WASHINGTON, June 9 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Justice Department today announced an agreement with Smyth County, Va., to improve access to all aspects of civic life for persons with disabilities. The agreement was reached under Project Civic Access (PCA), the department's wide-ranging initiative to ensure that cities, towns and counties throughout the country comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
PCA was initiated to ensure that persons with disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate in civic life, a fundamental part of American society. As part of the PCA initiative, Justice Department investigators, attorneys and architects survey state and local government facilities, services and programs in communities across the country to identify the modifications needed for compliance with ADA requirements. The agreements are tailored to address the steps each community must take to improve access. This agreement is the 179th under the PCA initiative.
"Access to civic life is a fundamental part of American society and is necessary for individuals with disabilities to be full members of their communities," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division. "Communities and workplaces across the nation have become more accessible for America's nearly 50 million people with disabilities due to cooperative actions taken by entities like Smyth County. We hope that all local governments are committed to achieving full compliance with the ADA, particularly as we approach the 20th anniversary of this landmark civil rights law in July."
Under the agreement announced today, Smyth County will take several important steps to improve access for individuals with disabilities, such as:
- Making physical modifications to facilities surveyed by the department so that parking, routes into the buildings, entrances, service areas and counters, restrooms, public telephones and drinking fountains are accessible to people with disabilities.
- Surveying other facilities and programs and making modifications wherever necessary to achieve full compliance with ADA requirements.
- Ensuring that buildings and outdoor facilities that will be built or altered by or on behalf of the county comply with the ADA's architectural requirements.
- Posting, publishing and distributing a notice to inform members of the public of the provisions of Title II and their applicability to the county's programs, services and activities.
- Officially recognizing the Virginia's telephone relay service as a key means of communicating with individuals who are deaf, are hard-of-hearing, or have speech impairments and training staff in using the relay service for telephone communications.
- Undertaking the required planning and modifications to ensure equal, integrated access to emergency management for individuals with disabilities, including emergency preparedness, notification, evacuation, sheltering, response, clean up and recovery.
- Developing a method for providing information for interested persons with disabilities concerning the existence and location of the county's accessible services, activities and programs.
- Installing signs at any inaccessible entrance to a facility directing individuals with disabilities to an accessible entrance or to information about accessing programs and services at other accessible facilities.
- Adopting a grievance procedure to deal with complaints of disability discrimination relating to county programs and services.
Smyth County, named to honor General Alexander Smyth, was created in 1832. Two-thirds of the 435 square miles of the county came from neighboring Washington County, and one-third from Wythe County. According to 2000 census data, 24.9 percent of people living in Smyth County – nearly one in every four residents – is an individual with a disability.
Today's agreement was reached under Title II of the ADA, which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities by state and local governments. The department will actively monitor the county's compliance with the agreement. The agreement will remain in effect for three years or until the department has confirmed that all required actions have been completed, whichever is later.
People interested in finding out more about the ADA, today's agreement with Smyth County, the Project Civic Access initiative, or the ADA Best Practices Tool Kit for State and Local Governments can access the ADA Web page at www.ada.gov or call the toll-free ADA Information Line at (800) 514-0301 or (800) 514-0383 (TTY).
SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice