzer, Sun Port Charlotte
Jun 22, 2019
https://www.yoursun.com/charlotte/county-to-pay-over-ada-lawsuit-make-its-website-more/article_dba5a7ee-93b4-11e9-865b-a32c1491f053.html

Communities Nation Wide Focus on ADA Accessible Parks

Southbend ADA Accessible Playground

Improving parks and recreation accessibility to all is a hot topic right now. We’ve highlighted the great work done in communities such as the Town of Sudbury, Massachusetts and City of Moscow, Idaho in the past, and now we spotlight South Bend, Indiana. Construction is already underway at Howard Park that will feature playground equipment that is 75% ADA accessible. South Bend Venues, Parks & Arts Executive Director Aaron Perri says, “We don’t think that there’s going to be anything like this playground anywhere nearby.”  The design is inspired by beauty of the St. Joseph River that flows through northern Indiana on its way to Lake Michigan. The design recently won the parks department a $30,000 grant from National Recreation Park Association and Disney. ADA initiatives for parks and recreation programs are rapidly moving to the forefront of public efforts to create accessible spaces for all. Proactive municipal leaders are using this momentum to ensure ADA compliance is integrated into future community enhancement planning.

Source:
New ADA accessible South Bend playground expected to be largest in the area
Michiana WSBT News 22
Jun 13, 2019
https://wsbt.com/news/local/new-ada-accessible-south-bend-playground-expected-to-be-largest-in-the-area

Feds Close Review of Cedar Rapids ADA Compliance Work

Feds wraps review of Cedar Rapids ADA Compliance Work Since 2015, the City of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has worked diligently to improve access to its facilities and sidewalks for people with disabilities. The City has invested $18 million in the ambitious effort to do community wide improvements including the installation of 4,000 curb ramps.

Since 2015, the City of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has worked diligently to improve access to its facilities and sidewalks for people with disabilities. The City has invested $18 million in the ambitious effort to do community wide improvements including the installation of 4,000 curb ramps. Deputy City Manager Sandi Fowler is proud of the work done and says, “Our citizens are probably living in one of the most compliant cities in the country right now.”  Moving forward Fowler says the city plans to spend an additional $12 million on future projects to build on the great work already accomplished. While it does take a lot of coordinated work and investment, being compliant with the ADA is not just about avoiding penalties. Creating accessible and inclusive communities is something all civic leaders should strive for.

Source:
Cedar Rapids officials report feds ‘close the file’ on their ADA compliance work
ABC 9 News KCRG
Jun 11, 2019
https://www.kcrg.com/content/news/Cedar-Rapids-officials-report-feds-close-the-file-on-their-ADA-compliance-work-511143932.html

Courts Rule Subway Station Accessibility Lawsuit Can Proceed

Public transit is a major resources for senior citizens and those with disabilities to get around without having to rely on care givers or private transportation services. That is one of the key reasons public transit must be made accessible to them. Recently, the New York Supreme Court ruled that a lawsuit against inaccessible subways stations could proceed. The judge presiding over the case ruled that there was substantial evidence that people with disabilities were being discriminated in public spaces. According to the plaintiff, only 25% of the subways system’s 472 stations provide elevator access. This case is just one of many against public transit systems that have failed to remediate access barriers to their buses and mass transit vehicles.

Public transit is a major resources for senior citizens and those with disabilities to get around without having to rely on care givers or private transportation services. That is one of the key reasons public transit must be made accessible to them. Recently, the New York Supreme Court ruled that a lawsuit against inaccessible subways stations could proceed. The judge presiding over the case ruled that there was substantial evidence that people with disabilities were being discriminated in public spaces. According to the plaintiff, only 25% of the subway system’s 472 stations provide elevator access. This case is just one of many against public transit systems that have failed to remediate access barriers to their buses and mass transit vehicles.

Source:
Subway station accessibility lawsuit against MTA can proceed
Vincent Barone, AM New York
June 5, 2019
https://www.amny.com/transit/subway-accessibility-nyc-1.32021995

ADA Lawsuits and Web Accessibility

Website Accessible Keyboard

As more organizations conduct business online and through their websites, the need to ensure websites are accessible to people with disabilities has become an urgent issue. In a recent Search Engine Journal article, more than 1,700 ADA related lawsuits were spotlighted to show that inclusive design and following website accessibility guidelines is now a must. This trends will only continue to grow and that is why, in addition to Title II and III, BlueDAG provides 508 and website accessible support to its customers.

Source:
How Your Company Can Prevent ADA Website Accessibility Lawsuits
Kim Krause Berg, Search Engine Journal
May 17, 2019
https://www.searchenginejournal.com/prevent-accessibility-website-lawsuit/306055/

City of Columbia Starts Work to Create Accessible Public Right-of-Ways

City of Columbia Starts Work to Create Accessible Public Right-of-Ways This week, the City of Columbia, Missouri, started work to improve its public right-of-way for people with disabilities. Two major thoroughfares were closed to allow construction crews to improve pedestrian signal systems, replace sections of sidewalk that acted as barriers to mobility, and added new curb ramps to intersections. For many municipalities, fixing obvious public right-of-way barriers is an important first step in creating truly accessible communities for their senior citizens and residents with disabilities.

