Good day ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the ADA and Alternative Dispute Resolution Mediation Conference Call. At this time, all participants are in a listen only mode. Later, we will conduct a question and answer session and instructions on how to participate will be given at that time. If anyone requires operator assistance during the call, please press star then zero on your touchtone telephone. And as a reminder, today''s conference call is being recorded. Now, I would like to turn the conference over to your host, Robin Jones.
Thank you and good morning and good afternoon to everyone depending on where you might be connecting with us from today. I wanna welcome you to this session and thank you very much for joining us in August. I do know that this is a very busy time for people with occasions wrapping up this summer and things of that nature. So thank you for taking time out of your day to join us. Since we have a great session today, I just wanted to alert people that we were--had a change of plans in that the representations from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. There was an administrative change there and they had chosen--or not to participate in today''s session specifically so we do apologize that we are not going to be able to represent the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission''s mediation program today in our presentation. So again, I apologize for that. Let me just go through some of the housekeeping things for today''s session. One is to remind people that this session is being recorded and it will be made available later, in a later time as a recording for you to listen to. The session is also being real time captioned and there were instructions in all of your materials as to how to action--access the real time captioning. And we also have individuals joining us today through streaming audio and on the telephone. All of you have options for being able to submit questions to our presenters and we strongly encourage as we go through today and you hear the presenters speak and discuss their different areas that they are representing or have knowledge about--just jot down your questions and be ready to ask those when you get a cue from the operator that we''re ready to take questions. We do strongly encourage you to do that. You should have received some materials that the speakers made available for us today and outline of their presentation and such. So hopefully you have access to those as well. Again, that information was in your instruction for accessing today''s session. So I''m going to go ahead and get started at this time and I''m going to introduce our speakers and then turn over the microphone to them. First we have with us Lisa Levine who is the ADA Mediation Program Officer, a long title, big name, with the disability rights section of the Civil Rights Division in the US Department of Justice. She''s been with the position for the last five and a half years. If you''re not familiar and you''re going to get more familiar with that program today as we go on, the ADA Mediation Program is intended to resolve ADA complaints in an efficient and voluntary manner. The program has proven effective in resolving complaints at--at less cost and in less time than traditional investigations or litigation. Prior to taking her position with the Department of Justice, she was the senior equal and opportunity specialist at HUD which is the Housing and Urban Development Federal Office of Fair Housing and Equal Employment. There she trained investigators nationwide on the uniform federal accessibility standards, conducted compliance reviews of large housing project authorities and participated in negotiations of voluntary compliment agreements in the area of housing. She''s also worked as an investigator at the disability rights section and at the office of special council for immigration related--unfair employment practices and she''s a trained mediator and previously directed a nonprofit organization assisting immigrant farm workers in Homestead, Florida. We are also joined by Lewis Dabney who is the director of the Key Bridge Foundation. He''s a nationally recognized leader in the field of ADA mediation, having helped manage the Americans with Disabilities Act mediation program for the Department of Justice since 1999. He has a MSC in conflict analysis and resolution. And in addition to his work in ADA mediation, he''s focused on ethnic and religious conflict and served as a consultant on international alternative dispute resolution projects, provided technical assistance including system design and program monitoring and evaluation. He has been involved in training hundreds of practitioners around the world in introductory and advanced mediation and negotiation techniques and he''s lectured at different universities including those in the South and Southeast Asia, South America, North America and Europe. He also served as leadership of the international section of the Association of Conflict Resolution for several years as including as chair and is currently in his second year serving as secretary of the board of that organization which represents about 4,000 numbers. In addition to Lewis from Key Bridge Foundation, we are joined by Donzell Robinson who has done extensive advocacy work for the last 12 years in the area of the ADA as a compliant liaison, complainant liaison for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. He is currently a professional mediator certified by the Maryland Council of Dispute Resolution and recognized by the Association of Conflict Resolution, which is the national organization representative industry as a practitioner and trainer. He specializes in workplace, domestic, civil, and healthcare mediation, as well as mediation training in those areas. His experiences include being appointed a mediator in the circuit court of Maryland to mediate issues of custody and visitation and an arbitrator for the Better Business World. He''s provided consultation and training in the areas of disability rights, alternative dispute resolution programs and issues related to developing cultural confidence and sensitivity training. So I think that you can just tell by the bios of these three presenters today that we have a very highly qualified group to speak to you on this particular issue. This is an area that I know our office and the--this program being presented to you as part of the ADA national network, I know that the centers nationally receive a lot of questions related to mediation and the use of mediation and alternative to going into the courts on some of the ADA disputes that individuals may have. So I think that you''re going to learn something today about that program and about mediation in general and to that end I''m going to go ahead and turn it over to our presenters and Lisa Levine will start us out today. Go ahead, Lisa.
Thank you, Robin, for that introduction and thanks to the Great Lakes ADA Center and the ADA National Network for arranging this program. We know it takes a lot of time and effort and we appreciate your bringing attention to this important topic of mediating ADA disputes. A woman called me in tears because she couldn''t take her son to their local sub shop. She lives in a rural area, so there aren''t that many choices and this was her son''s favorite place anyway. She uses a wheelchair, so the steps going into the restaurant impeded her from entering. She was so frustrated and just didn''t know where to turn. So I explained that she had the right to file a complaint under the ADA with us at the Department of Justice and that she could be offered free--free mediation. I told her what that would look like. That we would assign a trained third party, neutral person and if she and the restaurant representatives agree to sit down together, the mediator would help move along or facilitate the discussion but the mediator would not be a decision maker. I also explained that any agreement would emerge from her and the restaurant and that any settlement would have to be in concert with the ADA ensuring compliance. She was concerned about talking with the restaurant folks who she said had refused to listen before which is understandable. But I explained that she could bring whomever she wanted to the mediation and that DOJ would provide everyone with some technical assistance materials before they sat down together. She was also glad to hear that the mediator would be familiar with the ADA and experienced in handling disability discrimination complaints. I let her know she wouldn''t lose any rights by agreeing to mediate as the complaints would return to the Department of Justice from our mediation contractor if the respondent refused to mediate or if mediation fails. Fast forward a couple of months. The woman called me again, again in tears but this time they really were tears of joy. She had filed a complaint with the Department of Justice, participated in mediation and she had returned from lunch with her son at that very restaurant. The restaurant had built an entrance ramp, removed other barriers, and apologized to her. And that''s really what the DOJ ADA mediation program is all about, informing people with disabilities of their rights and entities of their responsibilities, empowering all people to have a say in the outcome and most importantly, enforcing the ADA ensuring access in a participatory, voluntary and efficient way. So, I''d like to now just give you some background to our program, explain more about how it works and share some of the successes and key elements to the program. And then I will turn it over to Lewis and Donzell of Key Bridge Foundation, our partner in this program, our mediation contractor. In 1994, the Department of Justice began a branch with the Key Bridge Foundation and created a nationwide mediation roster. Experienced mediators were trained on Titles II and III of the ADA. And those were volunteer mediators back then showing their dedication. The goal really was to help the Department of Justice more quickly resolve ADA complaints. And even in the statute it says whereas appropriate, alternative dispute resolution techniques including mediation should be used with a real shift, a shift away from the traditional adversarial winner take all method of problem resolution and a movement