Good afternoon, everyone, I would like to, or morning, for some of you depending on where you are in the universe right now. I would like to welcome you to the ADA Audio Conference series. My name is Robin Jones and I am the Director of the DBTAC - Great Lakes ADA Center. This program is being brought to you by the Network of Regional ADA Centers and it is a monthly audio conference program on various topics related to the Americans with Disabilities Act. We have people joining us today on telephone, via streaming audio on the internet as well as real-time captioning on the internet. The program is being audio recorded and a written transcript is being created. Both of these will be available in the archives for later reference or referral and that can be accessed at www.ada-audio.org. We are excited about this session as it marks our ninth time that we have had this particular program. We have been doing the anniversary ADA update on a yearly basis and it is a very popular program. It gives people an opportunity to interface with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the U. S. Department of Justice related to what has been happening over the past year, what the status of the ADA is and have an opportunity to ask questions and get some clarification of issues that may be important or pertinent to you as individuals. We have two speakers joining us today and I will introduce them in a minute. But just to clarify we are here today for the ADA update, 18 years, celebrating the 18th year anniversary of the original passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. First on today, we will be hearing from Sharon Rennert. Sharon Rennert is the Senior Attorney Advisor in the Americans with Disabilities Act Division, Office of the Legal Counsel within the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Sharon is a senior member of the ADA staff. And that is not in years of age but rather in the years that she has been doing this and hanging around in regards to this. She has been with them since shortly after the ADAs passage. She joined them in January of 1992. She for a period of time served as the Acting Director of the ADA Division in 2003, and she is very actively involved in the Commissions development of policy interpretations of the ADA and worked with the ADA policy guidance issued by the Commission in general. She has worked on many of the commissions ADA technical assistance documents that many of us use on a regular basis, including fact sheets and such that are available and Sharon can remind people when she speaks about where you can find those on the website. But if you are not familiar with the EEOC website, there is a plethora of information there. She also specializes in providing employers with practical approaches to ADA compliance, she consults with EEOC investigators and attorneys on ADA charges and litigation, and she works with EEOC federal sector staff and administrative judges on the Rehab Act complaints. She has also written and delivered several ADA training programs for EEOC staff in addition to conducting numerous seminars and workshops for attorneys, human resources professionals, risk management personnel and persons with disabilities. So prior to her life, and I am not sure she had a life prior to the ADA.
I am not sure I have a life afterwards either.
I was just going to say that next, Sharon, is that you probably hasnt had a life since the ADA. She was with the American Bar Associations Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law. There she directed projects on HIV related legal issues. Developed the model HIV/AIDS confidentiality policy to be used by service providers and before that, she was the Assistant Director of Government Liaison for the Epilepsy Foundation of America, with a concentration on disability rights issues. So her law degree is from New York University School of Law and she has her BA degree from the University of California Berkley. She comes from east coast to west coast, west coast to east coast. And that is where she has been for a number of years and we welcome her again. She has been a featured speaker many times for our program. From the Department of Justice, today we would like to welcome Renee Wohlenhaus. Renee is the Deputy Chief of the Disability Rights Section. For many of you who are not familiar with the fact, that today is a big day in DOJ, and that they are having their public hearing on The Notice of Proposed Rule Making of the Revisions for Title II and Title III. So we are very happy that Renee was able to step away from that very exciting activity event to join us. She is the Department of Justice Disability Rights Section; for those who arent familiar with it, it enforces the Americans with Disabilities Act and coordinates the enforcement of other federal, state and local agencies protecting civil rights for persons with disabilities. Before joining the Civil Rights Division in 1994 she was a Senior Trial Attorney in the Federal Programs Branch of the Civil Division and where she began as a counsel in 1983. She was in a broad variety of statutory and constitution challenges to the laws, regulations, programs, and policies within the federal court system. Prior to joining the Department of Justice she started her career as a trial attorney in the Office of the General Counsel for the Department of Agriculture and she was involved in Food Stamp and Child Nutrition Programs. So, quite a change there from entering into the civil rights arena as it relates to the various disability laws that she is doing currently. So I think you will find both of our speakers highly qualified and prepared to be able to speak to you today and update you on what is happening with the Americans with Disabilities Act. So at this time I am going to go ahead and turn it over to Sharon. So, Sharon, why don''t you take it away.
Thank you very much, Robin, and good afternoon to everybody out there. Well I think for anybody involved with and affected by the ADA, to my mind the most significant thing, I should say from an employment aspect, very well aware of what Renee is about to talk to, as there are very significant things going on with Titles II and III. Particularly from an employment aspect Title I of the ADA, it is something looking forward a little bit from today and that is the very real possibility that some time in the future, maybe very near future, maybe not, the ADA could be amended. And I am sure most people by now are aware of legislation that is pending in the U.S. Senate, the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. It was formerly called the ADA Restoration Act but it has been renamed. This legislation which overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives last month primarily focuses on the definition of disability. And the genesis of this legislation is what we have experienced primarily since the Supreme Courts 1999 decision in the Sutton case and a couple of companion cases on the issue of mitigating measures. That was the first major case that started to narrow in many peoples view the definition of disability beyond what Congress had intended the ADA to cover. And starting with the mitigating measures case moving on two, three years later to the Toyota case which gave a restrictive reading to what it is to be substantially limited in a major life activity. And as these cases then, as courts then applied the Supreme Court rulings, we seem to end up with a lot of people with disabilities that one would have thought would have been covered, things like insulin dependent diabetes in many instances, epilepsy in many instances, other kinds of serious disabilities. And yet folks with these conditions were being told, You don''t meet the definition. And as a result of that efforts began late last year and then into early this year to amend the ADA. And we are very current, just as of this morning the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing on the ADA Amendments Act and again primarily on the scope of coverage. You know, who should be covered and who should not be covered under the definition of disability. And I know there is going to be an audio conference in the next couple of weeks just devoted to this topic, so I don''t want to spend all the time doing this, but this is so significant, clearly would have a big impact on EEOC and the Department of Justice since we all would be impacted by any change in the definition of disability. But what was interesting this morning is that Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, who was the major Senate sponsor of the ADA Amendments Act, was expressing concerns about the legislation as enacted by the House, that he thinks that we are on our way to having a viable bill but clearly he says he has heard concerns, legitimate concerns raised by some of his colleagues on the scope of coverage. And he really wanted this hearing to help flesh out those issues, and several times indicated that he thinks that there may need to be some additional changes made to the legislation before it is ready to be enacted. The two lead Republican Senators, Senators Enzi and Hatch, for those of you with long memories, Senator Hatch was one of the major sponsors of the original ADA, also