The United States Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Project Civic Access is a wide-range effort to ensure that counties, cities, towns, and villages comply with the ADA by eliminating physical and communication barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating fully in community life. DOJ has conducted reviews in 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

Accessibility Services has worked with many of the local government entities that were the focus of a DOJ review to assist them in developing a plan to come into full compliance with the requirements of title II of the ADA.

DOJ chose locations based upon its desire to visit every state, the population of the location, and often its proximity to a university or tourist attraction. The majority of the compliance reviews occurred in small cities and towns, because they represent the most common form of local government.

During the investigations, DOJ staff reviewed compliance with ADA requirements and found that the vast majority of communities are aware of their ADA obligations and have made progress in meeting them but still had barriers that had not been addressed. Settlement agreements were entered into resolving the outstanding issues.

Typical issues addressed during the DOJ’s investigations include: physical modifications to facilities such as city and town halls; polling locations; police and fire stations; courthouses; centers for health care delivery, childcare, teen and senior centers; recreation centers; animal shelters; libraries; baseball stadiums; parks; ice skating rinks, public pools; playgrounds; ball fields and bleachers; band shells and gazebos; and municipal parking.

After the investigation DOJ and the local government enter into agreements that address physical modification including accessible parking; accessible routes into and through the facilities; accessible rest rooms, drinking fountains, and telephones; accessible service counters and concession stands; and accessible bathing facilities at public pools. The plan also includes programmatic solutions to services. Each agreement gives specific timeframes for the modifications to take place.

In order to develop a plan to make the necessary physical modifications and programmatic access solutions, many of the communities have reached out to Accessibility Services to help them understand the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Accessibility Guidelines and how those requirements relate to State and local building code access provisions. The officials charged with complying with the settlement agreements want to be sure they do the right thing the first time around.

Accessibility Services will assess the buildings identified by DOJ as non-complaint and buildings that DOJ staff did not inspect but rather left a survey tool and informed the local government to inspect the remaining buildings and facilities. Once the assessments have been completed, we work with the local government to develop a plan outlining the priorities for barrier removal, program access, and accommodation policies.

If your community has undergone a Project Civic Access review by DOJ, contact us at Accessibility Services 718-803-3782, extension 7501 as working with us to complete the inspections and develop the community’s plan will save time and money in the long run.