towards the alternative methods of dispute resolution. And mediation hadn''t really been applied to rights based dispute, so it really was cutting edge. And it was also a way for the government to handle complaint resolution without direct intervention. The government enables the process to happen but the department of justice is not a party to the mediation. And then in 1999, we started a contract with the Key Bridge Foundation, so we actually pay mediators now. The Department of Justice pays for the program which is free to the parties. We''re always asked what types of cases we take. Well, you''ve heard we handle Titles II and III, not Title I. So just state and local governments and public accommodations, not employment, EEOC does handle those and they too have a mediation program. We found that a variety of cases lend themselves to mediation, including barrier removal, frequently involving curb cuts or parking, steps or inaccessible restroom. Effective communication cases also lend themselves to mediation. And common complaints we see involves allegations about the refusal to provide sign language interpreters for instance in hospitals or medical offices. We also handle policy modification complaints. Many complaints we received are from individuals contending they were refused service for instance at a store or restaurant because they use a service animal. We also handle the Title II program access cases, for instance if court proceedings are held in inaccessible places. Some complaints are straightforward while others are much more complex. As we identify appropriate complaints for mediation, there are a series of questions we ask here at the Department of Justice, namely does DOJ have jurisdiction and is this a valid complaint and what''s the nature of the complaint? Importantly we ask, are the possible remedies flexible? So, do the potential remedies allow room for negotiation within the framework of the law? An example would be we would typically not take new constraint--new construction or significant alterations complaints as there''s no wiggle room. We also look at whether we can identify the right people to get to the table, the decision makers. And I''ll tell you one thing we don''t ask. We don''t ask how likely it to have an agreement? We certainly like successes but there are other intangible benefits for mediation including increased communication between the parties and education. You know maybe it''s the first time for a store manager to sit down and talk with a person with a disability. Here are some of the keys to our program. It''s voluntary, and this means in part if mediations arent working for either party, he or she can withdraw. Additionally, it''s confidential, so that nothing said or produced in mediation can be shared unless the parties agree otherwise. Parties really do control the process and the outcome and this cooperative approach can preserve the relationship between the parties and this is especially important in rural areas where people with disabilities as you know have few options for carrying out business, leisure or government activities. Crucial point is that DOJ will not simultaneously investigate during the mediation process or investigate if a successful resolution results. So this may benefit all the parties. Any agreement must be in harmony with the ADA and we''re really mediating within the framework of the law. As you''ll hear more from Key Bridge, mediation occurs locally in communities where people with disabilities live, work and play, so having trained mediators around the country is critical through our success. Of course when it''s needed, telephone mediations are arranged. What if for instance somebody travels from Texas to Florida for business or vacation and she just filed a complaint against the hotel that had no accessible rooms. Also for reasons of disability, we do phone mediation. We make absolutely certain that the mediation process is accessible to either party that has a disability. In short, it''s quicker than an investigation and efficient, much less costly than litigation as well. So what''s the process, how do we make this happen? Well, a complaint is filed with the department of justice and people can request mediation on the complaint form or a letter where theyve submit. That''s not required and it''s also no guarantee that we''ll accept the complaint for mediation but it certainly helps to say you''re open to the possibility of mediating. It''s reviewed for jurisdiction, once again only Titles II and III. And we''ll then contact the complainant offering mediation explaining the process, providing technical assistance materials and answering any questions. You know, we do caution complainants that the complaint may be closed if the complainant declines mediation without a good reason. A good reason for declining mediation might be that the complainant would be fearful of retaliation by the respondent. Then we at the Department of Justice wait for a signed released for a referral to mediation by the complainant and once we received that, we then have the authority to contact the respondent offering mediation. We''ll explain the process and provide technical assistance materials and answer any questions the respondent has and that''s when we refer the complaint to the Key Bridge Foundation. If mediation fails though or the respondent refuses to mediate, Key Bridge will return the complaint to the Department of Justice. I''ll then send it to the investigations unit here in the Disability Rights Section for them to review. There''s no guarantee that the investigations unit will open up an investigation. I will say, however, that DOJ doesn''t look favorably upon those entities unwilling to even give it a try. So the investigations unit will be inclined to open those. Parties lose nothing by participating. The complainants always have a right of private action; your federal civil rights are preserved. Yeah, remember that if a complaint returns to us at the Department of Justice for possible investigation or litigation, DOJ really represents the interest of the government. DOJ doesn''t represent either party, so neither party may be satisfied with the outcome. You determine the outcome in mediation. Some of our global outcomes include we''ve referred over 4000 complaints for mediation under the contract and we have a 78 percent success rate over the life of the contract. This is remarkable particularly given how we define success. A unique facet of our program and when we pride ourselves on is that we don''t count a case as successfully resolved until the implementation is complete and until the complainant confirms this. Or in rare cases, until it''s well on it''s way with benchmarks net. So basically a--a case is not a success until the ramp''s actually been built, the parking re-striped or the new policy implemented and the training complete or whatever else the parties have agreed to then done. Once the complainant verifies that they''re satisfied with the implementation, that''s a successful case. Our mediation provides--program provides an environment where people with disabilities can speak on their own behalf, make decisions and resolve issues. But of course, people can bring advocates or attorneys if they desire. By not having the Department of Justice as a party to the mediation, this preserves the integrity of the process and maintains the separateness needed in case of a future investigation if mediation fails. Overall businesses and state and local governments have eliminated architectural and communication barriers or changed discriminatory policies allowing thousands of people with disabilities to participate more fully. For instance in Arizona a person who''s blind and uses a service animal alleged that a hotel charged the nightly surcharge for the animal. The agreement called for the hotel to adopt a new policy and no longer charge extra, providing staff training, post signs and refunding the complainant. In another case, a creative agreement that might not have happened in the investigation of litigation occurred when a person who uses a wheelchair complains that the checkout aisles of a Georgia grocery store were inaccessible and that store employees refused to help him. The grocery store made the checkout aisles accessible and the complainant agreed to participate in quarterly staff meetings to provide disability sensitivity training to employees. So you see that both of these examples show that the person affected benefited from mediation. But what about some other interested parties who weren''t present? People with disabilities who hadn''t yet entered those places also benefited. Now, if this sounds like parties have to do some work in this process, that''s true. Active participation is what makes it work and gives parties the freedom to figure out what matters to them within the law. It''s good for the complainants as they can be heard and enjoy the services our program''s office offered but it''s equally beneficial to respondents as being inclusive, it''s better for business and they might just want to avoid a Department of Justice investigation. Both the parties have interest and responsibilities and mediation helps people identify them. Before I close, I''d like to acknowledge that we recognize that people with disabilities or advocates may have seen mediation as quite frankly a cop out for the Department of Justice. Some people tell me as they question whether they''ll participate in mediation that DOJ should do its job. It''s not my job, they say, to enforce the ADA but we at DOJ see it this way. Not only does the statute say when appropriate, use alternative dispute resolution methods. But if people have a say in the outcome, as long as the ADA is upheld with the agreement, doesn''t that accomplish even more? It not only achieved access in a built environment and effective communication or policy modifications but it really helps to dispel the stereotypes of people with disabilities and to increase communication among people who may have ongoing interaction. Empowerment may be an overused term but mediation can indeed be powerful. So first Lewis and then Donzell will expound on this overview and provide the practitioner''s perspective and explain what happens after the Department of Justice refers the complaint to the Key Bridge Foundation. Lewis?
