Thank you Robin, good afternoon everyone, good morning to some I'm sure and good early morning to others. Thanks so much for joining us today and as always, it's such a pleasure for us to work with Robin Jones and with the ADA network of centers. It is just a real class act and it's a joy to work with them. So what I'm going to do is I'm not going to take a whole lot of your time. fWhat I would like to do is give you an update in a few areas and we will go right to the questions and answers. You will ask the questions and hopefully I will have the answers. If I don't, I will make sure that I find them and get them to you. Okay. What I thought I would start with is education. And our work with education and lately it seems like it has been related to service animals 24/7. So there are two cases, the first case and you probably know but you can find these on our website, ADA.gov is the gates case, and this was a public elementary school in Rochester, New York. And there is a child who has a number of disabilities and one of them is called Angelman syndrome, and she uses a service animal that basically it alerts her to when she might have a seizure, it keeps her from eloping, wandering or running away, and also it provides her stability for mobility so that she can move from place to place. And she, because of her disability, she may need occasional help in actually tethering the animal, and at times giving some very short, very simple verbal commands. The school would not allow the service animal to come into the school unless either the student's mom came in to function as the handler or the mom paid for someone to come in. And the other thing is this student already has a one-on-one aide due to the severity of her disability, and the mother worked with the school district for quite some time, and thought that perhaps the one-on-one aide that was working with the student could tether the animal and untether occasionally when needed, and to sit with the student -- assist the student with instruction of the animal.
This was originally filed, we started investigating the case in August of 2013. So it's now January of 2016 and the student is three years older and has grown a lot more comfortable and able to handle the animal in terms of giving verbal commands. So three years makes a real difference. So we filed a lawsuit alleging that the school did under Title II of the ADA we are talking strictly here Title II did have an obligation to provide occasional assistance and that that wasn't a taint mount to providing direct care or supervision of the animal. Summary judgment December 21st, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment and our response is due by mid-February. So I guess what I’m saying is this continues, but just keep your eyes peeled for this. In addition there is another lawsuit that, a statement of interest that the Eastern District of New York filed, and this is really brand new, a 12-year-old child with multiple disabilities against the SACHEM central school district board of education. It is very, very similar to the gates case. That's a brand new one. I just want to alert you to the fact that that in fact, the statement of interest was filed less than a month ago.
So keep your eyes open for this as well, but I know that there are a lot of folks, I think Robin had mentioned folks, you know, perhaps working for post-secondary schools and perhaps elementary and other public schools, and service animals is a huge issue. It has not gone away. We get questions, you know, probably more than anything else about service animals in virtually every context that you can imagine.
So we are still working on getting the word out. If you haven't seen it, I encourage you to take a look at the technical assistance document that we did. It's the questions and answers on service animals that goes a little bit deeper and touches upon issues that we didn't address in our first 2010 revision document on service animals. So I encourage you all to look at that and also to call the information line if you have questions and to call the ADA centers as well.
Moving along with education, we are very, very interested in insuring that accessible technology is accessible and usable by people with all kinds of disabilities. Typically you think about folks who are, have vision disabilities or who may be deaf, especially in terms of when you have videos, but it also includes folks who have fine motor issues in navigating any website. You know how they time out. And it's very frustrating.
But in terms of sort of education, last September we -- hang on one second. We filed a complaint and we ultimately settled the case and it's the United States versus Ed X. And I got to tell you, I had no idea that any of this stuff was, and I can say it like I almost know what I'm talking about, but I really don't. But Ed X is a huge, basically it's a consortium that was created by M.I.T. and Harvard years ago, and it was a non-profit platform for universities to offer these Moocs, which I'm sure you all know massive open online courses, and their learning platforms.
This one is really interesting. This is our first foray into the field of sort of on line education that may be available across the board not necessarily connected with specifically with university, and to students at that university. But they started with 36 charter members and they were no slouches. I mean, we are looking at Berkeley, Dartmouth, Cal tech., the shore bon, Georgetown, and Peking university among others, and there are now 60 universities or institutions that are basically offering more than 400, usually they are free courses on all kinds of subjects, sciences, businesses, social sciences, and back then we estimated they were more than 3 million learners. Unfortunately these wonderful free courses were inaccessible to folks with disabilities. And so we did reach an agreement with them, and they agreed to modify the website and their platforms and mobile apps to conform with 2.0 AA, and they would also provide guidance and authoring tools for people that are guest posters or guest visitors. So this is our first step into this world. We are looking at others, of course, I can't say anything right now, but technology is just, it's not only the way that we learn, it's the way that we socialize. It's the way that we do business. It's the way that we participate as full members of our community. So we are terribly interested in accessible technology, especially accessible technology that has accessibility built in from the beginning. As you know, add on stuff, where they work, but this is really an area we are interested in.
