Thank you. And welcome. I hope everyone is enjoying the day after St. Pat''s day across the country. I would like to welcome all participants from each of the regions across the country. This is a collaborative effort of the Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers of which there are ten. All representing various regions of the United States and the various territories and areas of the United States. This is our March session for this year, the 2002/03 calendar year of distance learning programs. This month, our topic is Achieving and Sustaining Accessible Programs, Strategies for State and Local Governments. For those of you joining us for the first time, we offer the sessions once a month. On the third Tuesday of each month. And the sessions are 90 minutes in length. It is being captioned real-time on the internet. If you are interested in accessing that service and have not in the past, go to www.adagreatlakes.org and follow the links to the captioning. It is provided by caption Colorado. A transcript of the session will be made available after the session and posted to our website. As well as the digital recording of the session for future reference. You can always go back and access any of the sessions that have been provided over the past four years from our website. At this time, I would also like to remind you that there will be a question-and-answer session. The speaker, Chris Palames, will be indicating when he is ready to take questions. The operator will come on the line and give you instructions on how to do so. We ask you as we go along today if you have questions, just jot them down and as we get to the question-and-answer session, we will make every attempt to address each of your questions. As we go into the topic today which is Achieving and Sustaining Accessible Programs, Strategies for State and Local Governments, one of the purposes or reasons we have this topic on our agenda this year is because of the number of questions that the Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers receive from state and local governments as well as advocacy organizations about just what are the ongoing obligations of our Title II entities, and what can they do or should they do to ensure they continue to address the needs of people with disabilities accessing their programs and services. There has been a lot of confusion regarding the various requirements under Title II of the ADA, confusion as they interplay with section 504 requirements for government entities. We hope today''s session will give us an idea and some parameters of how to continue to address the issues and look at them across the board. As we know the ADA is an ongoing obligation and not something we just took a snapshot of back in 1992. Made our changes and hoped everything went along. Joining us today, as our speaker, is Chris Palames, who is co-author of a document titled Title II Action Guide for State and Local Governments. Which is originally produced in the early 1990s by a grant from the NIDRR National Institute on Disability, Rehabilitation and Research, which is part of the U.S. Department of Education. And it was-the main goal was to provide a blueprint or at least some parameters for Title II entities to go about producing and developing their Title II obligations under the ADA such as their self-evaluation, as well as their transition plan. Chris is one of the main authors of that particular document. In addition, Chris is a principal in the independent living resources. An organization located in Northampton, Massachusetts, which continues to provide consulting training and a number of services related to people with disabilities with a lot of expertise in the area of Title II entities. Chris has been engaged in a number of activities both locally, regionally and nationally in an ongoing effort to assist and identify where state and local government entities need to move forward in order to make sure that their programs are accessible to people with disabilities. At this time, I''m going to turn the program over to Chris. He will be able to lead us through today''s discussions. Hopefully all of you had an opportunity to access the slides, or the outline, that Chris will use. If you have not and you have access to the internet now, you can go online at again www.adagreatlakes.org and follow the link to the schedule and under today''s session March 18th you will find links to the power point slides which are part of the outline that Chris will be using, as well as the supplemental materials of some sample checklists and documents he provided us as part of today''s session. All of those are available online for both viewing as well as printable versions. Hopefully you will have access to those. Chris, at this time, I will turn over the microphone to you.
Thank you, Robin. This is my first experience doing training over the telephone. So it is going to feel a little peculiar to me just at the start. But I will get used to it. I should have tacked up pictures of a lot of folks in front of me and pretend it was my audience. I assume you are all out there. What I would like to do is begin and give you a little bit about my background, just a couple of minutes. And then to review with you the scheme for Title II compliance that we laid out in the Title II action guide. Relate that to some specific experiences of municipalities and state agencies, and see how to keep this as practical as possible. Over the next hour and a half. My own background is that back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I was involved in starting a center for independent living here in the western part of Massachusetts. And then in the mid-1980s I went into state government for four years. This was the time when Michael Dukakis was Governor of Massachusetts and we had very substantial state budget setback time at that time and we were on a roll. It was eventually referred to as the Massachusetts miracle somewhat speciously. It was a time when state government accomplished much more readily than it is today for most of our state some of the ends of public policy. During that time we focused a good deal on our state response in terms of disability rights law. And some of that work, a few years later, then carried into some of the materials development processes for the federal government with the passage of the ADA in 1990 and the issuance of regulations in 1992. Essentially we had had some opportunities to look at, for example, how to do large systems access assessment within state government and that information and experience went into the formulation of the Title II Action Guide amongst other documents. I left state government in 1988, and had the opportunity to do training with the disability rights education and defense fund with the adaptive environment center with the association, American Association for Retired Persons, AARP, and others on ADA implementation and also the experience of consulting with municipalities and state agencies. That is why I get to say the things I''m going to say over the next hour and a half. Now, we will try to break it up so there are at least two opportunities for questions and answers. The first I''m just going to go over the regulations just very, very quickly in a summary form identifying also the distinctions between large and small municipalities and I will try to make points about what I have observed have been some of the key areas of misunderstanding that have led to weaknesses in the compliance process, and some of the areas in which there have been relative strengths. I would assume that a fair number of you have taken a look at the ADA Title II action guide. What the action guide did that was I think particularly useful was that it took all the detail of Title II and it gave a kind of a scheme that was then applied to the practical process of implementation planning and development. We called the scheme that we presented in the action guide the 5-4-3 approach to ADA compliance. And by that, we meant that there were five administrative action steps that were required under the regulations. There were four principles of effective compliance that we derived from interviewing organizations that had either been particularly effective in their 504 compliance effort prior to passage of the ADA, or organizations that had been gotten out quickly and effectively with the issuance of the Title II regulations in their compliance activities. Finally there were three phases to the compliance project. I will summarize those. The five administrative action steps were first of all, and these apply to entity that had 50 or more employees. The first was to designate a responsible employee. The