Thank you so much, Lisa. It really is such a pleasure to hear you provide that overall perspective on the work that we do together everyday and it''s such a pleasure being here a part of the ADA National Network''s distinguished audio conference series. The DBTAC have consistently lined up such excellent speakers to yet illuminate the world of ADA practice and being a part of that is really great. And being that overall perspective, when you work in a program every single day, it''s easy to be absorbed in the details of it and to get together on the phone with your audience and reflect on the larger perspective, it helps me see what--with the broader view of what we do every day. And as Lisa said, there had been over 4000 complaints referred to us since I joined the program in 1999 and I''ve been--I''ve personally supervised about 1500 of those. So that impact over time has really made a difference. When I am traveling around the country these days, I''ll be in a small community somewhere and see a hotel and think, oh, I remember that case. Or where there may be a court system in a large city that was not previously accessible, to know that that''s become accessible, these cases one at a time, these mediations one at a time have really made an impact. And so Lisa did a particularly good job of showing how the individuals affected by this and also that cumulative impact. And basically the ADA Mediation Program is--worked with people with disabilities, disability advocates, businesses, state and local government, of course the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section, ourselves at Key Bridge, and our roster of mediators around the country, originally more than 500 practitioners were trained, many are still active over these years. And the stakeholders altogether have worked in this collaborative spirit that is alternative dispute resolution where skilled, impartial third parties work with people with different positions and interests to come to an agreement resolving a dispute. And specifically here these are complaints obviously about lack of access under the American with Disabilities Act. And it really has been such a pleasure and a privilege to see the cumulative impact of this program over time and be--and to basically have promoted the voluntary compliance with the ADA at the level that we have. Obviously an important distinction of what we do is that this is mediation and not investigation and so that all of what we do is voluntary. Donzell and I will be spending the rest of our time going over the outline that has been distributed to all of you going into more detail about mediation and the ADA Mediation Program process. And one additional element I''ll touch base on before passing it on to Donzell is the experience of having worked on this program for more than a decade. Originally, as Lisa said, our mediators were volunteers and in fact the DBTACs worked with the Disability Rights Section and the Key Bridge Foundation to train the original roster of ADA mediators. And many--many prog--for every mediation program functioning, there are different practices and they vary widely. But oftentimes, a mediator''s role is just in meeting with the parties and reaching in agreements or not reaching in agreements. And when the program was originally started in 1994, we just passed cases to mediators and they would contact the parties, have a mediation, when there was an agreement, return the matter to us. So it was very hands-off in terms of supervision and administration. And over time, we have developed an understanding that given the complexity of ADA complaints and given the importance of mediating in a civil rights context, that building in quality assurance techniques, building in a partnership between a group that is inter--interfacing between the Department of Justice and the parties has been very important. And originally, we just referred cases to mediators and--and had very little involvement over time. The Department of Justice disability advocates, business community mediators, everyone recognized that having greater involvement from a supervisory and quality assurance perspective would be particularly helpful. So now Key Bridge takes a very active role in reviewing all agreements to make sure that issues in the presenting complaint has been addressed and that there''s nothing contrary to law that''s been agreed to. We also keep cases open, as Lisa said, until the parties to the agreement confirm that the terms of the agreement have been implemented. In many mediation programs, there''s a less clear way to ensure that agreements are actually implemented and we see very actively involved in that. In addition, as conflict resolution professionals, we when the release to participate in mediation is signed and the Department of Justice passes us the case, we contact the complainants and respondents and orient them towards the mediation process. So we have a very hands-on involvement with every case and have developed a range of best practices that we''ll go into further as our presentation continues. But I''d like to pass this off to my colleague, Donzell, who will explain more about what mediation is.
Thank you, Lewis. So at this point, what I wanna get into is just basically an overview of what mediation is. It''s the foundation of the program, it''s what allows the parties to come together to resolve their disputes. And what I wanna do is start by giving some basic principles of mediation and then kind of typically right into how the mediation process works for those of you who are a little less familiar. I think the first thing that we should mention is that mediation is not therapy nor is it a day in court. And what we mean by that is it''s not our goal to try to hinder the parties in any way as far as what they believe they deserve. Whether it''s the complainant as far as what they believe they deserve as far--with regards to their rights or the respondent and as far as what they believe they deserve and their ability to provide solutions. Our goal is to also to demonstrate that the mediators are not judges. We''re not fact finders, we''re not there to render a decision. Our role is to manage the process, to be experts in the process and allow the parties to be the experts in the subject matter, in this case, the ADA or the Americans with Disabilities Act. We do not decide how the conflict will be resolved. The parties do this and we facilitate that by showing that the fairness of the mediation process by facilitating communication, keep them--the lines of communication open and attempting to maintain a balance in participation. Many times you''ll hear they call it balance of power, but we recognize that power is subjective. What is not subjective is whether it''s not is whether or not all parties can participate. And you''ll find that in every instance from whether you''re mediating parents and children, employers and employees. You really can''t focus on the balance of power, what you can focus on though is the balance in the communication and involvement in the process. We emphasize always that mediation is informal and that it''s confidential, meaning that were you not bound by specific rules and guidelines, you''re not required to enter evidence in a certain way. If a person wants to say, you know, I can''t get into an entrance of a building, you do have a ramp there but the ramp isn''t in compliance with the ADA. We don''t take them to a bunch of hoops in order for them to prove that. We start with having the parties talk about it. Is the ramp in compliance with the ADA? How will we determine if the ramp is in compliance? Allowing the parties to be the experts, allowing the parties to decide how they will come to an agreement on the information that is there, and then continuing that is--or is allowing the parties to be the experts on what the agreement will be. Of course, you know, keeping it as Lisa said in harmony with the ADA itself. We also facilitate this communication by emphasizing that the mediation proceedings are confidential. And this is important because it allows the parties to put everything on the table. It will allow the respondent to be able to talk freely about what they can or what they believe they cannot do. Whether it''s expenses, it allows the complainant to say what they would be willing to accept if you know--if the respondent would be willing to do things. They may be willing to take a less severe attack on what they want. A perfect example would be if a respondent who says, you know, I just can''t afford to do--to change a bathroom today. A complainant may say, well, how about if we allow it to take 3 to 6 months? If the per--if the respondent agrees, the parties agree, we have a formal agreement. But at any event that the parties do not come to an agreement, the respondent can''t say, oh well, the complainant agreed to allow me to have 3 to 6 months to do something. So confidentiality allows the parties to brainstorm, to work together openly and honestly without the fear of anything that they say will be used against them. Additionally, we remind the parties that it''s voluntary. The Department of Justice did--refer to mediation, as we said indicated. They may not look counting on parties who do not participate or at least give the process a try. But when we define voluntary, what we mean is you have the right to come up with an agreement. You have the right to say that you''re not satisfied. You have the right to say you''re not going to sign an agreement that you do not fully and wholly agree with. We emphasize continuously that the process is between the parties. We also explained that parties have a right to have an advocate there or an attorney there. It is not required, the parties can come, you