expressed concerns that there needed to be some further changes. So as most legislation it twists, it turns and so we shall have to see where it goes from here. But this obviously serious efforts being made and something that everybody should kind of keep an eye on in terms of what could be happening and what we might be talking about a year from now. But returning to the present and where we are today. In terms of the EEOC obviously we continue to do what we are expected to do, which is to enforce Title I of the ADA. And for those of you who have not recently looked on our website, let me just quickly bring up to date with some information about where we stand in terms of enforcement. The latest figures we have go through fiscal year 2007. That is the fiscal year that ended last September 30th. It is not a calendar year. So fiscal year 2007 ended last September 30th. And some interesting statistics in terms of enforcement and where we are. In fiscal year 2007, we received just under 18,000 ADA charges, just under 18,000 ADA charges. That was the biggest number of ADA charges we have had in 8 years. It also was a jump from the previous year that it had gone up significantly. So I don''t try to interpret as to why that happened, but we certainly, there has been kind of an up and down, the slow increase but it really went up last year significantly. In terms of our ability to resolve the ADA charges that are coming in we have been holding steady just under 16,000 charges. Now of course, we are not able to resolve charges as soon as they come in. So the fact that we resolved about 16,000 charges last year, a lot of those would have come up in the previous one to two years. In terms of the settlements that we have been able to get here, again, that went up. The number of settlements was 2,037. That represented about 13% of the cases, closed cases or settlements that we were able to get and that was highest number we have had in about ten years in terms of settlements. In terms of how many cases that we find reasonable cause, that is our terminology where we basically think the evidence does look like discrimination occurred, that has really held steady in the five and a half percent range of all of our closed ADA cases. In terms of where we do not find evidence of discrimination, that has been holding steady too, at about 55% of the cases. Now this is the kind of area where we could see a real change if the ADA Amendments Act is enacted in some form later this year because the numbers really significantly changed after the Supreme Court Sutton decision. Beginning in the following year of 2000, suddenly the percentage of cases where we had to say we could not find sufficient evidence to find discrimination, a lot of that was now being driven that it was harder to start finding disability. So we may start seeing changes if indeed the ADA Amendments Act does become law. In terms of the amount of money that we were able to get for successful charging parties through various means of settling cases, over $54 million last year. In terms of our litigation that cases that we bring ADA litigation, that number has remained fairly steady the past several years in the sort of 45 case range, so last year we actually had 46 lawsuits involving ADA claims, but that is holding pretty steady over the past few years. In terms of the amount of money we are bringing in with the ADA cases, not as high as I know a lot of people would like. It is about $2.5 million for our litigants. But remembering that we do have a cap on damages available anyway under the ADA. Just want to bring to your attention one of our latest big cases in terms of a big settlement that happened just last month. That was a case against Wal-Mart in which we got $250,000 for our charging party for the plaintiff in the litigation. This was an individual who had experienced permanent damage to her spinal cord after a gunshot wound and had difficulty walking, had to use a cane as an assistive device. And this was an individual who had been performing her job well, that was our contention based on the evidence but that despite the fact that she has been performing her job well, she had requested some accommodation but Wal-Mart had turned her down on her request for accommodation, then made claims that she really wasn''t doing her job well and ultimately fired her. And the woman filed her charge with her. We found cause, we ended up going into litigation. And after the court had denied Wal-Mart''s request for summary judgment, Wal-Mart basically saying there really wasnt any factual dispute here, and the court disagreed, we were able to reach a settlement with Wal-Mart in this case. And any time you get pretty much get the maximum in terms of damages, that is significant case. So we continue to be looking for areas where we can litigate that we feel both in terms of cases that can really illustrate as this one did what would have been important in terms of an interactive process in terms of the assessment that somebody can do a job with or without accommodation. These are cases that we really want to bring. We still look for cases where we can say that even if the courts have narrowed the definition of disability it may not be as narrow as some might believe and we still very much look to try our best to bring cases that may be harder ones but that is part of how we see our role. It has been in these past years in trying to keep the definition of disability as close to our reading of what Congress originally intended, and that has always been a big consideration for us. We aren''t always successful with that but that has been a big focus and continues to be of our litigation. In terms of the Commission itself, it is newsworthy that just yesterday, the newest member of the Commission, our 5th Commissioner Constance Barker was sworn in. This is the first time in now a couple of years that we have actually had the full complement of five commissioners that the EEOC is supposed to have. We can conduct business even if we don''t have five commissioners, but that is what we are intended to have and we do. However, we apparently will enjoy having a full complement only for a couple of months, as our Vice Chair Leslie Silverman, her tenure ends in a couple of months. So we will be back down to four commissioners at that point. And I have heard no word, and I sort of doubt at this late stage that we will see a 5th commissioner nominated and approved before the end of the year. I always want to make sure that people are up to date on the newest guidances that the EEOC have issued. As Robin mentioned, we do have many documents, and we average about two to three new ones every year. The two so far issued earlier this year concern Veterans with Service Connected Disabilities. There is one document that is geared for veterans with disabilities themselves. A second document that is geared to employers who may have hired or potentially may hire veterans with service connected disabilities. And looking at a host of issues that these veterans may face including the fact that obviously by definition, we are talking about individuals who only recently became disabled and for individuals in that circumstance, in addition to many other kinds of adjustments, not least is the fact that having considered themselves non-disabled they suddenly are dealing with the fact that they have a disability. And that may lead to awkward situations in a workplace in which they don''t see themselves as having disabilities. So for example, they don''t necessarily think about asking for accommodation and in fact for many veterans, it kind of goes against their whole culture. In the military if you kind of pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you will, and so employers are not always sure if they when they suspect accommodations may be needed, can they ask? Should they ask? And for veterans trying to make sure they understand exactly what their legal rights are. So those are our two newest documents. I am never able to give previews of what may be coming because it is up to the Commissioners to decide what we will be publishing, but I suggest people keep an eye out on our website, cause it is possible, maybe likely, that before too long there could be some additional ADA documents out there. I also wanted to mention on our website that you can get updates and information about one of our disability initiatives which is focused on federal applicants and federal employees. Obviously, federal government, beside the government, we are a big employer and we have an initiative, the lead initiative, primarily spearheaded by Commissioner Christine Griffin about looking at further efforts that the federal government can make to increase the hiring, retention and promotion of qualified applicants and employees with disabilities. So if you are a federal agency, you are out there or individuals who are interested in federal employment, there are a host of things on the website that may well be of interest to you that is stemming from our lead initiative. With all of that, Robin, I think that is kind of the sort of update at this point from the EEOC so I can turn it over to Renee to give the updates from the Justice Department''s perspective.