second one was to provide notice to the public of rights and protections under the ADA and how the entity met those obligations. And the third was to adopt a grievance procedure. Those I think of as table setting. They were basic kind of foundation administrative pieces that led to the heart of the matter, which is requirement number 4, which is the requirement to carry out a self-evaluation. And following from the self-evaluation number 5 was to develop a transition plan. Now, one of the most common weaknesses that we have found in the compliance process with Title II has been that self-evaluation processes for the most part have focused on one of the four areas predominantly, and that was program and facility accessibility. Architectural accessibility, and have been less effective at addressing the other four areas of the self-evaluation. The four parts to the self-evaluation are one the obligation to provide equal employment opportunity. The second was to operate in a nondiscriminatory way to operate programs and services in a nondiscriminatory way. The third area was to provide effective communication support for people with disabilities affecting communications. And the fourth part of the self-evaluation was to address program and facility accessibility. There are differences in the requirements that apply to smaller communities. I at that time was living in a town of 1600 or 1800 people and was so was very aware of the difficulties that some of the smaller communities had in dealing with the complexity and scope of Title II of the ADA. And what the ADA provided for, what Title II provided for was that small communities could undertake a somewhat simplified process. And that simplified process was that with fewer than 50 employees, communities were not obligated to appoint a coordinator, were not obligated to develop a formal transition plan, were not obligated to adopt a formal grievance procedure, and were not obligated to maintain the self-evaluation on file for three years. So the differences are essentially differences of process and not of outcome. Even if smaller communities were not obligated to name a coordinator, to name somebody responsible for ADA compliance, they had to get the job done. So they didn''t have to formally adopt a grievance procedure. They did have to respond to grievances and complaints, and it was in their interest to ensure that conflicts did not escalate to the point where they generated lawsuits or complaints to federal agencies. So smaller communities were acknowledged in the regulations in some ways that they would have some difficulty in dealing with the complexity of section of Title II of the ADA. I''m not sure that the regulations really identified what were the key problems. We will turn to those at some time. So the general scheme we are talking about again, five administrative action steps, as I said. To name a responsible employee, to provide notice to the public, adopt a grievance procedure and to undertake a four-part self-evaluation. And the key weakness that occurred was that self-evaluations very often focus disproportionately on architectural accessibility. It was easier to deal with bricks and mortar and very often the person designated to comply were persons who were responsible for physical plant in some way. But the other areas-employment, nondiscriminatory operations and the effective communications part of the self-evaluation, tended to be neglected. Now, last year, and oh, about a year and a half ago, we did a study for the state of Connecticut, their state office of protection and advocacy. And we were looking at how 25 municipalities had done in complying with Title II of the ADA, and that close examination of 25 municipalities basically confirmed what I have already said. That is that self-evaluations disproportionately addressed architecture. Folks had a great deal of difficulty to some extent secondarily, after architecture, municipalities were able to come to grips to some extent with the basic employment obligations. But how to address nondiscriminatory operations and how to address effective communication remained a point of weakness and confusion for a lot of those entities. Now, another weakness that we have seen has been that sort of misuse of the term transition plan. Under Title II of the ADA, transition plan was to grow out of the fourth part of the self-evaluation. That is if, in the self-evaluation, if you looked at buildings and facilities, and found that some were not sufficiently accessible to support equal participation and benefit and program services and activities, there were two ways of basically addressing barrier removal provided for in the regulations. And one was nonstructural solutions, nonstructural solutions like locating your programs in accessible space on an as-needed basis. Moving programs into your accessible space, and also in some ways deploying staff or using technology to overcome barriers. A variety of nonstructural means. And then the structural means of eliminating barriers were to carry out either modifications in existing space or to generate new space through new construction or additions. The transition plan under Title II was required of entities with 50 or more employees if structural means were necessary to remove barriers. Okay? If you had to carry out modifications or new construction. Generally, the term transition plan is used more broadly in colloquially, that is any changes that result from the self-evaluation process were by many communities identified as the transition plan. And I don''t think that is a major problem. It is a kind of a colloquial use of the term, but it is one that is not consistent, of course, with the legal and regulatory definition of terms Title II. And that could reflect other areas of confusion, and that confusion generally was represented by other weaknesses in compliance. So it isn''t the misuse of the term. It is that the misuse often reflected general programs in grasping the full scope of the Title II obligation. Okay? So that is our five administrative action steps. Now we got to four principles of effective compliance. As we were formulating the action guide, we have talked to entities, state agencies, and state agencies, municipalities and other organizations that have addressed section 504 effectively. Or had gotten out quickly in their Title II compliance process. We found that there were four principles that seemed to result in stronger compliance efforts. And the first of those was getting commitment from senior entity leadership. One of the things that our coordinators often complain about is that they are sent out sometimes on detached service. That is that they don''t have the support of the senior elected or administrative leadership of the entity. They don''t have open lines of communication that senior leadership is not involved as they needed to be in carrying out and implementing the compliance planning process. So the first principle of effective compliance, commitment from senior leadership. The second principle was the coordination of compliance activities. As I said, there are four parts to the self-evaluation. Very often a building inspector, a building official, somebody responsible for physical plants was designated to be the ADA coordinator. And if they looked carefully at the regulation, they would see that the scope of the self-evaluation was much broader. So broad, in fact, that it was very difficult for a single person to have command of all of the skills, all of the information, the full range that would be required to effectively carry out the compliance process. So the idea of a coordinator, an ADA coordinator, it is a good term, because the responsibility, when done effectively in fact was to coordinate, to pull a team together, to bring in the folks who were expert in employment. Or expert in program activities. To look for folks who had skills in the areas of communication, both electronic communications and computer applications. And to assemble a team to carry out the compliance process. That was our second principle. The third principle was to creatively involve people with disabilities. The regulations did require that persons with disabilities, interested parties, and others, had the opportunity to participate at least at the level of commenting on the planning process. But simply commenting at some point in the process does not equal effective compliance planning. The organizations that did well, generally, had established relationships with disability entities or individuals, and found ways to involve them in the planning process to help them establish effectively priorities, to do very practical at times focus groups, or