know, by themselves, speak for themselves and we also ensure that they have the confidence of knowing that they will not be taken advantage of and that all agreements that we do through the program have to comply with the ADA. And most importantly, what we emphasize to them that a successful mediation isn''t always measured by an agreement between the parties. As Lisa pointed out earlier, a lot of times the first point of success for a mediator or when they know they''re moving in the right direction is when they can get the parties to begin to communicate in a manner that is not adversarial, when they can begin to work together or in trying to reach a resolution. Even if the parties aren''t able to reach that plateau of an agreement, when they are able to work together on a continuous basis, that is also a measure of success. But we do seek a written agreement because then that is a document that the parties can use to say or to represent or memorialize what they expect to happen. And also is a document that they can use to refer back to in the event that there are questions in the future. So, again as Lisa said, you know, mediation is a voluntary process, it''s a process that, you know, if it''s unsuccessful the parties have an opportunity to have their complaint returned. But most importantly, we like to start--writing to parties that mediation is something that they control. And that is the fundamental principle of mediation. It''s that the parties are in charge, they determine what is an agreement, they determine the parts of the agreement and they have someone there who is an expert to facilitate that, to help them overcome impasses which we''ll talk about a little ways down. To help them make sure that everything they need to have in an agreement is there but that they own the agreement. And that is the most empowering part of mediation. So at this time what I would like to do is kinda talk about the mediation process. And basically what I''m doing here is just giving you the real nuts and bolts of what actually happened at the mediation table. The first part is getting the parties to the table. As Lewis talked about--Lisa also talked about this a little bit as well. There are several different places where the parties--we communicate with the parties about mediation. Once we receive the complaints from the Department of Justice, we begin to talk to them about what mediation is. And--and that is a natural stage in mediation, it helps them set up what expectations are. We get them in a mindset of developing for themselves what they hope the outcome of mediation will be. And we want the parties thinking about this even before they begin the conversation with the other party. So we talk to them in advance, then we bring the parties to the table and we begin to set the stage for mediation, in the mediators it was called the mediator''s opening statement. And in this opening statement, not only will we talk about what will be covered in mediation, the parts of mediation, the introduction, identifying issues, process of the issues, brainstorming and resolution. But the mediator begins to set the tone for the dialogue. Hopefully the mediator is speaking in a way that is, you know, allows the com--the parties to feel comfortable and to that he or she demonstrates the commitment to the process. And the mediator''s trained to use intentional body language that demonstrates being open. The next step would be the identification of the--of the issues present. In the ADA program we start with the complaint. But beyond the complaint, we give all parties a chance to be heard which is oftentimes the first time that has happened. For many, it''s the first time the respondent has an opportunity to say I didn''t know. For the complainant it''s the first time to--for them to really explain why providing accommodations is important. Not only from a legal perspective but from a personal perspective. It allows the parties to educate the mediator about what happened, how the parties feel about what happened, what the parties think they want to happen so that the other side can hear it, and also, how the parties are initially related to each other in body language. The next step is processing the issues. And what we mean by that is taking it from a place of you''re wrong and I''m right to what can we do to resolve this? So we go from, you know, it may be a start from substantial legal content or legal issues around the ADA. We allow parties to vent about emotional issues. And we also begin to highlight and itemize those things that the parties have in common, the respondent wanting to be open to all of their patrons, the complainant wanting to patronize a certain business. And we build on those things continuously through the process. The next step would be brainstorming. And basically what we do is we begin to separate out all of the issues. Using the example that Lisa talked about where you have a person who wanted to take her son to a sub shop that did not have an accessible entrance. So in that small segment there are two issues there, the issue of not being able to participate or take her son to the sub shop and the fact that the sub shop doesn''t have an accessible entrance. Those are two--in mediation those are two separate issues that you want to address. The first issue of the fact that because of this inaccessible entrance the mother couldn''t take her son to the sub shop maybe resolves to an apology. It may be other reso--items that are wanted in order to resolve that. The second issue is the entrance itself which would be the Americans with Disabilities Act completely spells out as far as what would make that remove that barrier. So we separate the issue in mediation and we begin to deal with the issues separate and apart from one another so the parties can focus on those specific issues. And when we begin to resolve those issues, we do it by brainstorming. A mediator in that instance would list all of the ideas that the parties have for resolution. And it''s important to note that when brainstorming, the mediator doesn''t qualify those issues. Every issue goes up, every opportunity for a solution is presented and after--and only after all the parties have participated and provided issues of possible solutions for the issues that have been presented do they begin to qualify those issues and discuss them one at a time. The only thing that we definitely preface for our mediators though is when there is an issue of money, that issue is always talked about last. Beyond that, it''s usually the training of the mediator, the experience of the mediator, that gut feeling of the mediator where they begin to try to attack those issues which they believe can be resolved more easily than others that they addressed first. Then finally, we would--the mediator would commemorate the terms of an agreement in writing if the parties choose to do so. Again, as emphasized before, an agreement is not always the end all be all what''s the--determines a successful resolution. And additionally for the program, success doesn''t end at simply coming to an agreement. Success is also determined by the implementation of the satisfaction of the implementation by the complainant. But what the mediator does when--the mediator''s role when reducing the agreement to writing is to include the mechanisms for resolving the agreement. When will something happen? How will it happen? Who will verify that it has happened? Will there be followups? Would have--how will the parties address any future disputes? Will the parties agree to resume mediation in the event of certain things happening or if there''s a dispute, the parties will generally, in this program especially, agree to mediate again? And always included in the agreement is a mechanism for future contact and communication. So that is there a contact person for the respondent or a store or a hotel that a complainant should call in the event that they have a concern or a question? All of these things not only work to resolve in this specific agreement but also work towards allowing for the parties to continue their communication and be able to resolve complaints on their own after the mediation is concluded. And finally, what I wanna kinda talk about is there--we''ve talked about mediation and we talked about our process and I think it''s important just to kind of mention that there are many different styles of mediation. If anyone has ever been involved in other types of mediation, you may have participated in the advice of mediation form in which mediators may express their view or an opinion on what they think is a fair and reasonable settlement for the parties to agree to. That is not something that we do in our program. Our program, we allow the parties to wholly determine what is the outcome. Also, another type of mediation style is transformative mediator, mediation, in which a mediator doesn''t seek a resolution of the immediate problem but rather seek mutual recognition of the parties involved. Additionally, the parties define their own issues and how they wish to seek solutions. Again, that is not how we operate in this program. The way we operate in this program is what''s called a facilitative mediation in which our role is to dedicate ourselves to identifying the specific issue, identif--which has been laid out in the complaint and ensuring that the parties work on that issue through resolution and through implementation. So, I hope I''ve covered enough of what mediation is, how our process works, and the various styles of mediation that as Lewis begins to talk about the specifics of our mediation program, you''ll have a foundation of understanding. So with that, I''ll turn over this to Lewis so he can begin to talk about the mediation program.
