Is your city an ADA lawsuit waiting to happen? It might be if it’s not in compliance with the American Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations and it doesn’t have a plan in place to become compliant. If you think a lawsuit is a remote possibility and it’s not worth the investment to make your city compliant, you might want to think again. ADA lawsuits are on the rise in the U.S., and it’s far more cost-efficient to proactively plan to make the necessary changes than to lose in court and still be responsible for those changes. Not sure where to begin? This is where a consultant with extensive ADA experience, such as Foresite Group, can help you with the compliance process. In this blog, we’ll explore more about why you should invest in ADA compliance. Stay tuned for future posts detailing the processes we use to help you identify areas of non-compliance in your city and how to create a step-by-step, user-friendly plan to accurately address the issues identified.
On July 26, 1990, President George H. W. Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act, which gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities. One year later, the Department of Justice (DOJ) published its ADA Title II (Public Entities) and Title III (Private Entities) regulations. As per the Title II regulations, Public Entities were required to do the following within one year:
Designate an employee to oversee Title II compliance
Provide public notice of the requirements of the ADA
Establish a grievance procedure
Conduct a self-evaluation of the entity’s programs, services and activities
Develop a transition plan to address structural changes necessary to achieve program accessibility
Unfortunately, many Public Entities have not complied with the regulations to date. That means they’ve been at risk for an accessibility lawsuit since 1992! So why care now? In recent years, there has been a significant increase in ADA accessibility lawsuits. Primarily, these suits have focused on Private Entities (Title III), such as restaurants, movie theaters, retail stores and shopping centers. Between 2014-2015 alone, there was a 288% increase in ADA accessibility lawsuits against private entities. Although as private entities become more proactive in addressing non-compliance, there has been a shift toward focusing on public entities, such as cities, towns, and local governing bodies.
Imagine an individual attends a local recreational league baseball game. They’re able to find an accessible parking space, but there’s no accessible route from the parking lot to the field. The situation is made worse when the individual calls the parks and recreation department to raise the issue, but neither the department nor the City has a process in place for addressing the grievance.
The above scenario is happening more often these days as individuals become more aware of their rights under the ADA and public entities’ obligations to comply. Often, in a court of law, if a public entity can show they are working in good faith toward compliance, the impact of an ADA lawsuit may be significantly diminished. So, in our example above, the City would be greatly served by having a designated ADA Coordinator, an established grievance procedure process, and a transition plan in place to communicate, identify, and address non-compliant concerns for the City.
While becoming ADA compliant can seem overwhelming at the outset, a good consultant can help you understand the issues and break it down into manageable steps. A future blog will dive into the specifics of the five Title II ADA requirements of a public entity and how each serves to bring you into compliance now and moving forward.
About Shane Yarbrough, PE
Shane Yarbrough, PE, is a Senior Project Manager for the Land Development team in Auburn, Alabama. Shane graduated from Auburn University in 2001 with a degree in Civil Engineering and has been working on a variety of civil design projects for the past 15 years. He serves public sector clients at the federal, state and local levels, as well as private sector clients for the development of residential and commercial developments throughout the southeast. Shane has been with Foresite Group for more than 10 years.