Thanks Sharon and Robin. Good afternoon, everyone. I bring along greetings from John Wodatch, our Section Chief who as everyone has already mentioned is at the public hearing for our Proposed Rule Making. We had proposed the new regulation on June 17th and it was published in the Federal Register for comment. That comment period is 60 days, so it will run until August 17th, which is a Sunday, so I believe they are taking comments until Monday the 18th. I encourage anyone who is interested to submit comments. Obviously, the more comments we have, the better the results in the rule making. If you want any information about it, you can go to our web page, www.ada.gov. And there is actually a streaming webcast of the hearings today which so far, knock on wood, has been functioning properly. So you can catch that on www.ada.gov if you are interested you can get information about the rulemaking and how to provide comments to us. We encourage you to do that. Please don''t waste time, go right to it, get us some comments. We would love to hear from you. On another sort of housekeeping matter, but near and dear to all of us. One of our longtime deputies who most of you probably know, Irene Bowen, is one of our litigating deputies, is going to be retiring next week after 30 years in federal service. Irenes farewell is coming up on the 22nd. So if any of you have personal greetings you would like to send along, we are collecting those for her farewell event. Feel free to send those either directly to me at email@example.com or you can also go on the web page. I think there is a general office email address there. We are going to miss Irene, she is going to go into private consulting and will be continuing her work in the area of ADA enforcement. So we are happy to know she will still be working on the side of the angels in this area. And she is very excited and a little bit nervous. So if any of you feel like sending greetings along, I am sure she would appreciate it. Sharon filled us in; thank you, Sharon, that was great news about the ADA Restoration Act. You had way more current information than I had. That is obviously going to impact all of us because the definition of disability will impact Title II and Title III where we primarily have enforcement responsibility. So that is good to hear the update there. I will turn briefly to what is in The Notice of Proposed Rule Making and kind of try to give a tiny bit of background and then I will just run through quickly some of the accomplishments over here that we are most proud of over here in the last year since we last got together. Turning first to The Proposed Rule Making and some of the items there that may be of interest. As I said, it was published on June 17th. It includes 52 questions under Title II; in other words questions that we put out there that was soliciting responses about in particular, we are welcoming comments in any area regardless of whether it was the subject of a question. But there are 52 questions under Title II and 59 questions under Title III. In addition to the actual proposed language there are two appendices. One is The Access Boards ADAAG, the latest architectural standards that the Board issued in 2004. The other appendix is the Regulatory Impact Analysis. Now those were both published on June 30th and those are also both available on www.ada.gov. The Regulatory Impact Analysis is required by federal law and it requires federal agencies to undertake some sort of analysis of the cost and benefits of a rule making. That is a fairly difficult process as you can imagine in this area and in any civil rights area in particular because it is sometimes difficult to quantify costs and benefits in this regard. But we have done our best and are eager to get comments on the Regulatory Impact as well, and particularly any suggestions or comments that people might have about the benefits of the regulation to help, I guess, balance against what are perceived economic costs on the other side. The purposes behind issuing the reg at this time were first of all to address the ADAAG that was issued by the Access Board, because as most of you know, those are building standards but they don''t become enforceable until the Justice Department publishes our own regulation. So that was the first reason to do it. The second reason was that we needed to harmonize with state and local building codes. Again, a lot of you are familiar I am sure with ANSI and model codes and state codes and we have sort of a general enforcement interest in not being completely inconsistent with those codes and in addition there are federal statutes which actually now require the federal government wherever possible to harmonize what the federal requirements are with what accepted general standards are in the industry. So it is not to create additional burdens that are deemed unjustified. So there is an explanation of that in the notice on the web page and I encourage you if you are interested to go and look at that for more details. Just a few of the highlights. By category, I guess, the first category are the proposals that are related to the Board''s architectural standards. And I will just run through those quickly, there are a handful of them. The first one is play areas. The second broad category is recreation, including swimming pools, golf courses, amusement parks, mini-golf, recreational boating, fishing piers. Then accessible courtrooms were the next sort of major category from the Access Boards regulations, and then detention and correction facilities. Those are all addressed in the regulation and there is more explanation available in the proposal for all of those and I have more details but I don''t want to take too much time here. I would be happy to answer questions if you have them. I would say I sat in this morning on the first I guess hour and a half or two hours of the hearings. And it seemed to me that we were getting a broad cross-section of interested comments from lots of different people on both sides of every issue. You know, purely anecdotal snapshot I guess I would say that the play areas and the playgrounds seem to be getting a lot of comment this morning. Segways also got a lot of comments this morning and whether or not to regulate segways. So we got the Boards ADAAG. The part of the rule making that is supposed to implement the ADAAG. Then moving on to the second major category for us and that is the Safe Harbor language. We had to figure out a way to evaluate compliance with the law in the face of the existing regulations and whether or not we were going to piggy back the new requirements where they increase obligations by public accommodations, how to best enforce those. What we elected to do in the NPRM and what is now up for comment is an Element-by-Element Safe Harbor provision so that if, for example, a public accommodation can show that it was in compliance with barrier removal obligations at the time the new regulation becomes final, then that compliance satisfies the new regulation. In other words, the enhanced requirements probably don''t need to be satisfied immediately upon publication for sure. We will see what happens in the comment period and whether or not that gets tweaked. Some of the other Safe Harbor provisions that are perhaps the most notable were the reduced scoping for play areas and swimming pools and accessible entrance to swimming pools in particular. Now, with regard to some of the proposals that we have sought questions about and proposals that have come up as a result of our DOJ enforcement experience, there are about nine of those. And I will just run through them quickly. The first one is service animals. We have gotten a lot of interest over time in which animals should be qualified as service animals. So this proposal, basically says that dogs and other animals that are trained to perform a specific task will be considered service animals. It puts in a little bit more explanation and description of what kind of training and what kinds of tasks. And it suggests that some animals would probably not be considered service animals. As an aside there is legislation under consideration right now in Congress. And I have heard different reports in the last couple days. I think there has been a lot of activity on whether or not monkeys are going to be limited, domestic monkeys are going to be limited in the United States as a health and safety issue in general, outside of beyond anything the ADA has to say. It is just a separate piece of legislation. And I don''t know the exact status of that right now. I think the expectation was that some version of that was going to pass probably in this Congress. The second proposal based on our DOJ enforcement experience is the policies about hotel reservations. Then the third one was questions about ticketing for events; theaters, sports events, that sort of things. The fourth area is wheelchairs and mobility devices and segways and how to define those. There is a lot of controversy on both sides about segways and what happens in the ultimate rule making remains to be seen, I guess, on that area. Emergency notification in large stadiums is the next area that is something that we have got a question out there about. Regulation of equipment, which includes sports equipment in gyms and other kinds of equipment which will be an interesting area for us to get comments on to see what the general reaction is on that question. Single rider golf carts. For those of you who are interested there is a lawsuit right now that is on its way up to the 9th Circuit, actually it is in the 9th Circuit. They are in mediation at the moment, a case that was brought about the disabilities rights advocates in the Bay area in California against Marriott. The District Court in the Northern District of California ruled that, denied the motion to dismiss the case. Marriott has 19 golf courses right now where they provide single rider golf carts and they were not providing them at another 60 or so, 65 locations where they either lease or own golf courses as a part of their resort. So that lawsuit is on its way up to the 9th Circuit, and we will see what happens with that. But that is also part of our rule making. We have got questions out there about that. Captions on movies is another big one. You may know already that in ''91 when the regulation came out, the preamble noted some legislative history that the movie industry got during the legislative process saying that open captions at movies were not required and so there has been lots of litigation and interest in the years since about what the obligation to provide some kind of closed captioning system is. And a lot of chains now are using the rear window technology. We did a big settlement agreement quite some time ago now with Disney World in Florida. They use the rear window technology to do closed captioning. We are anticipating a lot of comments on that subject as well, I would say. And the ninth area based on our enforcement relates to assembly areas, movable platforms for seating and stadiums, seating in movie theaters, line of sight issues, that