One sort of quasi education thing, this is sort of youth -- recreation, and we settled a really neat case with Pikes Peak wrestling league. And it's in Colorado, and there was a young man who basically had a number of issues that affected his skeletal system and cartilage and things like that, and he requested to what's called play down an age limit, an age group. It was originally denied, but we basically worked with them. We reached a settlement agreement because what they had failed to do was to look at this on a case by case basis. And rather than having sort of a blanket across the board rule without any assessment, they just said, no, no, we can't do it. We have always done it this way, but they failed to do that individualized assessment. And the kid is now, now wrestling, having a great time, and it's just sort of a nice case that any of you who deal with youth sports leagues might want to pay attention. And, again, it's Pikes Peak wrestling, youth wrestling league.
Let me see. I don't want to take too much time because I know you have questions. How about our Olmsted work. I'm sure you are wondering about that. I'm assuming that you know about Olmsted and what it is, but just in case there is someone who doesn't, Olmsted was a 1999 Supreme Court ruling that basically said that unnecessary segregation. In this case it meant unnecessary institutionalization in and of itself violates ADA.
And so since that time, we have especially in the last eight years have really devoted a great deal of time and staff to work on systemic issues that initially we really dealt with getting folks out of institutions that didn't need to be there, wanted to be in the community and developing proper supports. So it sort of was the real traditional moving someone from an institution to a community-based setting with the appropriate supports that we needed. And we did a number of those cases. And recently, well, it isn't that recently because these things do tend to go on for a while, we are also looking at not just where people lay their head at night, but what is it they do during the day? Are they given the opportunity to participate in stimulating integrated environments, integrated day settings, integrated employment? And so we did -- our first case in terms of the work environment was our case in Rhode Island and it was against the state. It was against the city of Providence. And that basically got folks out of these sort of never ending, quote, training programs, and just kept people, many of them for 20 or 30 years earning below minimum wage, some as little as 15 or 20-cents an hour and work to stop that systemic sort of shuffling of folks with disabilities into these kinds of centers, work environments solely with people with disabilities and to work to provide support within the community and job coaches, those kinds of things. And that was the first one that we did. And it affected, hang on, I will tell you just how many, about 3200 people with intellectual developmental disabilities who were unnecessarily placed in segregated sheltered workshops were working so that they can find full integrated employment to the extent that they are able to do it.
And following up on that, we filed a case in Oregon, and this is huge. Again, it was, you know, people almost 7,000 people were, again, it's with intellectual and developmental disabilities were basically forced to work in sheltered workshops. Segregated sheltered workshops. And sub minimum wage, all of those things. So we, this past August, we reached a consent decree. It was just approved by the court on December 29th, 2015, and what this will do is it's going to -- I'm going to read this to you. 1115 people that are currently in sheltered workshops will receive jobs in the community at competitive wages over the next seven years, and the delays to make sure that there are community supports. And in addition, 7,000 people will receive real employment services that will give them the opportunity to work in the community. And it's almost 5,000 of these folks are 14 to 24 years old and are leaving the school system. So that was a very cool thing, and it was just approved by the court less than a month ago.
And I think really the last thing I hope you guys are doing okay. Two more things. One is I want to let you folks know that we have a real interest in insuring that parents and perspective parents with disabilities aren't discriminated against in their ability to become parents and to keep their children, to adopt, you know, all of those kinds of things. And the rate that people with disabilities who give birth to children, the rate that people lose their kids within literally the first week of their lives is astoundingly high for folks with developmental disabilities, for folks who are deaf, for folks with mental illness. Intellectual disabilities, and for folks with physical disabilities. So we issued a letter, and for some of you this will be old news. It was, in Massachusetts it was the Department of Health and Human Services, and their mass PCF, department of children and families. This was a young woman with an intellectual disability, and she had the child and within two days the welfare agency, the DCS just removed the child from her because her mom had an intellectual disability. Well, the mom was living with her mother, so grandma was around and very able. And what they didn't do was the assessment of here are the services we offer all of these parents, but how do you offer them in a way that is meaningful and would have provided the intended assistance that the programs provided for everyone else. We were successful in helping, we weren't the only ones, to reunite this little girl with her family and grandmothers is involved and mom is involved and things are going really well. So that was our first official look into that. We are interested in getting matters that are alleging similar things because we think that this is very systemic and that it occurs all over the place.