roll-throughs of facilities and in other ways to get directly involved in the compliance planning process so that that planning process was really responsive to the needs of people with disabilities and organizations representing people with disabilities. The fourth principle we wrote, and it is a little confusing, it was to institutionalize the compliance process. That seems almost kind of a totology (phonetic) in some way. You have to institutional compliance if you are trying to go about really changing the way a public entity does business. What this came down to for the most part, institutionalizing compliance was directly related to the quality of skills and information that were cultivated among the people responsible for carrying out the compliance process, and that translated as quality training. Institutionalizing compliance, the number one element that was required to do it effectively was to find out who needed to know what, to bring them together, to give them the training and information, and exposure that they needed to get the job done. So those were our four principles of effective compliance. We are going to revisit those in a while based on our ten years of experience now and see how that held up as we look at those 25 communities in Connecticut. The third phase, excuse me, the last part of our 5-4-3 scheme were three phases to the compliance process, and those began with first planning and decision making. Carrying out the self-evaluation, developing the transition plan, collecting information effectively, making good decisions about priorities, good decisions about the phasing of compliance. The second phase of the compliance process was implementation. And the implementation process was to find in the regulations to have taken place over a period of about three years. But the simple fact of the matter is that for every public entity I have talked to it has lasted a lot longer. You could say for many of you that you are in the implementation stage I would imagine. The third of the phases was follow-up and monitoring. If you carried out all of the modifications to policies and procedures that you felt are necessary, you instituted your new ways of doing business, and you also carried out those modifications to your physical plan, constructed new facilities where necessary, or modified existing facility. It is still necessary to follow up and to monitor the outcomes. What is going on in the compliance process, and monitoring can vary, certainly it ought to be done at least on a yearly basis, a six-month basis, or a yearly basis, to ask yourself how are we doing, what is going on. What most organizations-what most public entities found out, it has not been a continual linear consistent progression. That there have been ups and downs in the process, there have been changes in political environment. So that ADA coordinators often describe one of the major problems has been continuity from that senior leadership in their organization. There have been ups and downs in the budget process, and of course right now we are very aware that we are at one of the really down phases in terms of the budget process. But follow-up and monitoring is absolutely necessary to establish continuity in the process. Okay? Let us just stop here and take some questions. I mean, basically what I want to ask you all is the breadth of the scheme, the four parts to the self-evaluation, is that consistent with the way in which you in fact have operated and then do you have any questions about that basic compliance scheme?
Thank you, Chris. We will ask Paula to come in and give our participants some instructions on how they can get into the queue for questioning.
Hi, how are you?
Great. My question is, when you have a state government that reconfigures any particular department, how is the self-evaluation activity revisited? So for example if you combine agencies that conducted a self-evaluation, how is that self-evaluation then treated?
Okay, Chris, do you want to take that?
I don''t think that is defined anywhere in the regulation. I think it is always a pragmatic response that you ought to look at the self-evaluation and do a quality review and see whether in fact it covers the scope. Now, one of the things that is I think really key in the state agencies that in my experience have done a good job, is that the self-evaluation leads to the definition of real working procedures, and those procedures are tied to access to specific resources. In other words, it is not just a paper process, but it is a matter of actually defining how you are going to respond to requests for effective communications support. In a tangible way. And those responses to requests to support need to relate to knowing what your access lines are to secure the auxiliary agent services that are available in the system or where you have to go out of the system to secure them.
So, Chris, what you are saying, in a case where you have two or three agencies combining together, all of which may have had their own policies and procedures in the past, the issue would be to go and look at those and see if they are applicable in this environment and identify which are best practices and possibly putting those into place in the new or reconfigured agency versus having to start over from scratch and start as a new entity?
Right. First of all the question is, has the process been complete and secondarily, is the process one that is really linked to, you know, real-world procedures and resources, yes.
Martha, did that answer your question?
Yes, thank you.
Next question, please?
Go ahead, Rick.
My question has to do with the transition plan and the self-evaluation itself. Since the mandate was just to do the transition plans and self-evaluation and all those other five parts you talked about, is there any requirement for following up with either updates or any changes that occur within programs?
No, there is not an obligation to get back and review an update. I think it is a matter of just applying good principles of public administration. You had an obligation to establish a grievance procedure to deal with any complaints, et cetera. So it is a matter, I think, of instituting. The organizations that have done well have basically gone beyond the letter of the regulation. And have instituted procedures for looking at what is going on, ongoing. It is rarely been done every year in my experience. But there have been key points at which something arises that refocuses attention back on the ADA and organizations have looked back. In the Connecticut experience that we will talk about, they are a state agency, the state office of protection and advocacy, took the initiative to look at 25 to create a sample of 25 municipalities to basically reflect back to them what the state of ADA compliance was. But that is not built into the regulation.
But it can be a tool, while it is not a legal obligation, the use of a self-evaluation as an ongoing tool for monitoring compliance could be something that people would find effective; is that correct?
Yeah, if you don''t monitor you can''t do effective compliance. It is as simple as that.
The department of justice wouldn''t come in and ask you for your self-evaluation in the year 2000, given that those requirements are not there anymore?
Well, they might. I spent the summer assisting a major urban school system in Connecticut resolve a civil rights complaint. It was actually through the department of education, which resulted from a complaint on behalf of a single student, but when the office for civil rights of the department of education intervened, he had asked to look more broadly systemically at the system, and the system at first said, well, that was beyond the scope of the complaint. And the federal civil rights officials instituted a complaint which required a look at the entire self-evaluation and transition plan. In fact, had never been developed. Or what had been developed was so inadequate that it was considered to be the system as a whole was out of compliance.
So in a positive way, an entity could use the self-evaluation process, as a piece of evidence of their ongoing compliance should, you know, issues arise down the road then?
Okay. Next question, please.
Yes, when you spoke about employment, and in agencies and municipalities that a lot of the attitudes towards people with disabilities tend to come from the top. What would be some ways to change those attitudes and ways because, as all of us know, the employment rate for people with disabilities is fairly high. What do you do in regard to change that? Or try to look at ways to improve on that?
That is a huge question. How do we go about changing fundamental attitudes?