sort of thing. Some of the issues that we raised that have to do with changes in our prior architectural regulations, our design standard are, first of all, circulation pads for employee work areas. Number two is the number of accessible entrances required to a building, this particularly in a Title II facility. The new standard that we are proposing is 60% of entrances. That also met with some favorable commentary this morning at the hearings. We will see what happens with that. Scoping in assembly areas; in other words, how many seats have to be accessible. That number has been proposed to be reduced from 1% to half a percent for large assembly areas. Van parking is a big item, in that the change from our prior enforcement policies. Application of residential design requirements in public accommodations context and the 6th one is front approach to sales counters which is an issue that I know several of the advocacy organizations on the west coast have made a priority over the last couple of years. With regard to the Regulatory Impact Analysis, as I said before we are sort of focused and interested in getting comments on the methodology for cost and benefits and cost of benefit numbers by facility types in particular. Turning quickly to some of our accomplishments, I know a lot of you were interested in our technical assistance documents, the new CDs are out with the updated TA materials incorporated into them. So you can get them on the web page or call the 800 number if you want copies of the CDs. Sally Conway is eager to get those out there so please call and let us know if you would like copies. We hope to have out before the end of the summer the new Title I video coming out called Ten Employment Myths which will join our other videotape on Ten Myths Amongst Small Businesses for ADA Compliance. We hired a couple of famous documentary producers that worked out of the east coast to produce this and it is going be a great tape. It is short, it is easy to observe in a training program or other situation where you are trying to train employees or small businesses. Other accomplishments recently. You probably heard there was a case in the DC Circuit, American Federation for the Blind sued the Treasury on currency. And the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. That case is now being remanded back to the district courts to decide what an appropriate remedy would be. The plaintiffs had asked for some way of demarcating currency, either different sizes or putting some sort of raised surface on or other way of identifying different bills as to value. The district court will now get the case back as the parties presumably will try to settle that case. And if not, I guess it will go back up on the remedy phase to determine what the appropriate remedy should be. Also just about two weeks ago, there was a case in the northern district of Florida in which the Justice Department participated in which the plaintiffs were suing under Olmstead to get folks out of nursing homes in the state of Florida and into community housing. The state of Florida challenged the integration regulations under Title II saying that they weren''t authorized by law. The civil division actually filed the brief in support of our regulations and the court found our regulations to be valid. We are continuing to watch that case and we may be getting involved in the substance of that in the future. For right now though, it is just the news is that the motion to dismiss that case was denied. In terms of settlements, very quickly, we settled, you may have heard with the University of Michigan football stadium, they are going to add over 200 new wheelchair locations in that stadium and waive the large fee for wheelchair users to become season ticketholders in the stadium. There are all sorts of other improvements in the stadium as a result of our settlement. We have also done technical assistance with the National Baseball Stadium here in DC. We are very happy with the results of that, the new stadium seems to be very popular. There is a story in the Washington Post today about fan satisfaction and from everything we have heard the accessibility is very good at the stadium. U.S. Attorneys office in Manhattan recently did a settlement agreement with Madison Square Garden in which they have also gotten barrier removal accomplished. So in the general area of working with children with disabilities in the past year we did a very important settlement with the YMCAs in California to admit children with autism and not to deny them admission in child care and after school programs. We did an agreement nationwide with the Sylvan Learning Centers to provide effective communications in auxiliary aids for those tutoring programs. Just last week we did another agreement that we are very pleased with, involving children who use insulin pumps and have diabetes. The Raynor School on Long Island is a private school that runs a summer program that had denied children with diabetes admission. They are now going to accept students. And that agreement joins the agreement we did about a year ago with Town Sports International, another camp and child''s program on diabetes. We just had an agreement with Swarthmore College, which joins Colorado College and the University of Chicago among others to make those campuses accessible. In the area of travel and hotels the U.S. Attorneys office in Manhattan did agreements with several New York City hotels in the Broadway theater district. We have done an agreement with Motel Six and just this past week we announced an agreement with New Century Bus Lines which operates inexpensive busses along the east coast but primarily between DC and New York. And finally, we did an agreement with Golden Cab Company to allow service animals in their cabs. So that is a quick run-through. I apologize if I went through it too quickly. But I am happy to take questions and eager to hear what you are interested in.
Great. Thank you both Sharon and Renee for providing a comprehensive overview of the activities and the key issues that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as well as the Department of Justice have been dealing with most recently as well as over the past year. I think it is interesting for us to hear some of your insights about what is happening on the Hill since all of us are not necessarily in DC or able to always get some of the insight into some of these activities that we might see talked about on email blasts or blogs or things of that nature. It is always nice to hear those kinds of things. I am sure that we have a ton of questions and issues from our audience today. So I think we will go ahead and open the lines and ask the Operator to provide some instruction to participants about how to ask questions. For those of you that are using streaming audio, you can ask your questions through the streaming audio website area and we will be repeating those questions for you to the speakers. And so why don''t we go ahead Operator and give our participants instructions at this time.
Okay. Ladies and gentlemen, at this time if you have a question, please press the one key on your touch-tone telephone. If your question has been answered or you wish to remove yourself from the queue, please press the pound key. Once again, if you have a question please press the one key. Thank you. Our first question, your line is open.
This is actually from, I am the Captioner.
Sure, go ahead.
How many of your EEOC staff who take ADA employment complaints/charges have disabilities?
I don''t know because it is so wide ranging in terms of we do not have in our local offices which is where the charges would be filed, not with the national headquarters in Washington, that you have different investigators and enforcement managers that rotate through in terms of sitting at the intake desk taking in the charges. So in essence you are asking me really whether you intend to or not, how many people in all of those divisions have disabilities and I do not know and I do not know that EEOC actually has anything that would be geared to specific positions as opposed to overall how many individuals with disabilities we have at the commission. I am certainly happy to see if I can get further clarification and after the audio conference provide any additional information to Robin to post.
Thank you very much. We will go ahead with the next question.
Our next question comes from, your line is open.
Go ahead. Make sure you un-mute your phone.
Are we on now?
Yes, you are fine.
Okay, yes, I wanted to make a comment about the, you had commented it was American Federation of the Blind and it is actually American Council of the Blind that brought the suit against the currency because there is two organizations and it is real important to have that clarification because the Federation is against it.
I apologize, I just misspoke. My error.
Well, I just wanted to make it clear for people who don''t know the difference because it is a real point of contention among those two organizations. So thank you and it is the Council of the Blind.
Great. Thanks for that clarification. It is always I think we use a lot in acronyms and things in our work and we do get them mixed up. And that is great to clarify because you are exactly correct is that there is not necessarily agreement within all disability groups on some of these issues across the board. So it is important to make sure that one or the other is not being represented incorrectly. So thank you for that clarification.
For your interest, NFB folks actually testified on the side of the Treasury in that case.
So again, that speaks to her comment about that they are against the suit and what it is asking for as far as remedies and things. So, okay, why don''t we take the next question please.
Our next question come from, your line is open.
I was just curious as to what accommodation that young lady who sued Wal-Mart was denied? We have several Wal-Marts, two that we have individuals here in Springfield and they are always, always they are more than accommodating to our individuals.
Sometimes you bring up cases and I haven''t gone back and read all of the accompanying documents, so I would actually have to go back and check. I dont know what the specific accommodations were.
Do you know what state it was?
The state - gosh, I don''t right off the top of my head.
Okay. Thank you.
Sorry. I said I am happy to give information to Robin and have her post anything. I think it is actually is Maryland. I think it was in Maryland.
Yes, that is the most recent case you are talking about correct?
Yes, it was in Maryland.
Yes, it is. It is a disability bias case. Is that the one you were talking about?
That also has to deal with accommodations, is just that I dont know.
It was a pharmacy technician?
Right, yes. And yes, that was, actually I am looking at the press release right now.
Which does not say because I have that pulled up as well. The press release will summarize but doesn''t give us all the data. So I will find out and have something that Robin can post.
Our next question comes from, your line is open.