And then the last thing I will bug you about or talk to you about, and trust me, I will set you free quickly, just an idea of what we did in technical assistance this year. We had done a number of new technical assistance documents, and a couple more should be launched very soon in the area of voting. We did two documents on voting last September and October. And hopefully we are revising and retooling the voting checklist. We are also reworking our emergency preparedness and emergency management stuff. We did document on parenting. All of these are on our website. This was a document that we did with HHS and I think it was adult family services. We also did a document with the Department of Ed of effective communication in public elementary and secondary schools. We did a title with a few entities. As I mentioned earlier, we did the service animal questions and answers to dive a little deeper. We did a document on testing accommodations, revised, sort of gave a new face lift to a brochure on the rights of folks with H.I.V. and AIDS. And did supplemental guidance with the department on transportation on street and servicing. And the issue here is when street resurfacing constitutes an alteration requiring and triggering curb ramps and other obligations under the ADA. We responded to about 53,000 calls on our ADA information line, and I think we had about 33 million hits on ADA.gov. So keep calling us. Keep finding us on ADA.gov and we will do our best to get you the information you need. Now, I will turn it back over to Robin.
Great, thank you Sally. I appreciate that overview, and I think people also appreciate that information from you just to give you a little idea of what is happening and pretty usual. It sounds like you folks are more than busy.
That's a good thing. At this time we will go ahead and take questions from the audience. We have a few that have already been submitted through the webinar platform but let me just have the operator give a queue on the phone.
Thank you ladies and gentlemen, if you have a question or comment at this time, please press the star and then the one key on the touch tone telephone. If your question has been answered or you wish to remove yourself from the cue, please press the pound key. If you have questions or comments please press star and 1.
Sally, while we are waiting for the questions on the phone.
There is someone here asking for an update on what's happening if anything with the Georgia G net investigation. Is D.O.J. interested in more information for parents and students for that complaint?
That's a really good question. We are still very actively involved.
Can you give an overview because a lot of folks don't know what that means?
Yeah, it’s the -- Hang on, I want to make sure that I'm right. Please hold, talk amongst yourselves. I want to get to the
correct information. Took me by Surprise. Hang on.
We can come back to that one if you want to take a few minutes. Yeah, sure. So let me go back and check to see whether or not there is anybody who cued into the telephone at this point for the question. Operator, was anybody?
Yes, we have a question from --, you may proceed, sir.
Hi, I just want to know if the A.D.A. distinguishes between a therapy animal and a service animal, and how the legal differences are?
That's a --
Can you give clarification when you say therapy animal, because therapy animal is often used for things like animals that are taken into nursing homes or to other kinds of places where the animal is playing a therapy role with people. Can I just get a clarification of what you’re specifically asking?
Well, there is that situation, and also there is therapy animals for individuals where they use the animal for therapy, and need them to function daily, but they are not classified, quote on quote, as a service animal.
Right, okay. So, Sally, you are okay with that, the way that it’s there?
Yes, I am. And I actually have an answer. Robin, your point of clarifying therapy animals is a good one. There is a very clear distinction. The Department of Justice especially in the revised 2010 regulations did a couple of things to try to clarify and also try to minimize the backlash that people with disabilities who use service animals were getting. The first was that we limited the species to dogs. But it has always been the department's position that in order to be a service animal, that animal has to have been individually trained to do work or perform tasks on behalf of that person with the disability. One thing I want to make clear, and I think I do it all of the time. It's not the service animal that has protection. It's the individual with the disability who entities need to modify a no pet’s policy to allow someone who uses a service animal that has already been trained to perform a very specific task. And we also made it very clear because I think that we are, we love to categorize things and I think maybe sometimes things got put in the wrong category. And I think as soon as somebody heard -- I have a psychiatric disability, they immediately thought, oh, this is a comfort animal. We made it really, really clear that an individual who has a psychiatric disability can absolutely benefit from work or task that that animal has been trained to do specific to them. Emotional support, comfort, therapy, companion animals are animals that by their very nature, you know, can help someone who may have trouble going out in public and become very anxious. The mere presence of that animal can do something for that person that makes it easier for them to function. But that animal has not been trained to do something specific. I think it also makes it hard because the A.D.A. is one civil rights law for folks with disabilities, but other kinds of laws and a great many state laws have very different protections. They will allow or cover an emotional support animal. Air Carrier Access Act has very broad coverage and apparently it includes turkeys. I thought I saw in the news, but so the A.D.A. for purposes of people with disabilities under the A.D.A. in order for them to assert their rights to modify no pet’s policy. They have to be a person with a disability. The animal has to have been individually trained to perform a specific task or do work that are directly related to that individual's disability. Emotional support animals, companion animals, therapy animals, that group of animals have not been individually trained to perform a specific task, so therefore they are not covered by the service animal definition.