Thanks Donzell. And basically what we''d like to make sure that this audience has today at the end of our presentation is that basic understanding of what mediation is for those who might be less familiar with it, as well as expectations for what this particular mediation program is like for people who participate in it. Because oftentimes, DBTACs serve as resources for both respondents and complainants who are participating in our process or might participate in our process. So we want to make sure that the listeners on the call today are--understand what to expect with respect to their complaint moving through this program. So when specifically when we receive a complaint from the Department of Justice the first thing we do within the first week of receiving the case is we contact the complainant and we contact the respondent. We contact the complainants first. They often will be more familiar with the process because they''ve already signed a release to participate in mediation. They already are more likely to be more familiar with the ADA. We contact the complainant first and we provide some degree of technical assistance on what mediation is, what the ADA mediation program is and to--when necessary we refer people to publications from the Department of Justice on the Americans with Disabilities Act or refer complainants to advocates and try and connect the complainants to resources that will help them participate effectively in the mediation. The next--we also manage expectations, as Donzell said, about what the mediator will be doing and what the mediator won''t be doing. So we will often stress that the mediator is impartial, that the mediator is not an investigator and not a judge and cannot impose a decision. So with both complainants and respondents, we at every opportunity look to make sure that theyre informed about what the mediation process will be and what it won''t be. So we then contact respondents, we contact them second because as the complaint is passed to us from the Department of Justice, the department is also sending correspondence to the respondent indicating that the complaint is going ahead in mediation. We like to make sure that the respondents have received that correspondence and then we contact them to follow up, provide them a copy of the complaint as it was filed with the Department of Justice in accordance with the release form that that resulted in the case being reported to mediation. And we will again stress what the mediator will and won''t be doing. What the timelines are for the program that--and when we receive a complaint, the complainant has already agreed to participate in mediation but the respondent hasn''t. So in working with respondents, we are working with them to provide a technical assistance on mediation, the ADA mediation program and the Americans with Disabilities Act again by pointing people in the direction of Department of Justice materials, the standards, certainly informing them that they can--that they are not already represented by counsel that certainly the respondents and complainants can be represented by counsel. And we generally just make sure that the parties are informed and we also start doing the work of mediation prior to the case going to our mediators that will be providing the service usually face to face locally around the country, also by teleconference when necessary. We look to have parties already hopefully shifting out of an adversarial approach to resolving this dispute to making the most of the mediation opportunity so that we can maximize that efficiency, maximize that creativity that comes from parties addressing these issues themselves with the assistance of professional third party neutrals. So we''re already working with parties to move them in that direction prior to the case being assigned to an actual mediator. Again, we''ll be orienting parties towards timelines that basically respondents should have a decision whether or not to participate in mediation within a week. We can be flexible on that to a certain extent if there are extenuating circumstances where a counsel may need to review a situation or in larger institutions both state and local governments and larger corporations where there might be levels of review that are required. We have some flexibility but the emphasis is always moving to a decision about participating in mediation or not as quickly as possible. When the respondents refuse mediation, we return the case to the department for their review and inform the complainants of that. When respondents agree to participate in mediation, we refer the matter to a mediator that we have assigned who we think is the best match for that case, both in terms of where they''re located, in terms of their subject matter knowledge of the type of case it is, whether it''s effective communication, barrier removal, program access. We''ll have the mediator lined up. We assign the case. And again, just like with respondents and complainants, we''ll provide some technical assistance on the specific type of complaint, refer the mediators to resources so they can be maximally informed about the area of law they''re working in. Of course they''ve all been trained by us originally and we do work with them to provide technical assistance on an ongoing basis. But when we''re looking at a particular complaint, we''ll review the complaint carefully with a mediator before the mediator contacts the parties. Mediators need to contact parties within two business days of us referring the case to them. Again we''re always trying to move these as quickly as possible. We also as the mediation firm and the mediator, we''re the public accommodations here. So we have to ensure that the location is accessible, that there are alternative formats, that there is effective communication including the provision of interpreters. Also, there may be access issues with respondents. Sometimes we''ll need language interpreters. There have been a number of cases recently where Mandarin interpreters have been required. So we look to provide access for parties both with respect to the ADA and more broadly. So then we make sure when the respondent has--when the--I''m sorry, when the mediator has called the respondent and complainant and scheduled a date for mediation, we get that to the department, so that the department knows if the cases are moving. We also then before the mediation proceeds, the parties have to sign an agreement to mediate form, this is very simple and straightforward. The important elements are that it is that the agreement that the process is confidential, that the parties will work in good faith together. That any party has a right to legal review, that they''ll be respectful to communication. And this agreement to mediate form is used in almost every mediation context and is a useful tool for mediators to refer parties back to. So basically, you know, let''s say one party might say, well, let''s maybe if this doesn''t work out, we''ll take this to the media. Well, it''s helpful for the mediator to be able to refer to the confidentiality agreement and say well, you know, everything that''s discussed in mediation is confidential, and to remind the parties of that--of that obligation. Also, to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to fully express their perspective, parties can refer to the rules to mediation as well to say well, you know, I understood that I would be treated respectfully here. So if there--if it''s a great tool for all the participants in the mediation process to refer to. And that has to be signed before the mediation proceeds. Lisa also mentioned some cases will proceed by teleconference, again, transient lodging is the classic case, there are often other reasons as well. Sometimes it''s a way to ensure access to the process as traveling might be difficult for someone. A key element of our program is--and a key quality assurance piece is we always review all agreements that are reached in all cases. That would be Donzell and myself review every agreement. And that basically we ensure that every issue that was listed in the presenting complaint is addressed in the mediation agreement, that there''s nothing contrary to law that''s been agreed to, that there is specificity and timelines for what is going to be done when. And again, a key aspect of our program is the mediation process continues beyond the actual mediation meeting and continues until all parties agree that all terms of the agreement have been implemented and that the complainant is satisfied. So we also want to make sure that that process moves as smoothly as possible. Sometimes it may be that there''s very little that will be done in the future, but sometimes there''ll be agreements let''s say an amusement park that has hundreds of accessible elements that have to be addressed over maybe more than a year. So there we wanna make sure that the parties agree how they''re going to monitor and confirm the implementation. So, are there going to be site visits? Are there going to be photographs sent back and forth? Will outside people participate in that? Will there be mystery shoppers to ensure that service animals are and people