Yes, I was wondering with regard to public rights-of-way, there were two court cases that have been, that have come down. One was a court case against Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. I think it was Kinney. And that one determined the scope of work on a public street project that required the installation of curb ramps. The second one was the Barden case against Sacramento. And what I am interested in is if you have any guidance or information on how a public agency, transportation agency should interpret the two of those in combination because the way I am reading it is that we under the Kinney case we would have to put in curb ramps when we are doing reconstruction of the roadway to you know maybe overlay it you know or reconstruct the pavement and then the Barden case seems to suggest that when we do the curb ramps, then I think it says something in there, there is no point doing the curve ramps if the sidewalk in between isn''t accessible. And so that seems to change the scoping requirements, those two court cases. I was wondering if there was any guidance or you have any suggestions on that.
Yes, the Access Board has a current rule making ongoing on rights of way and that those subjects are going to be addressed in the Access Board''s regulation. So that is just by way of background. In terms of the Kinney and Barden cases, I don''t want to be too legalistic about it, but I think, at least in the Departments view, the Barden case really stands for the proposition that sidewalks are a program of a Title II entity. In terms of any sort of actual scoping requirements or architectural requirements I don''t think Barden should be read to specify what those are. Kinney, you know, Kinney is, I understand your interpretation of Kinney requiring curb cuts. I think the situation with Kinney is that it is, there aren''t many cases out there interpreting these requirements but Kinney is now getting some age on it. What we have all been anticipating the Access Boards rule making and I guess I would refer you to their web page which is access-board.gov for a current status report on what is happening with that. You may be aware that there was an Advisory Committee report put out in anticipation of the rule making which is what the Board typically does with a new rule, and the Advisory Committee report is I would say pretty liberal in terms of explaining what requirements might be in the new rule. I would caution you that the Advisory Committee report in this case and as often is the case sometimes gets scaled down or rewritten or tinkered with or whatever, but it does at least give you a sense about what issues the Board''s looking at and I think we are all anticipating there will be a rule making out of the Board in the not too distant future on this. So that is probably the best source of guidance. DOJ doesn''t have anything that is probably going to have the kind of detail that you are looking for. So I guess I will point you in the direction of the Access Board for the time being.
Can I ask a follow-up?
The Federal Highway Administration and the Access Board both encouraged voluntary early adoption of the proposed rights of way guidelines. And so, there was a lot of information for a lot of the differences between public rights of way, accessibility issues, and the architectural issues prompted us to heed that encouragement. And so, our agency has adopted the 2005 PROWAC as encouraged by both those agencies. So I guess what I am asking then is that having done that, would that seem to make, if we followed the PROWAC or you know the proposed guidelines, and within those guidelines there appears to be a difference of how the scoping requirements are to be implemented versus the court decisions, would you think that we would be safe and defensible following the PROWAC even where they seem to fly in the face of the court decisions?
Well, I hate to give you legal advice. I am not really in a position to do that. I guess what I would say is that any time you know you are acting in the context of what you think is the appropriate government agency advice, I would always double check that with the agency. So again, I don''t want to sound like I am not answering this question, but I guess probably the Access Board is better able to give you a response on that than we are at this point.
Wouldn''t it be that the response would be from the Department of Justice that you would just have to make sure that you weren''t doing anything that was below the current standards just given that you dont have, these are not enforceable standards right now for the Department of Justice, correct?
Yeah, I guess I wouldn''t even want to say whether they were above or below at this point. I mean, I think one of the issues is going to, have to be resolved as the result of the Access Board''s rule making is sort of what the nature of a program is and whether or not you know sidewalks are necessarily going to be included even in places where they don''t connect to major thoroughfares and rights of ways. So, I mean there are a lot of issues that are I think going to be very challenging. I think all we know for sure after Barden is that sidewalks are considered to be a program under Title II. And really I hate to say that Barden goes, at least from our perspective at the Justice Department at this point, that it goes farther than that.
Great, thank you. I have some, before we take another question, I have some questions that were submitted online. So I wanted to get a chance to get some of those taken care of as well, before we get on to some of the telephone questions. Give equal opportunity here. I have a question submitted from someone who is listening online that said: Will uniformity requirements for accessibility and accommodations be required of hotels, motels to ensure accessibility to travelers with disabilities?
If by uniformity the questioner means that the same reservations that are available to people without disabilities. In other words, guaranteeing reservations for accessible rooms just like other rooms and that sort of thing? That is what we have proposed. If it means, I am not one hundred percent sure if that is what the questioner meant by uniformity, but...
Yeah, it is not clear either, just the way it was submitted, so I am not clear either. If the person listening wants to clarify that question for me and send it back, give us more clarity on what you mean by uniformity, I can repeat it here in a minute. In addition to another question is, would future legislation address universal design as a requirement for new construction of public housing. Would ADAAG be taking on anything with housing or is that pretty much being left up to HUD as it has in the past?
Yes, the housing issue, residential housing comes under the Fair Housing Act. Not under the ADA by statute, and that law, Congress has given enforcement responsibility to HUD for the Fair Housing Act.
I think they are talking about public housing which would potentially fall under Title II of the ADA as a responsibility of the Title II entities.
To provide public housing might be a responsibility and to provide it equitably but in terms of the actual requirements of how the housing would operate that would be under the Fair Housing Act Amendment.
Okay, I think that there is some confusion sometimes comes into play for example because UFAS and Architectural Barriers Act have some housing you know elements of requirements when its relates to federally funded entities that would there be here I think a question would be the ADA ever incorporate anything as it would relate to state and local government housing, public housing, so.
I think that is, I see that happening in the near future.
Ok, so still be deferring back to the other legislations and regulations that are out there. Okay, just wanted to make sure to clarify. Why don''t we go ahead and take questions again from the audience.
Our next question comes from, your line is open.
I am the general counsel for our state office on disability. And I was interested in the public entrance comment that was made earlier in terms of the DOJ regulation changes. I was wondering if you could restate that again and our concern here is how we deal with what has happened post 9/11. Many of the entrances to our public buildings have been closed off so there is like only one or two entrances that are actually functioning and how would one deal with what you are proposing under that scenario.
Well, I will answer them in reverse order. The 60% of entrances is 60% of actual entrances. So if entrances are you know completely closed and totally unusable and not used by anyone, then I think under the Proposal they wouldn''t count as an entrance. So it would be 60%, at least one and 60% if there are more than one. Everybody is going through the post 9/11 changes on security issues and a good point that you have raised that I should have mentioned earlier is, that there is a new chapter in our toolbox for Title II compliance on our web page, among other places, on emergency preparedness. So for folks who are interested in that issue, I encourage you to go look at the tool box at www.ada.gov. So 60% of working entrances would be covered under the Proposal. In terms of soliciting your feedback, we are really interested, I think what you are referring to is we are extremely interested in hearing from folks about the cost benefit of different changes with reference to the Regulatory Impact Analysis. So if you have any comments about sort of what the cost of certain changes are relative to what the benefits are and how to measure that, particularly even anecdotal experiences with regard to individual experiences, group experiences, local government experiences, anything that would help us quantify cost and benefits is something that we are hoping to hear something from you about. Does that answer your questions?
I believe so, yeah. Thanks.
Our next question comes from, your line is open.
I have a question regarding hotel accommodations. One of the things that comes up often is the lack of rules and regulations that cover the actual furnishing of the hotel room. In particular, cases come up where a major hotel chain has renovated most of its facilities and the result was to place all of their beds in accessible rooms on platforms making them inaccessible to people using patient lifts. Is there any intention or anything in the works to address those types of issues or plug up those holes that are in the current regulations?