Great. Thank you. We will go back to our webinar platform and then we will see if any other questions come in on the telephone as well. So I guess we are in the vain of service animals and sometimes once you open this door it's hard to shut it.
Very hard to shut it.
So here is another question. Related to service animals. Can you provide any guidance on the ability of Title I and, Title II and 3 entities to ask about a service animal's vaccinations compliance. This is another caveat with that. Our operating physician has been that for transient or one off counter such as question, that they put questions are improper, however, for a long-term relationship in a hospital, E.R. admission setting, for example, questions about vaccinations may be appropriate. Can you share your view on this issue, please?
I will. If you look at our questions and answers, the new service animal document, we have said that if a jurisdiction requires all dogs to be vaccinated, the fact that an animal is a service animal does not exempt them from that. So they have to comply with those jurisdictional laws and ordinances. So I mean, we had said they don't, a dog that is a service animal does not get a pass if there are, if the jurisdiction has a requirement for vaccinating all dogs within that jurisdiction.
So just a clarification in the person's question, does that mean then that a Title II or 3 entity if they are in a jurisdiction that requires vaccination of animals, in this case dogs, that they would be okay to ask for vaccination records? Are there any caveats on that?
Well, the whole issue of what kinds of documentation is, as you know, it's a touchy one. I think that as soon as anybody goes down the road of asking for documentation, just be very, very careful. Because an entity could ask has your dog been vaccinated, and if that dog has a tag, that's documentation. But as soon as we start going down, and I wouldn't say this if I hadn't heard it so many times. Very often what will happen, it's not just a request for proof of vaccination. Like I have to provide to the City of Alexandria here to get my tag. Not for me, for a pet. But what often happens is it's also, well, while you are at it, how about all of the medical records? Show me everything else about your animal. So that's the caveat that I have. I fully understand in long term where, you know, if it's, maybe if it may be in School housing, if it's somebody that's going to be on campus for a semester, but beware of what you ask. And if there are other folks that come in with pets or non-service animals, just leave it at that, what is it that you ask of them? So, yes, you can ask for proof of vaccination, but just be awfully careful about what other stuff gets wrapped up in that. Does that make sense?
Yes, I think that does. Again, I think you give the cautionary that just be careful for what the reason is you are asking for it, and that you can defend why it's needed, etcetera.
Yes, I mean, and you are talking about why an entity has determined that it's necessary, but also that it's consistent with what that entity in that jurisdiction requires of everybody else when disability is out of the equation. That's the key.
Yes, yes. Great. Okay. Good, thank you. Let's go back and see if there is anything else coming on the phone? Is there anything from the phone, from the operator?
Once again, ladies and gentlemen, if you have any questions or comments, please press the star and then the one key on your touch tone telephone.
Great. Thank you. We will wait to see if anybody cues up. There is a question that is on line. An individual that identifies themselves as an advocate. What can they do to maximize the chances that D.O.J. will look into a complaint? For example, someone I know recently filed a complaint regarding the lack of pool in fitness chains with brand new pools. D.O.J. declined to pursue it. There are not that many options in my state for alternative enforcement opportunities. What else can be done?
It's really hard. I mean, the first thing is, and I'm going to be completely honest, we get tons and tons of complaints. And we can't open every single one of them. We can't open most of them. Thousands and thousands of complaints. So I think there is a couple of things. One is, and, you know, as a person with a disability, I get it completely. And I think that the vast majority of complaints that we get people really have tried to work it out locally before they come to us. And I know that gets tiring. There aren't a whole lot of options especially if you talk about title III complaints because they are private complaints there aren't any damages really that are available, and it becomes harder and harder. If there is a complaint against a chain of entities where there is a hotel, some kind of a fitness center, you know, make that very clear to us.
It just gets really, really hard and it leaves people completely understandably frustrated and feeling, you know, is there no justice? And I think certainly making, contacting the protection and advocacy organizations in each state, but, again, I think they certainly have their staffing capacity issues. They have different priorities and it all depends on that. I don't have a whole lot of brilliant information for you.