Well, or just in the realm of employment.
In the realm of employment, yeah. Well, you know, in my experience, what happens, change comes from champions within systems. Operating over time in creating real continuity in the change. And a relationship between these internal champions and external advocates that is really positive. I don''t think there is any way that advocates simply coming from the outside can have leverage to really work on the culture of an organization. So our best experiences have been that very often they are called the ADA coordinator, but it is not only the ADA coordinator but other folks within systems who tend to be, you know, knowledgeable, respected by their peers, who start building a base. And change in my experience also is never consistent. That is certain agencies within a state system will tend to take the lead and perform most respectably. You have others keying on what the effective agency does and to some extent copying it. Sometimes you find the initial kind of leader is bypassed by someone else who starts doing a good job. In municipalities, they tend to be on a smaller scale. But there will be a similar process. One place where we worked early, oh, I guess it was around the mid-1990s, a friend and I were called in to consult on the self-evaluation and transition plan of the city of New Britain, Connecticut, which is a city of about 85,000. And we were surprised that the ADA coordinator was the head of parks and recreation. And we thought, well, that is kind of a peculiar designation for the ADA coordinator, head of parks and recreation. We were a little concerned. The fellow turned out to be one of the outstanding ADA coordinators who we have ever worked with. And the keys to that were, first of all, his kind of motivation and concern around promoting integration of people with disabilities. He had done that in terms of employment in several of his senior people were folks with disabilities. But he was also very respected within his system, because he had been one of a number of reformers who had come in at a time of corruption scandals in the city. And a group of about five or six senior people came in. So he was able to perform well at a number of levels. He had done parks and rec. Programs where he had promoted people with disabilities into employment positions. They were doing outstanding work in their own programs. And then he had the respect of, oh, you know, the corporate council and he had the respect of the personnel director, and those long-term established relationships. So what he needed was from the outside, you know, guidance on the detail of how to grasp the technical detail of Title II. He very much wanted a stronger community constituency, that is to have a commission on persons with disabilities meeting with him and pushing the city government. And that was how it built was through real continuity of effort. Now, I can add to that that awareness training, well-structured awareness training, can be definitely useful. But training absent having some people to really kind of build your training effort around is going to be much weaker.
Okay. We know there are probably other questions. We will have another opportunity for questions. At this time I will turn it on to Chris to continue with his presentation.
Okay. It is good to hear your voices out there. As I said, it was bouncing off my bulletin board here. We will try to save more time for questions and answers later. Let me talk a little bit about some of the projects I have done, and then get into two areas. One was the Connecticut study that we did in 2002, and then also work with a state agency in Massachusetts just as examples of compliance process. Back in the early part of the decade, I got-as I was doing training actually with disability rights education and defense fund, and I think it was the winter of just after the regulations had been issued, I also-the first training I did was actually in South Dakota, and my wife got me-and my wife got me a silk long johns to go to the cold north country of South Dakota. And to balance that out, I got a call from some folks who were doing compliance process with the Tampa international airport, which had been considered by frequent travelers one of the outstanding user-friendly airports in the country and was an airport that was actually in the black. So we-I got to join a team that worked at that municipal and that international airport. A short time after, I worked with New Britain, Connecticut, as I said. We worked with a number of other cities in Connecticut, Middletown and Bristol and some other cities in Connecticut. But we also started working with state agencies in Massachusetts. And one of the most important of those was the Massachusetts department of public health. The department of public health is an agency, and typical of many state agencies, the predominance of its services are provided under contract. That is they had something like between six and 700 contracts with provider agencies, depending on how you count them. Now, that state agency had had the difficult experience of a-having to resolve a complaint brought under section 504 of the rehabilitation act. And that was for discrimination in its program of alcohol and drug and drug detoxification services. And when the feds had intervened as a result of that systemic complaint, it had been a very painful oh, about three-year process for that state agency to resolve the complaint to the satisfaction of the feds. And amongst the things that they learned from that process was when the feds intervened, they did so in a way in which the state agency lost a lot of its management discretion and how to go about the compliance process. That is that the feds wanted to negotiate a fairly aggressive regime of coming into compliance, and the state agency had lost a lot of the flexibility that was provided under section 504, and under Title II. And that is one of the motivators that you can often describe, it is a reason for making sure that your compliance is up to date, is that you do not want to go through one of those federal complaints in the negotiated process, because you lose a lot of your prerogative as an administrator. In doing that. What that agency did in Massachusetts was to set up an ADA compliance project, as it was called. Thereafter to deal with all of its contracting agencies. And that is the material that we submitted for you all to download, were some of the materials that were used by the Massachusetts department of public health and which they basically asked their contracting agencies to go through essentially a self-evaluation process of their own and to submit the results to the contracting agency, the department of public health. Now, the key to that was that the state department of public health in Massachusetts was basing its action on its obligation to ensure that services provided under a contract achieved the same level of compliance as if the state agency was doing it directly. In the compliance materials that we distributed, you will find that in some instances, they exceed the requirements of the ADA. For example, while Title II is interpreted, I think sometimes very weakly in terms of the extent of the obligation to provide direct access, communications access using TTY''s, the Massachusetts department of public health set its own standard and required all of its direct service provider agencies to have a tty in place. And another area in which they exceeded the federal obligation, and one that I thought made good sense, was that they required that as part of the policies and procedures to be developed, that the contractor agency actually looked into its information and referral system and set up a process by which it defined its principal and primary referral tracks and gathered information to find out whether those agencies to which it might be referring clients were in general terms compliant with American with disabilities act. That is whether there were some accessibility of facilities, whether those contracting agencies were aware of the obligation to provide effective communication support, to provide reasonable modifications to policies and procedures to do the kind of problem-solving that the ADA required. So that was one of the most successful efforts by a state agency that we had seen. We saw other effective efforts within specific agencies in Massachusetts. For example the division of environmental management instituted a program of promoting access in state parks and on state beaches. It hired a coordinator, a landscape architect, who had a disability, and they wisely located the program out here in western Massachusetts, far from Boston where it is hard to get anything accomplished, and did some very exemplary work in developing and testing