I understand your concern about the platform beds. Currently there is nothing in the rule. That doesn''t mean you can''t write something about that issue if you are concerned about it. We will take comments on everything regardless of whether they are held out specifically for comment. With regard to the standards for the furniture and the design of the rooms in general, I would say there are some of the sort of broad changes on reach ranges and things like that that will influence some of the design choices in hotel rooms. Most of the new standard new ADAAG is written much more like a building code so that it takes apart concepts and elements and applies them across any type of room. So for example, the reach ranges are in a certain chapter, the, you know, each element is broken up into different chapters in a way that is somewhat different from the existing regulation. There is a chapter about hotel rooms. And I encourage you to look at the Proposal and see if you have anything to say about it. But in specific response, we did not hold out a specific question on platform beds. And I know that is an issue of interest to a lot of people.
Okay. Thank you.
Our next question comes from, your line is open.
Hello, can you hear me? My question is with regard to videos like VHS cassettes and DVDs. Are there any initiatives being taken for people who are visually impaired as far as audio description?
In commercial movies?
There is a question in the NPRM about that. That is included on the question on captioning. So we are trying to solicit comments from people about that. I know with the evolution of movies to digital transmission as opposed to traditional film, both open captions and audio description for people with visual disabilities is technologically now possible and it is something that can be switched on and switched off. So we put a question out there that identifies that information and asks for comment on whether or not the existence of this new technology and the fact that movie theaters are, I would say moderately quickly transforming over from traditional film projection to DVD and digital projection that this ought to be you know perhaps this should be more often available in you know public scheduled showings of the movies. And we certainly encourage comment on that. I know Hollywood has been working, the producers of the films have been working closely with several groups including WGBH in Boston which is one of the leaders in narrative descriptions for films an I think what we know that open captioning is being included on all of the new DVDs that are coming out in the new digital distribution. And I think for many if not most, they are also including narrative descriptions. So, the question will be whether or not the regulation puts a numbers requirement on how often the movie theater owners have to show those in that format.
Our next question comes from, your line is open.
Hi. I am asking a question on behalf, his question was regarding the money for the visually impaired as well. And do you know where that is currently at? Is that part of the Restoration Act or is that something new?
No, it was a lawsuit that was filed. The United States Court of Appeals issued a decision about a month ago. The United States Treasury Department was on the losing side and it is up to the Treasury Department and the Justice Department Solicitor General to make a decision about an appeal. I believe that the time may have run now on the appeal and that the expectation is that the case will probably go back down now to the district court, which is the entry level court in the federal system where they will meet with the judge and the judge will decide whether to try and mediate a settlement between Treasury and the plaintiffs or whether they will now have a separate fact finding on how expensive it will be to come up with some remedy, which I guess can be anything from currency readers, handheld currency readers, other machines that read currency, or actually changing the size and shape of the currency itself. I would guess that given how expeditiously the court moved that case before, it is possible that before the end of the year we will probably see some sort of resolution one way or another. Either that case will go back and the district court will have make some sort of a decision about a proper remedy or the parties will negotiate some sort of a settlement.
Okay, thank you.
Before we go on, I have a couple of electronic questions that I want to answer at this time. I have a question here that from someone who wants to know, who will be responsible for the certification process for agencies that will certify that a service animal is meeting service animal standards and what would these quantifiable standards be?
The regulation itself will describe what the standards are. I suspect, I mean it is hard to say, I suspect that the standards will be somewhat akin to some of the technical assistance guidances already out there which you have probably seen on our website. And specifically noting that animals that are used for psychiatric disability will be considered service animals if they are trained to provide assistance you know for folks with anxiety disorder or people who have epilepsy and have a sense of seizure, if the animal is trained to tell them when a seizure might be coming, that sort of thing. I think it will depend to some extent what the comments show in terms of what appropriate questions could be asked, but I would expect that our final regulation will sort of incorporate into the regulation some of the same kinds of concepts that have been be in our the technical assistance in the past, explaining that the animal has to be trained to provide some sort of you know specific assistance to a person with a disability. And I don''t think, although, I suppose as comments came in, you know and argued in favor of it you know, the majority of the comments are argued in favor of some sort of a certification, official certification that as matter of fact there is a possibility as you probably already know, it is not there right now. So it would require a change in the rule. The answer is I guess that it would be the Justice Department writing the regulation and the guidance will flow from whatever the regulation is.
Just to be clear there is going to be a certification process for agencies that will then certify animals as meeting these standards?
No. I don''t think so. I mean, I dont, anything, it is hard to say because we are still in the Proposal stage. That is not part of the NPRM that went out.
Okay, yeah, I just want to make clear. So, there will not be a certification process for agencies themselves, it will just be standards for the service animal if the agencies you know would obviously be of interest for them to look at those if they are putting service animals out there. But the agencies themselves will not have a certification process under this.
That is right.
Okay, I just wanted to make sure everybody is clear on that as we talk about it because it is very confusing. I also have a question related to the access to legal services. This particular question, this individual talks about the fact that it is very difficult to get legal services for people with disabilities, legal attorneys, and things of that nature, do not readily take ADA complaints and things of that nature. And just wondering whether or not you saw any change in that or anything at the federal level or otherwise that might encourage or impact the availability of legal services for people to exercise their rights under the law?
Sharon, I would give you that one to you under the Restoration Act.
I am not sure I know how to answer it under the Restoration Act.
Do you think it would be easier for attorneys? I think one of the reasons a lot of attorneys don''t take ADA cases now is because of the way the courts have ruled.
I think there is no question in its current, in the current drafting of the ADA Amendments Act. It clearly is meant to provide broader coverage in many ways going back lets say on the mitigation measures, which I think is probably the most clear, is really a return to where we were when the ADA was first enacted the regulations of the Department of Justice and EEOC published as many will remember that said if people were using mitigating measures, they were to be disregarded and you assessed what the disability, whether there was a disability without the use of the mitigating measure. In so, in that regard we are going to return to sort of pre-1999, pre-Sutton days that I think a lot of people have familiarity with. In that sense it is going to make the issue of does this particular person have a disability less of an issue there unless you get more toward the merits of what happened? Was there discrimination, was there in the employment context denial of reasonable accommodation or issues of discrimination under Titles II or III? And so, in that sense it may indeed make it easier to both get cases you know, certainly here at EEOC I would expect to see an increase in the number of cases where we would find discrimination. As I said in my comments, part of the reason after the Sutton case it kind of spiked up that we were finding less discrimination was we were able to find less coverage. Now you are potentially going to find more coverage. But that is one, it is a large segment but that doesn''t care of all of potential disability cases. Other parts of this legislation are still being very strenuously discussed about whether it is restoration, whether it may go too far, who is going to be covered. So disability could still be an issue there. But I would think you know both in terms of being before the federal agencies, the plaintiff''s bar looking at cases where it just may sort of change the focus of the litigation less from does someone has a disability to what the merits are may indeed make it easier in many instances to bring cases. But some of that, I am always careful, because I don''t have the crystal ball to say for sure.
Great. Well, thank you very much for that. Additional questions please from the audience.
Yes, our next question comes from, your line is open.
Thank you. My question deals with here is goes: please provide contact information on behalf of veterans having difficulties in seeking and maintaining employment within the federal government system.