Sometimes using other methods such as using the press in other ways to get attention to those things. If it's been something that's newly been constructed especially if you are in a state that might also have a building code like the IBC or something that does include some of these things in it, I think it's also looking to use your local building codes and other enforcement mechanisms than just D.O.J. for the ADA.
Absolutely. And while I can't -- Robin's point about making the problem known is an excellent point. And I think too that depending where you are, your state or your municipal antidiscrimination laws may also be possible to use.
Right, sometimes you have got ordinances or something locally that might, this kind of thing might fall under as well.
And state, either state Human Rights Commissions or civil rights commissions. Before I came to D.O.J., I had been, I was on the three-year plan, jobs was to investigate complaints at the New Hampshire commission for human rights and we had public accommodation and state agency employment and housing. And that's always an option.
Right, definitely look to what you might have locally for sure. There are constraints across all federal agencies when it comes to enforcement unfortunately. Okay. We will go back, I have another on line question here. This person lives in a city, a city engineer has told them that each home owner is responsible for fixing any sidewalks that need repair. The sidewalks in the subdivision where they live are very uneven. They said that -- so the city is divided up into sections and the sections have work done on the sidewalks but they will come out if there is a complaint for one uneven spot until it is your time for your section to be fixed they won't do anything. Is there anything related to the A.D.A. that would specifically address this or do you have any thoughts on that issue?
These are really hard, hard ones, and I know that, you know, when I first came down, came to work at D.O.J., I had never heard of things like this. And I think, for example, I don't know if there is anybody from Pennsylvania, but I think this is a very common municipal practice to essentially tell homeowners that wherever your property abuts, you may be responsible for maintenance of the sidewalks.
You may be responsible for paying for the installation of a curb ramp and also shoveling and things like that. So if in fact this area is owned by the municipality and it is not in fact private property, and there is a big difference when something is private property within a development, the city probably has no jurisdiction there because there is a private street, the private sidewalk and all of those things. But there is something in Title II that basically says you can't contract away your right if you’re a Title II entity. So whoever ultimately has authority over those, you know, sidewalks, driveways, all of those things, it ultimately is city property. And the method of administration may be to divvy out who has responsibility for doing what, but still as long as it's city property, it's their obligation to ensure that, you know, the maintenance has accessible features, that there are curb ramps, and that, you know, terrible sidewalks that get all broken up get fixed. How they do it is up to them, but if it's their property it's ultimately the city or the town's responsibility.
Great. Thank you. I know that that's a tough one because people do struggle with this issue with their sidewalks long standing. Never enough money to fix them all either.
No, there isn't, and you know you have hard winters and you get these awful frost heaves and then the tree roots come out. It's just, it is a never ending thing, but I think the bottom line is if it is, if the municipality owns the sidewalk and has authority over them, it is ultimately them that has the obligation. They may try or may through ordinance assign different people things, but a home owner is not a covered entity under the A.D.A. If a home owner has responsibility, it is the city. And I think knowing what is private property even though it looks like it isn't, but just remembering that it's a city that has authority over that walkway, it is the city's responsibility.
Here is another question come in. One thanking you for useful information. They are also commenting that they are happy to hear about the D.O.J.'s statement of interest in the Boise case challenging anti-camping ordinances. The question is does D.O.J. plan other activities around homelessness and does D.O.J. currently have resources to investigate new complaints on this particular issue?
We are very, very interested in the entire issue of homelessness, and the criminalization of homelessness. If people, you know, we are certainly interested in hearing about circumstances like the Boise issue. We are looking at a number of things right now, but, of course, I can't say a word, but the whole idea of homelessness and the criminalization of homelessness is incredibly important to us. If there are complaints, people should get them to us.
That's a good recommendation. Are there any questions coming from the telephone at this time?
Yes, we have a question from --. You may proceed.
Are there any special requirements of colleges to provide special career related services when it comes to helping those that may have some issues using normal services of the career center?
I'm not quite sure, but I think -- here is the thing that a college or a university whether it's community college, four year college, postgraduate needs to make sure that the services that it offers all of its students are accessible to your students with disabilities. And that may mean modifying policy. It may mean providing effective communication. Each of those, if it's Title II, each of, you know, that clearly is the program within that Title II entity, and if it's a private school, we have jurisdiction under Title III and the ADA applies, that they need to modify policies, practices and procedures when it's necessary to insure that folks with disabilities can participate in that service. And certainly the limitation or the defense would be that it would be a fundamental alteration for these reasonable modifications, you about that's an incredibly high, high standard. I wonder, do you have any additional information that might be helpful in answering to benefit everybody? Of what specifically you might be asking?