who use service animals are admitted into public accommodations. We also make sure that there are things that let''s say if an agreement comes to us and all there is is compensatory relief and there''s nothing about access, that that really doesn''t happen but we want--we always wanna make sure that the issue of law is addressed. That we wanna make sure that if the--if the issue was accessed for people who use service animals that there''s not just an agreement to provide 500 dollars to the complainant and there''s nothing about modifications of policies and procedures, training, signage, those typical pieces of injunctive relief we would generally see in those cases. We also wanna make sure that the--any release languages is appropriate, doesn''t waive future civil rights. We wanna make sure that there are contingencies there so that if--if something--if a permit can''t be got or, you know, what alternatives to barrier removal might be in place during a construction project, things of that nature. All along, in addition to working with the complainants and respondents, the mediators were managing the process in general. So, we''re making sure that the parties and the mediators are adhering to deadlines, that they''re adapting to situations as they come up. We''re tracking cases through implementation, checking in with parties. Sometimes we lose touch with parties, sometimes complainants or respondents may have illnesses or deaths to contend with. And we will always make every effort to contact the complainants and respondents and keep them engaged in the process. If after many attempts including certified letters go out with requests for response and if we don''t get any, we''ll eventually need to return complaints to the department of justice. But again, 79 percent of the time over the period of the contract, parties will reach an agreement that addresses the presenting allegation in a manner that''s compliant with the ADA, not contrary belonging in any way and the parties express their satisfaction are closed. With that I''d like to pass it back to Donzell to cover some additional materials.
Alright, so real quickly I just wanna kinda at least indicated earlier. Our success rate is 79 percent and the reason that we''re at the 79 percent success rate which is pretty high or is at a better levels then most mediation programs is because of the collaborative effort of the Key Bridge Foundation along with its mediators to get parties beyond any of their--the disagreement that they have and working collectively to address impasses or issues that may hinder the parties to come into an agreement. And a lot of times that happens to reframing and addressing the issues in a systematic consistent manner in which the mediator have been trained to do. Everything from moving the parties from position to interest, an example would be from a person saying, "A doctor refuses to see me because I''m deaf," to identifying the issue as--that person''s understanding of the right to have effective communication. A doctor''s position of I don''t wanna have to pay for an interpreter to the understanding that interpreters should be seen as an overhead cost. A concern of a doctor of cancelling appointments and helping them understand that they would handle--cancel appointment of a person who is deaf the way they would handle or cancel appointment of any individual who''s a patient. Also, the issue oftentimes impasses that allow--that we overcome deal with money. A person understanding or believing that they are deserved or that they deserve to be compensated. One of the things as we as mediators and--and that a person can bring any issue to the table that they desire? As I spoke before when it comes to solutions, we do not qualify any solution prior to it being brought to the table. One of the things we may do, a technique that we may use, however, is to have the person explain to us why they believe they deserve compensation. We begin to talk about how they came to the amount that they''ve come to with regards to compensation. And we transition the parties from, you know, what they do not agree with to what they do agree with. So again, we''ve talked about several things and we''ve talked about the mediation process. We''ve talked about styles, the procedure and the ADA Mediation Program. But one of the things that is as important as the process is ensuring that the parties have access to the process. And Key Bridge over the last several years has gone to great lengths to ensure that that access is there. So, Lewis, in light of the time, I wanna just go ahead and have--allow you to get to that access of the process and talk about that a little.
Sure. And basically, there are accesses on several different levels. There''s the one immediate ADA access in providing effective communication alternative formats, accessible mediation location that''s of course essential. But there''s also the quality assurance piece that adds a protection for access of the process for all parties, again, reviewing agreements, tracking implementation. Those elements are a part of ensuring access to the process. Over time, we''ve come up against specific ways in which to add to quality assurance. We--that there--mediation developed out of a number of different fields before coalescing into a field of its own. Mediators came out of legal backgrounds and medical backgrounds. And those professions there are appropriate ethical ways under limited circumstances to determine the capacity of people. We noticed at one point that there was a temptation among mediators to determine the capacity of parties. We at Key Bridge Foundation wrote an extensive article and did a number of trainings around the issue of making sure that mediators don''t do capacity determinations, but rather facilitate the mediation competencies of all parties regardless of whether they have disabilities or do not. So, a positional attorney may be much more difficult to work with in a given mediation than someone who might be struggling with cognitive disabilities. So we''ve worked over the years to ensure that the mediators know how to promote everyone regardless of disability in exercising their self determination and--which includes participating in a voluntary way, as well as ensuring that parties work well together to allow for that creativity, to allow for that efficiency. So we always worked to provide access on a variety of levels in the ADA Mediation Program. Again, these are real life impacts. I think of a woman with very serious disabilities who was working with a group that provides meals to people in their homes and she had very specific dietary requirements that were not being met. So literally before her case came to mediation, she really wasn''t able to eat and to have--basically be nourished. And through mediation, she was able to reach an agreement with the provider to ensure that she was able to receive food that she could eat. And not only was that one problem resolved but, you know, she developed a way to stay in contact with the management as it changed over time. And so--and, you know, these are really real world situations. And in mediation, it''s very creative so that people can voluntarily, the respondent and the complainant, if they agree they do not have to limit themselves to the issue in the presenting complaint. For example, I had a theater case where there was an allegation about lack of assistive listening equipment. The theater was really inspired by the mediation process and agreed to provide assistive listening equipment to over 100 theaters. They don''t have to be limited to the presenting complaint because in their process, if they on a voluntary basis go beyond that, they''re welcome to. Also, we have cases where parties agreed to waive confidentiality together and do joint publicity because maybe they approached the process in an adversarial way but their mutual understanding was built over time. And through the mediation process they agreed to, you know highlight how the business has taken steps to become accessible and compliant with the ADA. So, there are a lot of creative outcomes that come out of these cases that we''d be happy to speak more about if there''s time during questions. And just a couple of quotes from parties that we''ve had over the life of the program. You know, we''ve had respondents say things like this was a good solid mediation. The mediator expressed patience and understanding with elderly person on the other side. The mediator was excellent, fair, sensitive, balanced, very positive. A number of other quotes like very impressed with both the process and the mediator. The mediator was very professional, carried a bit of the human element. We were all treated equally. These are all respondents speaking. Some quotes from complainants, fabulous process, would do it again. Another, the owners had a good attitude and were very compassionate, gracious to our point of view. They were prepared with a plan to resolve the problem and agreed to our other requests. So there and we--and one thing we''d like to say certainly is that we''re always available to speak more about the program with any folks who are participating today.