designs and everything from, you know, access to boat docks, adaptive kayaking and rowing programs and some others. That is examples again of this kind of championing process. On the one hand, environmental management did it out of I think just purely having sort of the right people who had good motivation initiating that process to make state parks more accessible. On the part of the department of public health, it was a matter of reacting to painful experience and saying we never want to go through that kind of compliance negotiation with a federal agency again. Okay? So that is a couple of examples of state agencies. Now, about a year and a half ago we were asked by the Connecticut office of protection and advocacy to do a two-part study of Title II compliance with municipalities. The first part was to review a whole mass of data. They had boxes full of survey responses to a rather poorly defined survey that had been sent out somewhat earlier to all of the municipalities in the state of Connecticut. And they asked us basically to summarize and see what we could get out of a review of that survey data. And then we were asked to visit 25 communities to randomly select 25 communities and see how they were doing in terms of Title II compliance. It turned out to be 27 site visits. Two of the communities actually had two principal buildings. Here is what we found by self-report in Connecticut. For viewing the survey material that had been submitted, communities reported that that is 84% said they had named an ADA coordinator. Very high number. About 71% said that they had issued some kind of a public notice. About two out of three, 66%, said they had adopted some kind of grievance procedure. The same proportion, two out of three, 66%, said they had completed a self-evaluation. Only slightly more than half said that they had developed and completed the transition plan. But then it jumped up to, oh, about 90% said they held their public meetings in accessible locations. And 90% said that their cities and town halls were accessible. When we went out and visited, and looked more closely, we found conditions to be somewhat different than that. Our findings on the 25 municipalities were first of all-we tried to interview the person who was the designated ADA coordinator whenever possible, that was the person we interviewed. What we found was that those senior officials had a broad general understanding of the intent of the ADA, but they did not understand the details of it. And that relates specifically to what I said before, about self-evaluation, were heavily weighted towards facility accessibility. The other three parts of the self-evaluation, effective communications and nondiscriminatory operations of programs and services and employment obligations were very weakly represented. Of those three, again, employment received more attention than others. But none of them received really detailed attention. To the surprise of advocates in Connecticut, we did find that the facility accessibility picture was somewhat better than I think significantly better than the advocates thought it would be in the state of Connecticut, but that the overall evaluation picture was weak. So self-evaluations and transitions planned were often incomplete, and also in many instances, while a paper exercise had completed a self-evaluation or a transition plan, and at some level had been carried out, very few implementation actions and very few systematic implementation actions flowed from that. Transition planning and barrier removal. They were undercut by a lack of understanding of access codes and standards and insufficient skill of applying the principles of barrier-free design. Folks tended to focus on, you know, the most basic access elements. People understood the basic terms of an accessible route and a ramp, but they did not often understand the details of, oh, how to really create a truly accessible restroom. They would miss details such as certain tripping hazards that might intervene at an accessible-in an otherwise accessible route. And generally in the state of Connecticut, in contrast to Massachusetts, its neighboring state, what we found was that there were weaknesses in the design and construction industry, and in facility management in terms of their understanding on access codes. And it turned out there was a historic reason for that. Massachusetts had developed rather early on, a strong access code, and it had grown stronger over time, and it included a state access board with a finding power that there was real leverage behind state access standards and requirements so that when the federal obligations came in under Title II, there was a good foundation. In Connecticut, in contrast, where there was not a strong foundation in state access enforcement, you looked at the Connecticut statute and there was no consequence to a lack of compliance with the state standard. Once the ADA came into effect, the state was much more challenged. People in both the public and the private sector were working much harder to develop those skills and understanding of what was going on. In access codes. Okay? Additional findings. Let us see. Some of the people we spoke with flat out acknowledged that they just didn''t understand the ADA process and in their community. Because there was a survey, somebody got designated that late as the ADA coordinator, and they simply acknowledged they really didn''t know what it was about, and there was no record, of self-evaluation or transition plan, if there was one, the record was lost and they couldn''t say what had happened. Another finding was that the burden tended to fall on individuals with disabilities to initiate requests for communication support or modifications to policies and procedures. Folks with disabilities generally had to be aggressive in defining what their needs were in making the request, rather than the city and towns fulfilling the intent of the public notice requirement, and actively providing that information to people with disabilities. Furthermore, when somebody initiated a request for a lot of communities, it was a matter like reinventing the wheel. Oh, my god, I have been asked to provide an augmentative communication system, how do I do that? There were not in place the kind of procedures and procedures linked to resources that would have facilitated that process. Finally, there was little participation by individuals with disabilities in the self-evaluation process. Despite the existence of a fair number of commissions on people with disabilities. So if you compared what was going on in Connecticut to the principles of the action guide, there wasn''t a very good match. Folks would say, you know, one of the problems again here is as the ADA coordinator, a lot of the time I just feel like I''m on detached service. They tell me to do the job. I don''t have any consistent leverage or authority to get the job done. The changes in administration, you know, I might get at one point in time a mayor or a council that is supportive, and at another time I lose that support. I might establish some accessible parking spaces, for example, at this very limited parking area at the rear of a major urban city hall and then the next administration comes along and those spaces are taken to-for the use of political appointees. Now, specifically on physical access, what we found were looking at some of the key features, we looked at 37 exterior access routes. There were 27 buildings and there were 37 major exterior access routes. Of those, about 15 were pretty accessible. But 18 of them had major deficiencies, that is tripping hazards, seriously deteriorated ramp surfaces, ramps that were too steep. No handrails, or only a single handrail, insufficient maneuver space, a lot of other problems. There were about four of the 37 routes that had more minor problems. Going into the buildings, there were, in the 27 buildings, 8 of the 27 had at least one fully accessible unisex restroom or a pair of men''s and women''s accessible restrooms. We did better on access routes to get to the building, and then only 8 out of 27 had anything we would call a fully accessible restroom. At least one of them. Seven buildings had major barriers in the restrooms, such as narrow doors, inadequate turning. About 12 buildings had more minor barriers. And it goes on that way. Most of the buildings had some kind of accessible parking spaces, but only seven had at least one van accessible space. A big roll off with assistive-listening systems. We only found three of these major town buildings that had some kind of hard wiring for listening systems or wiring to support portable. We found very limited, again very limited, signage. Braille and tactile signage. Okay. Let us stop again and take some more questions.