So it might be career coaching, developing their resumes, helping them in mock interviews, things like that.
A school needs to make sure that a person with a disability can participate in those. If those are open to all of the students, and the eligibility criteria to participate is probably maybe a certain year in school, you know, you are carrying at least X amount of credits, whatever eligibility criteria you have to participate in that career counseling, that has to be made available to students with disabilities to the same extent.
But just for clarification in school if they don't provide those to any student would not specifically have an obligation to provide those to students with disabilities. I think that's --
I'm sorry. No. If it's not a service that you provide, you are not required to provide that service to students with disabilities. My sense would be though if you are offering disability student services, or student disability services however, that office may be defined, that is probably something that that disabled student's organization or center would automatically provide. But if it's not a service that provides anybody else, there is no obligation under the ADA to do so.
That might be best practice to look at that and how students with disabilities might be disadvantaged in accessing some of the other programs and whether or not some specialized, for example, if I have students who particularly have difficulty with approaching and due to their disability have some limitations in their social skills and things of that nature, maybe making modifications are some alternatives but it ties back to what services am I providing students without disabilities. I want to make sure we are clear that it's not specialized services that would be under A.D.A. required.
Correct. And we always remember there is nothing, I mean, the A.D.A. is a floor, and if you don't offer a service, you are never required to offer a service to somebody with a disability. I mean, throughout the A.D.A. it's really if it's provided, you have to make sure that it's accessible and useable and helpful to students with disabilities. But, yes, as Robin said, certainly a best practice for students with all kinds of disabilities. If you have someone who may be on the autism spectrum, if you have somebody who has a communication disability, all of those things, there are going to be additional issues they have to deal with every time they even contemplate going on a job interview.
Thank you. Now, we have a question, again, this goes back to the complaint issue, and back to the question sent through the webinar platform. This is someone saying I have attempted to file a complaint against ticket master/live nation approximately six months ago. Unfortunately I was told by D.O.J. they could not take my complaint at that time. After doing some research, however, I found that D.O.J. filed against ticket master in 2005 for the same exact issue I have been having with them. Is there any continued update on this settlement with ticket master from 2005? They were supposed to follow them for three years afterward according to what I found in my research, but I'm dealing with the same things now so many years later. I was wondering if there is anything else that could be done to help in addressing issues for people with disabilities attending events and obtaining tickets.
We did have that agreement. It seems like it was way back. That agreement to my knowledge has expired.
Right, she is saying her research shows three years.
Right, so it would have been for -- and I'm just saying I think in fact that's right. So if -- the question that -- did you file a complaint and we just sent you a letter and said unfortunately we are unable to open this investigation?
Yes, they said that they, they could not take my complaint at this time.
I don't know if they are going to put anymore additional information in that platform or not.
If there is additional information and I can get it, I can follow up on that.
Okay. So if the individual who asked that question wants to provide additional information, including your contact information, we can pass that onto Sally and she can help follow up on that particular issue. Do you have any other words of advice or anything related to individuals who might be experiencing problems? She said she received a letter in December of 2015 stating that they are not able to take the case.
Yes. Yes. I wish we didn't --
Is that a constraint of your investigative staff?
It is really due to staffing constraints, absolutely.
If there is additional information, if you can forward that to me Robin.
We’ll ask that person to give us some additional information privately through the webinar platform that is not seen by anybody else and we’ll make sure that – to get the information to Sally to follow up with. Okay let’s see. Here’s another question. Let me go back to the phone, is there any other additional questions from the telephone at this time.
Yes, we have a question from --. You may proceed.
Hi everyone, thanks for taking my call. I wonder if this has already been addressed previously. I appreciate you meeting complaints that are specific and about national chains. There is something happening in the hotel industry that is pretty much widespread among all the chains and that is the height of the beds in guest rooms. They have all gone to these high pillow top beds that are like climbing Mount Everest. And I suspect you know about this complaint. I understand that the access board cannot do, provide any kind of accessibility guidelines for furniture, they can only do it for fixed environment. But you do have in the regulations about the distance between beds in lodging facilities and I am curious as to whether something – I know this is a long time problem for a lot of people. And I think I heard you say right. Are you working on this already?
Yes. And first of all, Mount Everest, especially as I get older, is an understatement.