Source:
Ash Street closes to make repairs under the Americans with Disabilities Act
Logan Ball, KOMU 8
May 14, 2019
https://www.komu.com/news/ash-street-closes-to-make-repairs-under-the-americans-with-disabilities-act

 

Students with Disabilities Need More Infrastructure Support

Student with disability travels down the ramp that leads to Blegen Hall on Thursday, April 18. He said the ramp is often filled with people walking, so he has to wait for his route to clear.

Understanding the needs of students is a challenge. Understanding the needs of students with disabilities is even more challenging, especially when trying to understand what they need getting to school, moving around campus, and to be active participants in the classroom. Recently, the Minnesota Daily spotlighted uncommon barriers students with disabilities face each day. Things like four-foot wide ramps and four-person elevators meet ADA standards but are not adequate when students with disabilities are competing with able-body students for their use. The lesson we all need to remember is that ADA coordinators and stakeholders with disabilities need to be at the table when planning infrastructure and facility projects.

Source:
Day-to-day life differs for those with disabilities at the University
Audrey Kennedy, Minnesota Daily
April 29, 2019
https://www.mndaily.com/article/2019/04/n-day-to-day-life-differs-for-those-with-disabilities-at-the-university

Sacramento Re-Opens Baseball Field Designed for People with Disabilities

Baseball Diamond Made For People With Disabilities Reopens In South Sacramento CBS Sacramento April 13, 2019 https://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2019/04/13/baseball-diamond-made-for-people-with-disabilities-reopens-in-south-sacramento/

Across the nation, cities are evaluating the accessibility of their recreation programs and parks. While many parks and programs are still being reviewed and plans are being developed to make them accessible to all, some cities have already opened facilities and programs for those with disabilities. In California, the City of Sacramento has worked diligently with the Sacramento River Cats, a local minor league baseball team, to remodel and resurface a baseball field designed for people with disabilities. This forward thinking gave the City the resources it needed to expand its accessible sports programs.

Source:
Baseball Diamond Made For People With Disabilities Reopens In South Sacramento
CBS Sacramento
April 13, 2019
https://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2019/04/13/baseball-diamond-made-for-people-with-disabilities-reopens-in-south-sacramento/

Tech World Honors Inventor of Truncated Domes

Visually Impaired Person Approaching Truncated Domes

52 years ago, the world was changed when Seiichi Miyake invented tactile paving blocks, also known as tenji blocks and truncated domes, to help the visually impaired better navigate and interact with the world around them. Today, Google, CNET and others are honoring Seiichi and his work to create safe paths of travel for those with visual impairments. His work was forward thinking and helped create accessible and safe environments for all.

Sources:
Google Homepage; Search: Seiichhi Miyake
March 18, 2019
https://www.google.com/search?sa=X&site=webhp&q=Seiichi+Miyake&oi=ddle&ct=celebrating-seiichi-miyake

Google Doodle pays tribute to Japanese inventor Seiichi Miyake
Jackson Ryan, CNET
March 17, 2018
https://www.cnet.com/news/google-doodle-pays-tribute-to-japanese-inventor-seiichi-miyake/

DOJ Continues Crack Downs on Municipalities Not in Compliance with the ADA

Humboldt County Courthouse

While the Americans with Disabilities Act has been law for more than 28 years, the U.S. Department of Justice has let many infractions slide by because they saw local municipalities were making slow progress to get into compliance with the law. That was until the late 2000’s when the DOJ decided local municipalities had enough time to make the needed investments to get into compliance with the law. Now, the DOJ is going after municipalities with some heavy lawsuits.

Humboldt County is spending $27 million over the next seven years to ensure its facilities, programs and services are in compliance with the ADA because of a 2008 DOJ investigation and settlement agreement.  A move that is putting the county in financial hardship, but work that its leadership is committed to.

These cases are not rare. In January we did a spotlight on suburban cities complying with the ADA in fear of losing federal funding as a result of DOJ investigations. In our discussions with the DOJ, investigators and prosecutors want to see that local municipalities are doing their due diligence to remediate their access barriers and have an up-to-date transition plan in place. While it does take a lot of coordinated work and investment, being compliant with the ADA is helping save many municipalities from the scrutiny of the DOJ and the public.

Source:
Humboldt County projected to spend $7 million ahead of Disabilities Act deadline
Shomik Mukherjee, Times-Standard
February 28, 2019
https://www.times-standard.com/2019/02/28/humboldt-county-projected-to-spend-7-million-ahead-of-disabilities-act-deadline/

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