The first question, please.
We are working with the school district right now, and in finishing their transition plan, one of the problems we are having, as we see it, is their timelines are six and seven years down the road. We wondered if there is any policy on doing a new transition plan every three years and that would have any effect on the six and seven-year timelines for accomplishing the transition to compliance?
You know, again, you go back to the original requirements that the transition plan was to have been formulated within six months of the issuance of the regulations, and then executed from the issuance of the regulation three years, or 2.5 years after. Now, most systems simply haven''t done that. Most of the Title II entities haven''t accomplished that. There is no formulation of additional transition plans. What they are doing is going back and meeting their original obligation to achieve program accessibility, that is to look at the system as a whole, and accomplish a sufficient level of accessibility within the system as a whole. So one of the difficult things when you are explaining the Title II obligation is on the one hand acknowledging that folks are very often out of compliance, that is that they have, you know, legal exposures, and ongoing liabilities on account of their noncompliance. And then getting them to move forward as expeditiously as possible. The system we worked with this summer was in a very, very poor city. And a city was faced with the prospect now of to some extent playing catch-up, because of a federal complaint. And they had to move rather quickly to a certain level of compliance, and then carry out additional compliance over a longer period. And what we found in this instance was again it was a good progressive reform administration that was coming into fix the system that was largely broken, was that the plan that they adopted actually exceeded what the feds required for-in a program access solution. What the feds required was that they get to the baseline of ADA compliance as quickly as their resources would enable them to do. And that was within a period of about a year, year and a half. And they would then extend their additional goals for bringing additional schools up to grade, etc., that they would take additional time on that.
Something that would be, a person asking the question, six to seven years out would have to be looked at is why is that six or seven years, and what are they doing in the meantime to ensure the individuals have access during that period of time? Spreading it out as long as possible when it has been in place since 1992 for the majority of the provisions doesn''t seem very reasonable to say another six years to get into compliance, or at least minimum level of compliance from what I''m hearing.
Yeah, and systems have put themselves in a difficult spout in terms of claiming, you know, any undue burden. Because of the delay.
Yeah, any other question, or is that-do you have any follow-up to that?
Why don''t we have some follow-up? Well, you answered my question quite well. They have neglected the whole process since 1990 or 1992, and now they are in the process of trying to catch up. But they are still using lack of money as an excuse, and they are opening themselves up to legal procedures.
Even having the transition plan won''t protect them from the fact that they haven''t done anything or failed to do anything for the last, you know, ten years.
I think that is a good point. I think that the attitude I hear is now that they have a transition plan, they are fairly well protected. And that is not true.
No, it is not true. It is not true. They may have a transition plan, but they have not implemented it. Again, the key in this system that I worked with last summer was that there was a well timed and very powerful complaint was brought. And it was a complaint that was based on a single student with a disability, and when the department of education office for civil rights intervened, they then broadened the scope of that complaint and forced the whole system to move. The advantage in that instance was that in fact there were some administrators there who were very willing to use that leverage and could see how ADA compliance fit into their whole agenda for strengthening public education in the city. And that was very helpful. You know, not breaking out the disability issues, and arguing that this is draining our essential purpose, but rather saying it was an important part of the whole effort to systemically strengthen public education in that city.
Thank you. Next question, please.
This is Mark Bledsoe. I have two questions. If I understand this correctly, any municipality or governmental agency which contracts for services, those specific services that are contracted also have to be compliant with the current transition plan and self-evaluation plan; is that correct?
The requirement in the regulation is that when services are provided under contract, they have to-I don''t remember the specific language, but essentially we used to say that the contractor agency stands in the shoes of the public entity. That is they have to achieve the same level of compliance as if the public entity were providing the service directly.
Okay, thank you.
You cannot move to a lower level of ADA compliance by saying, gee, this is just a poor nonprofit organization, and after all they can''t meet that effective communication obligation because it is an undue burden for them or more quickly becomes an undue burden. Now, the difficulty in terms of the advocacy issue is that it is the state''s obligation still to hold its contractors to that level. And since the state is the source of funding, the tricky advocacy issue is to get the state to ante up and not just pass it on to its nonprofit service providers but to get the state to, you know, realistic budgeting. And because sometimes the-of course the level of demand, let us say for sign language interpreter services, over the state of Massachusetts, with 700 agencies providing services under the department of public health, there is no way in which you can project across those 700 agencies exactly what the level of demand for sign language interpreters is going to be by agency. So there also is important to get a kind of interaction where the state developed some flexible procedures so that the nonprofit would be paying for the interpretive services out of its base budget up to a certain level. And then if that became really burdensome, before they were denying services to anyone, they would return and go back to the state agency and say, here we have this greater demand, and the state agency had a flexible budgeting mechanism to respond to that. Now, again, none of this is required in regulation in terms of the detail of that kind of interaction. It is the gem term of the contractor agency having to provide the same level, and then it is up to folks, you know, using the best principles of public administration that they can develop to find ways of making that work.
And also just a follow-up, it is their responsibility to make sure from the state agency or the city or whatever governmental agency to make sure they monitor their contractors for compliance.
That is often overlooked.
The second question was if it has been some time since, oh, for example a local self-evaluation and transition plan was revised or updating and new programs have come into play from new funding sources, are those program services and funding sources obligated to comply with the ADA regulations?
Oh, yes, yeah. Yeah, I mean, the purpose of the self-evaluation and transition plan was to get to a level of compliance that is then going to be institutionalized. And anything that then, any new program that comes into effect comes under that same umbrella of compliance obligations.
And again the Massachusetts-some of those materials from the Massachusetts department of public health addressed I think, for examples in the area of eligibility requirements that any new programs developed, I think it said in the examples that we laid out there, any new programs instituted or developed would also be reviewed to come under the same. But it wasn''t limited to their eligibility requirements. They came under the same umbrella in terms of the whole scope of their whole scope of their obligation.