I think there are a number of agencies that have been looking at that. I mean in terms of EEOC itself, I would say no we have not, but I think through both the Department of Defense and the Labor Department have been looking at issues, some of which I believe, certainly the Department of Defense targeted at both the hiring and retention of veterans with service related disabilities. I don''t have sort of ready information to send to you. I can certainly see if I can have again to impose on Robin anything I can get that we can put up. But I definitely know, I have done a series of trainings with the Department of Defense about hiring and retention of individuals with service-related disabilities. I know that they have a lot going on in terms of getting folks hired, training their managers in terms of the needs here. How to work with individuals with service related disabilities, so I am aware that there are efforts on many different levels going on within the Defense Department itself in terms of a sort of federal government-wide initiative, no, I have not heard of something like that. We have probably got bits and pieces spread through several different federal agencies.
Always a problem with multiple entities involved you know. Okay, next question please.
Our next question comes from, your line is open.
I this is actually going to be from, he is sitting in on the teleconference with me.
I do have a speech impediment but don''t hesitate to ask me to repeat myself. And I think this will have to do with the ADA Title I. Currently I am having problems with vocational rehabilitation and employment. Back a year they told me that I could not sit in a classroom and be with students. I proved them wrong. I proved them wrong several fronts now they want to push me around, and push me in a different direction and they are not wanting to provide services. Is there or will there ever be a law or regulation causing them to take responsibility for what they do on state and local level on what vocational rehabilitation does on state and local level?
I think this may be more a question for Renee, if I am understanding the question correctly that it is a question of what services are being provided and whether someone may be, whether you may be being denied services that you believe you are entitled to in terms of the vocational rehabilitation agency. It could fall under the jurisdiction of the EEOC to the extent that the vocational rehabilitation agency, if it is acting as an employment agency doing what employment agencies typically do in terms of getting jobs for people. If they were sort of denying you access to that particular service, then yes, that may be a violation of Title I of the ADA. But vocational rehabilitation agencies often provide a host of different services, not simply what we would consider the types of activities of an employment agency, and to the extent that they were providing other kinds of training and rehabilitation services, I think that is going to fall under Title II, wouldnt it, Renee?
Either Title II or federally conducted program. I think the best place for you to look is the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights. If you go to our web page, ada.gov, on the left hand column of the home page are links to other federal agencies enforcement mechanisms including their Offices for Civil Rights. Department of Education has a fairly active Office of Civil Rights. And if you got complaints about any particular voc rehab programs, I am sure you could talk to the folks at OCR in the Education Department. They would be designated as the federal agency with the responsibility to take those complaints at the first instance.
Our next question comes from, your line is open.
Hello, I was calling because I would like to know how you bring attention to people who have severe scoliosis and people who have had back surgery. There are, I have lived with scoliosis all my life. I have had back surgery and I have fallen into discrimination in different areas. And I just wanted to know how I can bring attention to it and if you know it goes along with the ADA compliance?
Well to the extent, this is Sharon Rennert, you are raising, either you have experienced what you believe to be discrimination in employment, then you can file a charge, basically a complaint of discrimination with the EEOC. And if you go to our website, eeoc.gov you can see the closest EEOC office. Almost all states have offices similar to the EEOC in terms of they have their own state laws prohibiting employment discrimination. And again your local EEOC office can help you if you want to pursue that avenue. So to the extent of employment discrimination there is a lot that you can do to challenge it to bring the EEOC into it. If you are not sure in terms of what you have faced would be discrimination, again going to the EEOC website in terms of a lot of different guidances and Q&As and frequently asked question documents that can describe what we mean by discrimination in the various ways that people with all kinds of conditions including very serious back impairments like you are describing could indeed be covered under the definition of disability, the kinds of accommodations that may be needed, that we focus, we dont tend to always focus on particular disabilities but in terms of giving a sense of the wide variety and the ways that discrimination can occur against people with a wide variety of disabilities, there is all that information to help you too.
The other thing is when I had back surgery it fell under cosmetic surgery. And how do I go to get that changed? Because in situations such as myself it was not under a cosmetic surgery, to look pretty and have a straight body. It was to be able to keep my organs not wind up in a wheelchair at the age of 17. So how can I go about you know making more awareness of people who have such a severe issue with scoliosis and having other problems with that such as, you know, like going into Wal-Mart, there is one handicapped stall and the rest are regular stalls and I cant get into them. The only one I can get into is the handicapped stall and that is very frustrating.
That is obviously an issue that falls under our Title III regulations and scoping requirements on all of these accessible features are up for comment. I would encourage you to write in with specific experiences and let everyone at our rule review process know you know what your concerns are, what your experiences have been. I think that would be a big help.
Wait there is one more question here at our center.
As far as therapeutic dogs, which I think that we have considered different from assistance dogs, are you saying that the therapeutic dogs are now going to have to be trained because right now they are not usually?
Right, I think the new Proposal will somewhat narrow, we have always, our guidance has always said that the animals have to be trained to perform a service in order to qualify as a service animal under our definition. Under the Fair Housing Act, comfort animals, and I havent looked at their specific language, it may say comfort animals and therapeutic animals, I am not sure, are to be permitted in public housing and other facilities that are regulated by the Fair Housing Act. So it is a broader definition for housing than it is for public accommodations lets say under the Title III of the ADA. You know, one of the tensions that has existed over the years is to the extent that the definition of a service animal gets too broad it becomes more difficult for people who have animals who are trained, the animals that are trained to get cooperation, supports and access to facilities and we have gotten a lot of comments over the years that if we don''t have some sort of standards, then the benefits to the folks who are using trained animals diminishes and it becomes more difficult for them to be able to use their animals to help them with their disabilities. So the Proposal actually does, I suppose, at least perhaps from some peoples perspective narrow somewhat from what some people''s understanding has been. I think just within our office in terms of our enforcement and our technical assistance online, we have always maintained that the animals have to be trained to perform a specific function for a person with a disability.
Thank you, I am going to slip in another question here from the online system here before we take any more, because we are getting towards the end of the hour here. I have somebody who was asking a question about whether or not anything is being done to make TV remotes accessible by things like audible features and stuff. And I know this has been a long-standing issue of whether or not you know specific equipment has standards versus the built environment. And I know that things that TVs and things of that nature actually would be more governed under FCC than the EEOC and Access Board at this point. But maybe you want to comment on that.
The FCC has actually been looking at that issue I think more recently than we have. So I would do encourage folks to check their website.
Yeah, cause again is, am I not correct in that you have, really not as the Access Board has not gotten down to individual equipment type of standards at this point.
Right, that is right. And specifically anything that is related to broadcast communications is definitely I mean I realize remotes are actually the equipment to use to deal with the broadcast communications but FCC interprets their authority to cover a lot of the things that are sort of generally related to telecommunications.
Right, right. And that is where the things like with the caption decoders and things of that nature have come from as well from the FCC.
And TTY, a lot of the TTY requirements and all emergency phone service, that sort of thing.
Correct, correct. Okay, we are just at the bottom of the hour. Lets see if we have at least one more question that we can take through the telephone system please?
Okay, our next question comes from, your line is open.
Hi. Got a quick question about coordination with 504 regs. Because there is obviously concerns now with the federal government getting on board with the ADA standards and ADA standards coming into play hopefully with the adoption of what you are all proposing. Is the department going to be doing any coordination with the federal agencies to get the 504 regs, their 504 regs to adopt the new standards?
Well, if that does, that falls under our area of responsibility, under the pre-existing coordination exercise. So we have started to put those wheels in motion but as you can imagine the first priority is going to be getting the new standards out.
Okay, we will take one more question.
