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April 29, 11

NEWS / Justice Department Signs Agreement with the City of Independence, Kansas, to Ensure Civic Access for

WASHINGTON - The Justice Department today announced an agreement with the city of Independence, Kan., to improve access to all aspects of civic life for people 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).

“ Individuals with disabilities must have the opportunity to participate in local government programs, services and activities on an equal basis with their neighbors,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “We applaud Independence officials for their commitment to improving access for all residents and visitors with disabilities to the full range of city programs and facilities, including the zoo, library, aquatic center and city hall.”

“I hope Kansans will take note of this settlement,” said Barry Grissom, U.S. Attorney for the District of Kansas. “It is time to recognize the right of Americans with disabilities to the care and services they need.”

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 189th under the PCA initiative. According to census data, the city population is 9,846, and 23 percent of Independence residents have a disability.

Under the agreement announced today, the city of Independence 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 city 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 city’s programs, services and activities;

· Officially recognizing the Kansas 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 city’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;

· Implementing a plan to improve the accessibility of city sidewalks and provide for the installation of accessible curb ramps throughout the city; and

· Adopting a grievance procedure to deal with complaints of disability discrimination relating to city programs and services.

Today’s agreement was reached under Title II of the ADA, which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities by state and local governments. The agreement requires most actions to be completed within three years. For the required accessibility modifications to sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, transportation stops and curb ramps, the city will work with the disability community to prioritize and complete these modifications within five years. The department will actively monitor compliance with the agreement until it has confirmed that all required actions have been completed.

People interested in finding out more about the ADA, today’s agreement with the city of Independence, the Project Civic Access initiative, or the ADA Best Practices Tool Kit for State and Local Governments can access the ADA website at www.ada.gov or call the toll-free ADA Information Line at (800) 514-0301 or (800) 514-0383 (TTY).

For the full agreement, please visit www.ada.gov/independence_ks/independenceks_sa.htm.




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