Okay. Thank you.
Next question, please.
Okay. This is Bob Siegel man. Even though I''m in California, I have received copies of a couple of letters from consumers in Connecticut. Who are having trouble giving the Connecticut public utilities commission to establish an education program for speech-to-speech, which is part of the relay system. Can you suggest a Connecticut advocacy agency who might be willing to intercede? To get the Connecticut PUC to establish such a program? Go ahead.
Yeah, there are two that I can think of most immediately, and those are the state agency is the Connecticut office of protection and advocacy for persons with disabilities. And the assistant director there is Stan Kosloski. And I''m seeing if I can quickly come up with his number. The other that I would suggest is the ADA coalition of Connecticut. And the ADA coalition of Connecticut, their coordinator, is Elana Sherman. And her number is 860-297-4383. And she should be able to connect them with other advocates and networks.
Okay, Chris, we will have you go back on to your presentation. We will allow time for some additional questions at the end.
Okay. Now, the Connecticut process, I just want to finish up a little more here with-we asked the ADA coordinators what they wanted. One of the outcomes of that process was that we really did see that the ADA coordinators, while not every ADA coordinator was a champion as we would call them, a lot of them were. And there were many who might have been less experienced but were still motivated to learn, and to strengthen what they were doing. So at least in terms of municipal compliance, what the ADA coordinators in Connecticut said they wanted were first of all additional training, and that ranged from basic to advanced ADA skills. And with the greatest emphasis on facility accessibility and on employment. Again, on facility accessibility what we found was that in Connecticut, there was less knowledge of the details of access codes and how to really apply it thoroughly. And they recognized that. They also were very interested in employment. The heart of the employment obligation is the obligation to provide reasonable employment accommodations. But there were other areas that were of great concern. How to understand how to basically put in place assurances that when interviews were taking place that the interviewers would ask only permissible questions and would avoid those that were impermissible. That is the ADA allows some things to be asked and precludes others. And the greatest problem municipalities identified was very often there were volunteer or elected officials who were very undisciplined, who might participate in employment interviews. And could ask some pretty damn stupid things that could immediately raise problems of discrimination in terms of the implication of the question. So the first thing they asked for was training. And a program of training that would be flexible between basic to more advanced ADA skills. The second thing the coordinators wanted were opportunities to discuss common concerns with other coordinators. They basically wanted the opportunity to talk to one another and to get mutual support and some mentoring to exchange ideas and information. They wanted to strengthen their own network and with further discussion many of them felt that that would best be done on a regional basis rather than trying to do it as the whole state. But to start with a regional structure of motivated coordinators talking with each other, meeting with each other, and sharing information. The third was they wanted examples and models of proven procedures and policies that can easily be put into place. That is why I included that set of materials from the Massachusetts department of public health, because those were models of proven procedures and policies. That is stuff that was, you know, relatively off the shelf. Things that could be shaped to the particular style or needs of a particular municipality, or particular agency. But boy, it is very helpful to have something to adopt. And again those examples that we gave are very tangible. They get down to saying, you know, who is responsible, who makes a request of this individual within what amount of time would that request be responded to? Who has the responsibility, for example, generating alternatives to print formats to really get that stuff down in detail? And what we had suggested to organizations was putting down that kind of very, very detailed information into some kind of a compliance manual that you have on the shelf. So that if nobody makes that request for a particular, let us say, alternative-to-print format over a year and a half and by the time the request comes in, it is another person designated with the responsibility, that new person can still know, well, here is my guide book. And I can get this down and open it up, and it will say, oh, these are my sources for having, you know, Braille done within the state of Connecticut, or here are sources for long audiotapes, and to have the very specific and tangible stuff on the shelf. Coordinators very much one of that. They wanted information in areas like effective communication, this is sort of repetition of what I just said. What to get, where to get it, how much it costs, how much time it takes. Very down-to-earth information. Coordination, they asked for, with state authorities. And they wanted priority within-from state authorities to give priority to capital expenditures that support ADA compliance and expand services to all citizens. Very often, municipal capital expenditures were subject to various levels of state approval and sometimes the state level was working at cross-purposes with the local approval. That advocates had internal and external advocates managed to raise ADA compliance to a high level at the municipal level and sent their requests on to the state and found that the state proving bodies were working on a different level. They recommended the creation of a statewide association of coordinators. They recommended that a program of training be developed. They recommended that the state of Connecticut develop a state regulatory mechanism to ensure consistent enforcement of state architectural accessibility standards. I think that is an important one, again looking at Massachusetts experience, that Massachusetts comparatively strong performance in the areas of barrier-free and universal design, the key to it was that there was a state enforcement mechanism, very strong in Massachusetts, including a fining power, but also a mechanism that would enable folks to take a request for waiver, if somebody felt I really do have a very difficult technical problem here, in accomplishing, you know, certain fulfilling certain details of my access code. Then it was very useful to be able to go and discuss those technical issues with knowledgeable persons. And that it was extremely cumbersome to rely on communications with the federal access board, or with the department of justice to do that. So that was one of the primary things on their long-range agenda was to create a state regulatory system. The next was to encourage state funding, as I mentioned, to support their capital priorities. They wanted a comprehensive guide to effective communications, resources, and services in the state. Here were the municipalities saying we want a state agency like the office of protection and advocacy, take the lead, pull together a comprehensive guide on effective communications resources and disseminate it. They wanted a library of ADA resources, including model policies and procedures, the kind of thing I gave you one example of. They would like to see as many of those as possible collected. And the ideal would have been to have them of course accessible on the web, but otherwise readily accessible. They wanted examples of self-evaluations and transition plans. They wanted to look at, for example, the city of New Britain, which was known to have done a good job. Could I see what their self-evaluation looked like? Could I see their transition plan, see the format? See the correspondence that followed up to document whether compliance was taking place. They wanted stronger involvement of individuals in organizations. People with disabilities. They wanted to basically bring them into, you know, gaining leverage on getting their-sometimes their senior leadership to agree to review and do a quality review of their ADA compliance to see where they were at. Okay? So we come to reviewing going back to those initial keys that we had, to effective ADA compliance, and they hold up pretty well. The revised, as we came to the end of that study that we looked at, or first of all to identify champions. To find those people in the systems who are promoting ADA and to look about ways in which to collaborate with them to support them, and to strengthen them. Sometimes that is political, and sometimes it is practical. Ensuring continuity of effort is a matter of very often it is for the advocates, not to lapse in terms of maintaining the dialogue around these issues. When a new administration comes into place, reopen the dialogue. Strengthening advocate skills. Again through training, again through promoting dialogue between internal and external advocates. Cultivating the press and public awareness. Other lot of the continuity of the ADA effort is, you know, what is the fashionable issue today? Finding opportunities to get the press to return to attention to the ADA. At a time when we have lots of budget cuts and the crises that are occurring in almost every state in the nation right now because of cut of public budgets, you can find your press is going to be willing to go back very often to look at documenting some ways in which people with disabilities are affected and to actually link that to ADA. There is a time for strategic complaints and lawsuits, there is no question about it. Strengthening state and local compliance resources, that is like the access board that I mentioned. And finally, the key of including agencies that provide services under contract as well as the state agencies themselves. Let us spend our last ten minutes or so again with questions. I''m amazed at how an hour and a half flies.