Okay, our last question comes from, your line is open.
I am a wheelchair user and a swimmer and have been forever concerned about access into pool water. I am glad that it is being addressed in the new proposed regs, but I have a concern that we are leaving it a little loosey-goosey in that people can decide or choose which method of entrance into the pool. I am of the opinion that lifts are by far the most usable to certainly to people with the most disability, or a low functioning person and also it can be done independently which is extremely important. My other comment and then I do have a question. My other comment has to do with the option of putting a ramp or a float surface into the pool as one means of access. If that is going to stand as one of the choices, there should be some law or some strong language to indicate that an entity would have to provide some sort of chair, shower chair, pool chair, something, otherwise that is relatively useless if that is their choice, the one choice that they make, then that is not going to create a great deal of access. So those are my comments. And I wonder if you received other comments similar to that?
That is interesting that you bring that one up. As I mentioned I was over this morning listening to the public hearing. And one of the commenters was saying that the average cost of a pool for a town or locality now of sort of medium size is around a million and a half dollars and that the cost of putting in a lift is less than $5,000. So I was never very good at math, but you can imagine it is pretty small additional cost to provide lifts into the pool. So you know, the short answer is yes, we are considering all the options and I think the fact that the lifts are so cost effective is probably going to make those in many cases more appealing to a lot of entities including you know state and local governments and some public accommodations that would fit within the new requirements. So I am not saying that anybody is prejudging this. All I am suggesting is that given the cost efficiency there, it is possible that is going to be a popular choice. And we understand the issue with the pool chairs. That is certainly something we have talked about here within our office already. So people are aware of that but I encourage you strongly to get online. We will take comments electronically by the way, you can email your comments in. Just go back to www.ada.gov. and keep those cards and letters coming because we would love to hear from everyone.
Okay, just as a final comment and I am glad that you are you know receiving comments like that, but having a pool with a ramp and no chair is like having a shower, a roll-in shower with nowhere to sit. It is the same frustrating situation.
Right. No, I completely understand. And you know, I think we are expecting that we will get some comments in that area and really encourage folks to send us comments.
And just as a, for clarification because we are at the bottom of the hour now. For the Proposed Rule Making process and comments you do have instructions on your website for people of the various ways that they can submit comments. And so I would really refer people to the www.ada.gov website and if you go to, it is right on their front page of the website, there is a link that says, Notice of Proposed Rule Making Proposal to Revise ADA Regulations under Title II and Title III it was posted on July 3. If you click on that particular link you will get to the page with the all the actual texts and things of that nature. But if you scroll down to the bottom of that page you will find the instructions on how to actually submit comments. There is an online process you can send comments in by phone and such of that nature. But I think that you know people really should go to that and read that and review that information so.
We would really love to hear from everyone. Please encourage everyone you know to send us comments.
So I will ask you the big $25,000-dollar question or I guess it is even more than that, I dont know if it is even that priceless question, when you finish all this process of collecting the comments and again just to remind people they are due on August 16th, right? They have to be in by August 16th?
Right, they need to come in August. Right.
That what is the magic timeline that you are thinking of? I know you can''t give me anything official, and there probably isnt anything that can be publicly said officially, but are we talking something that people can anticipate a 3 month, 6 month, 12 month process here?
Well, I can tell you that, the way the rules are set up, we have to get our Proposal through the Justice Department, then it has to go to the Office of Management and Budget. They get 90 days to review it before it gets a thumbs up or a thumbs down. Once it has becomes final then it has a review period that we have to wait before it takes affect so that Congress can decide if they want to put a hold on it or not. So there is one scenario under which it would happen under the current administration and you know we are working just as fast as we possibly can to try and move this thing along. It is impossible to tell I think right now what time constraints are going to be imposed. But I think the goal is to try to get something out in this administration.
Within this administration, so by the end of -
January, okay, okay.
I mean it is a nice goal. I don''t want to prejudge it. I obviously dont know what the contingencies will be. We have no way of controlling the Office of Management and Budget. All those factors are going to enter in so.
Sure, right, exactly. Well, thank you very much. And Sharon, any last comments or anything? Again, I know you have told people to look for some of those guidance documents that you mentioned in your presentation as well as that you know if you, were there any other additional issues that people have brought up that you would get that stuff and we would broadcast them out to people. But were there anything else you wanted to say before the end here and what your thoughts are on the ADA Amendments Act? And are we talking this year or do you think that?
Well, I certainly do not get personally consulted by members of the U.S. Senate and I think there certainly is a wish by all parties with interest in this, the White House, the House, the Senate, members of both the disability community, as well as the business community to try to work something out this year. The reality is that, in terms of the number of legislative days with the Congress there are just not that many. It is an election year, so Congress will be taking off pretty much the entire month of August for the Democratic followed by the Republican conventions and then pretty much from the end of September on through October for campaigning. So, in terms of the number of days left to enact something that is definitely a concern. But I think this is very much on the table. It went very well. If there can be a meeting of the minds we can see something. So, people should keep posted on that, there are various websites that are keeping people informed about updates on that. And in terms of the EEOC as I said earlier keeping abreast of what is on our website we will tell you about things that are coming out. I think, there are a number of documents that the Commission wishes to publish before the end of the calendar year. They are very much in the pipeline so, without being able to say much more, keep checking.
Great, okay, well thank you very much. And I want to thank our speakers today on both Sharon and Renee for joining us and for taking time from their busy schedule. I want to thank all of you for spending time listening to the program, being interested in the topics and things of that nature and bringing your very insightful questions to our speakers. Just a couple of things to say before we close out. I would invite to join us in our August session. Our August session switches gears a little bit and the focus is going be on hospitality and issues of accessibility within the hospitality industry. We have a panel of individuals that are being moderated by Marian Vessels of the Mid-Atlantic ADA Center. Her Center has been spearheading a hospitality initiative over the last couple of years on behalf of all of the ADA Centers across the country working closely with the hospitality industry and trying to adjust many of the issues related to insuring that that industry meets the needs of people with disabilities. And Marian has put together a panel of people. We will be putting more detail up on our website, but we do encourage you to join us for that. I would like to announce a special session that we will be putting information out on. You heard Sharon allude to it earlier. We have gotten consensus from individuals who are representing the sides related to the ADA Amendment Act. Individuals who have been involved from the disability community including representatives from AAPD, National Coalition of Individuals with, Consortium of Individuals with Disabilities, as well as representative from the business community including human resource management and such, joining us for a special session. This is an additional session that we are just finalizing and getting information out on. It will be held on August 12, same time frame of 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. Central, so that translates into 2:00 to 3:30 for those in the Eastern time zone, and 12:00 to 1:30 for those in Mountain and 11:00 to 12:30 for those in Pacific time. And sorry I can''t translate those, other, those folks out in Hawaii and such what that means for you. But anyway, stay tuned for more information. It will be a discussion and additional insight into the ADA Amendments Act, formerly also known as the ADA Restoration Act. And stay tuned because again by August 12th you know it will probably be even more activity that will have occurred. So we welcome you to join us for that session. And again, you can watch the website www.ada-audio.org for more information about that session as well. And we will be sending out information to anyone who has registered for any of our programs to let you know about this program as well and the details. So, I wish everyone a great rest of the day as well as rest of your week. And thank you and we hope to see you and hear from you online again a month from now. Take care.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for participating in today''s conference. This concludes the program. You may all disconnect.