And in closing, I would just like kind of summarize one thing. We feel there are many different--there''s a lot of statistical data about the program. You know, from when we first started in the first five years of the program, I think we were assigned roughly 1200 cases. In the last four and a half years, that amount has gone up to 800 cases as Lisa indicated with 4000 cases total. There are many things that can be said about the program but the one thing that we want to make sure that everyone comes away with is that mediation resolve disputes quickly and satisfactorily and generally can be done in a way that is less expensive and less time consuming than other formal ways of resolving disputes including investigation and litigation. And beyond those numbers of, you know, 1200 cases in the first 5 years and 1800 cases in the last 5 years, what we like to look at is that those are 1200 individuals and 1800 individuals whose lives have been impacted positively because of mediation, allowing them to be the expert on disabilities and bring the solution to the table that the respondent, a person that they had a conflict with agreed to.
So, I''d say with that we''re ready for questions.
And ladies and gentlemen, if you would like to queue up to ask a question, please press star then 1 on your touchtone keypad. Again, if you would like to queue up to ask a question, please press star and then 1.
And while we''re waiting for people to queue in, can you give us an idea of what had been the most frequent issues if there is such a thing that you''ve had with the program as far as type of issues the most frequently, if there is such a thing I guess.
Sure. Lisa, I''ll tackle that first and then Lewis and Donzell who have the stats at their hands will probably chime in. The vast majority of complaints that we receive have to do with barrier removal and you could see how those types of complaints lend themselves to mediation in part--because of the terminology used, you know, we have to look at what''s readily achievable and there are important distinctions. There are so many varieties of ways to ensure readily achievable barrier removal that I would say that''s the most common kind of complaints. And so, the discussions do take the flavor of what is easy to accomplish mean, what''s without much difficulty or, you know, financial issues. Barrier removal would be the number one type of complaint. And Donzell, I think you were able to--
Yeah, I have a little LISA LEVINE : The stats
Yeah. So, again of the 4000 or so case that we''ve received so far, about 27 percent of those are Title II and the remaining 73 percent are Title III cases which are public--private entities. Again--and I was kind of ... in the last 5 years like I said we''ve received about 1800 cases. Forty four percent of those, about 799 cases are barrier removal cases, 30 percent deal with--about 528 cases deal with policy which is everything from providing the sign interpreter to allowing a service animal in a facility. I''m sorry, the policy would be service animal, everything from guest to company to individuals. And then the last, about 15 percent would be auxiliaries providing effective communication which cover interpreters, and that''s about 284 cases.
Thank you and can you also--while we''re waiting for some folks to queue up and think about their questions, when you talk about people that--or entities that have, you know, received or don''t want to--when they''re approached or given the option for mediation, do you get a sense of a--can you give any kind of a synopsis of what the reasons entities might give for not wanting to participate in the mediation process?
Sure, I''ll start and then turn it over to Lewis and Donzell. Well, certainly we have a number of complainants who initially out of fear are hesitant to participate. So that''s one issue. And actually, it doesn''t have to be in this form but later on I''d love feedback on what else we can do to ensure that our program and the process are accessible. So when impediments do advocates or people with disabilities see in participating and in the program, I''m happy to talk offline at any point about this and benefit from everyone here those expertise and experiences. But respondents, when they refuse mediation sometimes they''ll say I didn''t do anything wrong. Why should I sit down with this person? It was all a misunderstanding. And what frequently the entities will do, particularly with public accommodations, is they''ll try to move towards what we would see as a more investigative stage. And we at the Department of Justice are in the informal process. We are opening the possibility of a dialogue and so it really is up to the parties whether they participate or not. And, you know, we''ve certainly talked about some of the positive outcomes for all parties and we at the Department of Justice initially explained to the entities the benefits and how DOJ now investigating simultaneously works as a positive outcome. And we certainly talk about that a lot. And then we really do offer it and let them decide. But Key Bridge does particularly a good job in talking with the respondent. So let me turn it over to Lewis or Donzell to explain firsthand what they then do.
I''d be happy to jump in on that. Basically we hear a lot of things from respondents. And we do spend a lot of time using mediator techniques like reality testing and reframing to help respondents really consider giving the mediation opportunity a chance. And when that is--it reaches an endpoint and respondents do not choose to participate in mediation, we hear a number of different things. One, it might be that just like with complainants participating in the process that respondents, as Lisa indicated, they can be fearful about the process. Specifically, they may be fearful about the good faith of the complainant. They might fear that the complainant is more interested in money than in compliance. Sometimes respondents are wanting a determination from the Department of Justice. They want the clarity of an investigation of an entity telling them this is exactly what you must do. Sometimes there''s fear about the creativity of the ADA medi--of the mediation process because what they want is just someone tell me what to do. I don''t wanna reach an agreement with this individual if that''s not going to pass muster in a court case or in a department investigation. So sometimes there''s a fear about the good faith of the other party. Usually we can break those resistances down through carefully explaining about the legal reviews that''s available, the available of getting additional expertise to the table in the form of an outside expert to provide reliable information that both parties can use to craft an agreement. So there are a lot of ways around that, but--and sometimes, respondents simply don''t wanna comply with the law. Sometimes they know what they need to do and they don''t wanna do it and so they won''t agree to participate in mediation. In which case, all of these is happening in that enforcement context. Case goes back to the department and our--the Key Bridge Foundation''s role in it is over but the case is not.
And If I could just add to that, I mean I really wanna emphasize that of those 4000 or so cases that we''ve offered mediation to, only 14 percent or 573 respondents have refused mediation. And that''s over the course of the full from since 19--September of 1998 until the 1999 fiscal year. So for the most part, parties agree to mediate. And then when we look at the reasons why respondents refuse mediation is generally, in some instances where police have already been involved, where a person has been asked to leave the property and have been escorted out of the property by a police officer. Respondents, as Lewis indicated, feel the person isn''t operating or acting in good faith. Everything from transfer and ownership and, you know, based on where the distant owners or franchiser or franchisee has changed but the employees are still there and the issue is still there. So, you know, we may not see that as inappropriate for mediation and that because the issues are still there, we count that statically as a case in which a respondent has refused. And then there is also issues of--I''m sorry, I was looking at my notes, where they just may be a barrier, language barriers, cultural barriers are sometimes issues, and an inability simply to reach the respondent. A lot of times the decision maker is just not present. You have a store, like a convenient store that is owned by someone who does not live in the state or is not local and the person just refuses to give us that contact information and we will not put a non-decision maker at the table.