The first question, please.
Hi. I was going to ask in a secure, locked setting, then how do we address the ADA issue for accommodation of wheelchairs and such? If we have a mental health facility, for example, where we are required to lock certain patient units, is there a requirement for us to have accessible doors or do we have to ensure they are wide enough and that someone is available to escort the patient or the chair out?
I''m not sure I understood all of that question. The locked facility like all others comes under the requirement, the transition planning requirement, to create accessible facilities.
Okay. I''m not asking that. We have, say, doorways are wide enough. The patients aren''t as free to come and go as they would in say a regular hospital.
And therefore is there a requirement, like we have automatic doors to the administrative building. But we wouldn''t on individual units. Based on the requirement to have security locks. And so the doors are different. Is there some other type of accessibility standard that we must meet when we are talking about those doors?
If the basic dimensions of the doors compliant and hardware, lapside clearance, et cetera, then you are in compliance. There is no requirement to maintain unlocked, a door that otherwise would be locked. If that locking of the door is part of the-I mean, is part of the program and necessary to operation of the program. You don''t have to operate it in a different way for people with disabilities. You do have to have a facility that lets the folks who might use wheelchairs or have other needs that relate to access features, they have to be able to participate in the same way that others do. And to benefit at an equivalent level.
Okay, thank you.
I think there is often confusion that electric doors are required. Under the ADA and while electric doors are a means and method of providing access, they are not a specific requirement. You always would go back to the program and the service in what you are actually trying to achieve. Make sure it is equal. Equivalent. Next question, please.
This is Lynn Geyser. I would like to know if you have any experience with retirement systems being able to make sure that their programs and their interpretation are equal and fair to the disabled person.
I don''t have any specific experience of it, but one of the things that has to be explained under the employment provisions is that the reasonable accommodations requirement extends to all, you know, of the benefits of employment including retirement.
There is also a very good guidance on retirement systems and retirement programs that the EEOC offers on their website under their guidance area that talks about those programs and the obligations of entities to ensure that the benefits are not operated in a discriminatory manner in any way, shape or form that might be useful to you as well.
Is that all I need is to go to EEOC and look under guidelines?
Actually you would go to www.eeoc.gov and then on the left-hand side of their page there is a section that says-rules, guidances and regulations?
You would click on that and there is another link for enforcement guidance.
Okay. Thank you.
And under there you would look for the guidance on retirement.
Okay. I have another.
We are going to move on. Our time is getting short. If we get a chance, we will come back to you. Next question, please.
Hello. I just wanted to say thank you so much for the program today. I have gotten a number of ideas to take back to the Wisconsin partnership.
And I also want to ask specifically if Chris has had any experience with substance abuse programs and guidelines specifically for that or know of someone in the country that is working specifically with substance abuse programs?
Yeah, the Massachusetts department of public health programs that I mentioned was initiated because of a complaint against its substance abuse program.
Under section 504. And so they have a tremendous amount of experience there. I would suggest while that agency is in chaos, I would suggest that you try to reach Paul Tupper.
Tupper. At the Massachusetts department of public health.
They are at 250 Washington street in Boston.
250 Washington street. Thank you so much.
We are wrapping up, we are at the end of the hour. It is approximately 2:28 central time. We are kind of needing to wrap up at this time. I''m sure there are many other people who have questions. A topic like this does generate a great deal of discussion and questions. There is oftentimes more questions than answers. It is good that we have this dialogue and continue to have this dialogue. This is, as I said, one of several sessions offered each year by the DBTAC''s nationally to try to increase opportunities for people to dialogue around a variety of issues on the ADA. If you have questions that we are unable to get to today, I recommend you contact your regional disability business technical assistance center, which you can do by calling them at 800-949-4232. If you want to locate the one nearest to you, you can also go to the website of www.adata.org where there is a map on there that you can identify which state you are in and which regional disability technical assistance center would be able to serve you. Again, as I mentioned earlier, a transcript of this session will be available in the next week or so on our website at www.adagreatlakes.org. As well as a digital recording of this session if you would like to relisten to it. Again, at your own convenience. We do want to thank Chris for his time today. We want to thank each and every one of you for joining us. Again, all of the regional disability and business technical assistance centers appreciate your participation. We welcome you to join our session next month, in April, which will focus on Employment and Reasonable Accommodation. And it will be looking at the whole issues of reasonable accommodation going back to the basics, kind of reexamining, making sure we are looking at reasonable accommodation in the manner intended and explore some of the activities that have taken place since implementation of the ADA as it relates to reasonable accommodation. So I invite you to join us. If you would like more information on that session, you can get it from your regional technical center or off the Great Lakes website. Thanks you for joining us today. I hope you have a very good day. Thank you very much.