Well as a wheelchair user I can tell you perhaps it is but I didn’t want to sound too exaggerated.
I am also one -- It’s a huge issue. But we have -– we are going to be addressing hotel beds. As its own regulations.
It was earlier put into equipment and furniture, it was this massive NPRM and actually hotel beds got pulled out of that. It is currently listed on the unified agenda, the regulatory agenda for the federal government as not sure if it's an APRM or NPRM, but in April of next year. It is a specific issue that we are looking at from a regulatory perspective because right now there is not a blessed thing you can do to stop it. Because the standards don't apply.
Right, exactly. What I find is that either they can't do it or even if they do, it becomes too low and they take the box springs out and then it's too soft because it has no support and then you need the space under the bed to use the Hoyer lift. So it's really a problem. And I'm glad you are addressing it.
It's a huge problem, you know, and my fellow baby boomers, I think, getting these pillow soft, you know, things you lay into, you sink into like a hot dog roll, we are responsible for that, I think, but also the height is just, it's just absolutely unyielding. And also when they started using the platform bed rather than having room underneath, you know, really had a deleterious effect on folks using a Hoyer or other such lifts to transfer in and out of bed. This is something that is absolutely on our radar screen, and there are a number of us here that we have to travel a fair amount. Every time we come back, we are screaming about it.
I'm in that boat too and lots of others are as well.
Well, I'm glad you are working on it. So it will be another year or so before we see anything, but it's coming.
It is being worked on by our beleaguered regulatory team.
Okay. Thank you very much. I appreciate the info.
I also know that there is a lot of advocacy groups that have been meeting and talking to different hotel chains across the country directly about this particular issue and trying to get support and buy in from them, but that truly is an issue in their rooms and something that they should be concerned about and that they should be addressing proactively. So that's another route. It's not always about the regs because it does take time for the regs to go through, but I think if customers continue advocating for others in your community have opportunities to have that dialogue or discussion with the hotel chain. I think that continued voice also is really important in this issue.
Can you tell me about any of those groups, who they might be?
I do know that through the A.D.A. national symposium they have been working with Hyatt. I know another group that has been working directly with Marriott on trying to do this as well. The A.D.A. national network has a hospitality initiative, and I know they have had several conversations also with hotel chains.
So you have the A.D.A. national symposium, and the A.D.A. national network. Those are two different things.
The international symposium is coordinated by Great Plains ADA center and the A.D.A. hospitality initiative is coordinated by the Mid-Atlantic ADA Center. Those initiatives are national, not specific to areas.
Thank you for your help. I appreciate you taking the call.
Sally, as we go next, this is a comment that somebody submitted that is from the state of Michigan who just wanted to make people aware of the fact that they had a new service animal law that went into effect yesterday on the 18th of January, and it defines a service animal now as a dog or a miniature horse. The public act makes it a crime to refuse entry to a person using a service animal or assault a service animal. It also exempts dogs from licensing fees if they are a service animal for someone with a disability or a veteran with a service related disability. It also requires the department of civil rights to offer voluntary identification for service animals and requires the department to receive reports of problems accounted by a person with a disability using a service animal. It makes it a misdemeanor to falsely represent a service animal and brings state law more in line with the ADA respective definition of who is a person with a disability, what is a service animal and specifically has language permitting veterans with service animals with post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, or other service related disabilities. That is an F.Y.I. that somebody wanted to share with individuals. Again, I think you are seeing that states are making changes or doing different things to align state law with service animal language at the federal level, is that correct?
Yes. And it's so nice to hear this about Michigan and talk about hot off the presses! States really are doing a lot of things. There are some states that are making it misrepresenting, either -- I think it varies what language some states use, but it's either misrepresenting that the animal is a service animal, or falsely representing that you have a disability. Some of them are, carry fines and jail time.
Yes. Interesting. On that same vein, there was a recent article, I'm sure D.O.J. heard about it even though it was associated with air carry access act related to somebody bringing a turkey and claiming it was a service animal onto an airline and it was in the article, at least the article that crossed our office was the discussion about the fact that the F.T.A. is exploring potentially changing or modifying their rules and regulations in light of some of the abuse or at least the interpretation or the assumption of some abuse occurring with that to more closely align with the A.D.A. where they have been quite different up to this point. Do you have any thoughts or have you had any conversations or heard anything about that?
That is true. I would encourage folks to go to D.O.T.'s website. Let me see if I have it here. Hang on. Can you check over there, the top pile? I had to move one huge pile of stuff from my desk.