And I''ll just finish that, this is Lisa again, and say truly the low refusal rate is due in part because we''ve contacted the respondents giving information here at DOJ. But in large part due to these efforts that Key Bridge is explaining, these efforts that Key Bridge is explaining to you in--if we checked how many respondents might initially refuse mediation, the stats would be very different. So, this education process for all parties is really crucial.
Okay, great. Thank you. And do we have any questions that had queued up in the meantime while we''ve had this discussion, please.
Yes, our first question comes from Anita Thompson. Your line is open.
Thank you. Great presentation and a great day. I''m glad to hear that. I was sure it''s out there somewhere. I would like to know, is there a deadline or timeframe under which a person can start this process?
So under--under Title III, there''s no deadline. So if a complaint--the person with a disability or an advocate wants to file a complaint with regard to a public accommodation or Title III complaint, there''s no time limit. If there are allegations about Title II entities, state or local government, a person would have to file that complaint within 180 days. And I want to make sure I understood the question. Is that what you were asking about, timelines for filing complaints?
Yes, that is the question. I wanted on the table for that.
And also, it''s okay.
Have you--complete. Okay. And then another quick question, would you please provide contact information, phone number, email, that type of thing for us, please.
Sure. It should
Can I just--Lisa, let me clarify. That one''s in the materials that everybody had. You should have had a copy of--and all the materials. The contact information for Lisa as well as for--
Lewis and Donzell.
Lewis and Donzell. So, just so people know that. You did have that in written information as part of the handouts today.
And also, you know, there''s excellent information--you know, we always been providing our technical assistants refer folks to the ada.gov, www.ada.gov. There are links on the right hand side of the homepage there that say how to file a Title III complaint and how to file a Title II complaint. That''s all there. And, you know--and basically, the one ingredient that I think Lisa said was, you know, if people request mediation in the text of the complaint that is considered.
And also, I just wanted to point that our presenters today provided us some links that were also in your handout material, specifically Key Bridge. The mediation program at ada.gov as well. But those--all those other things are actually in your material that you should have been able to receive when you signed in to access all your materials for today''s session. Just to--so you have them. I know that was hard when somebody gives something verbally or when scrambles to write it down. But you do have it in written format.
In addition to the ADA information line, you know, the DBTACs are a wealth of information that here in the Department of Justice our information line is as well. And the 800 number and the DED number are on there as well.
Yeah. Great, thank you. And next question, please.
Our next question comes from RICK EDWARDS. Your line is open.
Yeah, I was asking about the voluntary portions as who covers the costs that are incurred in the process, like for example like in travel or the outside experts you were talking about or even interpreters for the process.
Great question. The Department of Justice pays for the mediator and if there are any costs in locating the neutral place, neutral and accessible place which the mediation occurs. The sign language interpreters or foreign language interpreters are also paid for by the Department of Justice. And if the mediator had to travel, we also pay for that. And gentlemen, what am I missing?
I think basically that''s it. The Department of Justice in their program, they cover the cost of everything and I''ve got one quote from a respondent here that said this is tax money well spent. I think that''s the bottom line. This is tax money.
One of the things that here was mentioned though was in the event of an outside expert. That''s something that the parties generally agree on. And if there''s a cost to that, then the parties agree on how that cost will be handled. And with regards to verifying if you''re talking about, you know, with regards to expert on compliance or verifying implementation.
Great point. And I don''t know how often that happens. Because if the outside expert is from an independent living center, another advocate, maybe those don''t--those costs don''t add up, but great question and good point. Thank you.
Thank you. Our next question in queue comes from Debbie Jackson. Your line is open.
Hello, you didn''t mention if once in the mediation process, once it''s under way, if the parties for some reason don''t interact well with the mediator, do they have the option to ask to be reassigned another mediator?
Great question and the answer is absolutely unequivocally yes. And Key Bridge handles this, no questions asked. Go ahead Lewis or Donzell.
That''s exactly right. Basically if there is a request from either party for a change in mediator we will honor that once without any question whatsoever. We also have to be careful to make sure that there''s some continuity and--to the process and that it continues to move forward. But our policy is, you know, with--you know, certainly with one request from either party for a change in mediator, we will just do that, no questions asked, immediately and move on. And, you know, it rarely comes up. But that''s part of our quality assurance.
Next question please.
There''s one more question in queue. Michelle Cobbs your line is open.
Yes, just real quickly. Have there been instances where cases are not over even though both parties agree. And because their agreements are lower than the bar that the law requires or there are additional risks to others. And I understand there are confidentiality issues. If these cases have occurred, what are the next steps that would be taken?
Can I grab that one?
This is Lewis. It does come up. It''s rare. Where basically, you know, we have to--we''re contractually obligated to ensure that our agreements are not contrary to law. And there are cases where complainants are willing to accept things that are contrary to law. And it is really rare and--but we do have contractual and ethical obligation to recuse ourselves from cases that where, you know, the parties are interested in agreeing to something that, you know, can''t--shouldn''t be agreed to. And in such cases, we will return those to the department for their review.
And this is Donzell. Example of where that may happen is where what we described as parties not addressing the ADA issue but specially addressing a compensation issue where a respondent may agree to pay complainant monetary damages but not address the issue that was raised in the ADA complaint. We would never allow that to happen as an agreement or a successful resolution. Or if we can--providing a hypothetical misconduct, we''ll give you a vignette into something that had actually happened. If a hotel says, you know, we would allow a service animal or service dog into the hotel provided someone shows a documentation. And the complainant may be fine with that because they have some form of documentation but because the law does not require documentation, we would never say that that was a successfully resolved complaint.
Great, thank you. But we''ve kind of concluded. We''ve come to the end of our hour and a half time period. And I think that there was a lot of discussion generated and some good comments and thoughs and hopefully everyone enjoyed the presentation today. I do wanna thank our speakers Lisa, Donzell and Lewis for talking time out of your very busy schedules to present this information and be able to share this with our participants on a national level, as this is a very viable and very important program that I think as all of you have indicated, doesn''t get as much play or as--not as well known as probably it could be and could be either useful to people who don''t know or aren''t as aware of it or been afraid to explore it. For those of you that are participating today, you will be sent an evaluation email that you can fill out. We do strongly encourage you to complete that and give us the feedback. We''ll use that information as we are now in the process of developing our agenda for the next 12 months starting October first. I do invite you to our session next month which is going to be focusing on the hospitality industry and tools for helping to educate the hospitality industry and what''s out there related to their compliance issues as we now are moving forward to new regulations for lodging and things happening in 2012 and which is just the updates that we''ve had in the regulations for Title III in the last several years. So we do really encourage you to join us for that particular session. More information on that session is available at the www.audio--ada-audio.org. Or you can call our office at 877-232-1990, both voice and TTY, if you have any questions. Thank you again everybody. Thank you Donzell, Lewis and Lisa and everyone have a great rest of your day. Thank you and you disconnect at this time.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining today''s conference. This does concludes the program and you may now disconnect.