Do you see the regs? Yes. That one. Thank you. Let me tell you when this got published. On December 7th, D.O.T. published a notice of intent, and it was non-discrimination on the basis of disability in air travel consideration of a negotiated rulemaking process.
So what I would encourage folks to do, and, yes, the service animal issue is one that they are, that they have identified as possible rulemaking subjects, in-flight entertainment, in flight medical oxygen, fraud with relation to service animals. Laboratories on single aisle aircraft, and classes of service. But I would encourage folks to look at that, and let me see what the date oh, please submit comments no later than January 6th. But -- but I would have folks take a look because I think it may be of interest to folks, and if they do move forward with this negotiated rulemaking, you know, people will have a chance to participate. But that's all I can really say on behalf of the Department of Transportation.
Great. That's great. So that's just something that comes up and there is always something out there I guess is what you are going to say, right?
We went from the pot belly pig to the turkey. It's my understanding that just from the newspaper account that I saw that there was actually a seat purchased for the turkey. And it was on an international flight if I'm not mistaken.
Yes, I think it was also, yes.
That's a long flight, I'm assuming.
Yes, I think you are right. It would be with a turkey. Okay. So here is another question. Let me just go back to that. I think long flights are going to be problematic even for a service dog, right? That's always a consideration how long your service dog can hold and do things, you know, and swollen bladder issues. So here is a question related to a concert again, so this is, again, ticketing. The question is if a venue offers seating at all levels for everyone, are they also required to offer seating with a line of sight for people with disabilities in all levels as well or is the venue able to say that floor seating will not offer a clear line of sight so they do not offer accessible seating there? So they are not offering, they are saying no because there is not a clear line of sight on the floor, so they are not offering you even the option to purchase wheelchair accessible seat on the floor because saying it's not a clear line of sight?
It's the same line of sight of everybody else sitting in the area gets, right? Or is it general admission meaning standing?
Well, it says, the information we got here from the webinar, from the input is that they offer seating at all levels for everyone and, but they are saying that they are not allowing wheelchair seating on the floor because it does not provide a clear line of sight.
You know, if somebody can purchase a seat for floor seating, somebody with a disability may have that same access. And, you know, they are providing an accessible seat within that defined either the point of sale cutoff or location, then that's what they are required to do. They can't -- you know, maybe what they might be saying and I'm not trying to second guess the questioner is that we can't guarantee that you will have a line of sight over standing spectators. I don't know what it is. But if they are offering different price points, different views, they need to offer those to the extent that they can under things like barriers, but they need to offer those to people with disabilities the same as they would to other patrons that are buying those seats.
Yes, I think what they might be getting caught up in and I don't know is they may be getting caught up in the regs. requiring comparable line of sight and so they may be saying that, you know, they may be interpreting it, I don't know, the venue may be interpreting it that somebody would not able to see so they are not going to sell you a ticket because they don't want to get in trouble. I don’t know that, I’m just --
The only time it's going to be an issue, and I will tell you one time I spent a lot of money and it was at the Verizon center for front row floor seating. I will never do it again because I couldn't see the whole stage, but they offered me accessible seats in the same area as somebody else. I should have the same chance of making a big honking mistake like I did. The only thing I can see that that might be an issue is if there is no assigned seating, and its standing room only, but if there is assigned seats, everybody that is sitting down is going to have that same crappy view. That's a legal term. So I guess I'm not quite sure -- there are always issues if the seating is the only real seating that is offered is either toward the back or, you know, and that everybody on the floor is standing. So I don't know the circumstances, but if those are available for the rest of the population to purchase, they should be available for, again, remember the seating only applies to purchase of a ticket that essentially rents you a very specific seat like J28 for that performance. That's the only thing that our ticketing requirements relate to. But you should be able to purchase those seats same as anybody else.
Okay, so then the person came back and provided clarification and said what they really want is are they required to provide them a line of sight for wheelchair access on each floor? So while they are saying that they won't sell me one because there isn't a line of sight, are they required to provide one on each level if they are selling tickets on each level?
Yes, well, I mean, here is what the language is they have to provide comparable lines of sight. So it might not be if it's everybody standing. If it's people standing, you know --
Like mash pit.
Robin, you know those terms huh. That's always the question if people are standing. And whether they are standing at their seat like, you know where you would -- it's not an opera, let's say, where people, you wouldn't expect them to be jumping up and down during it, but there are a lot of events where it's expected that people are going to stand. But they are required to offer you seating in the same locations that are available to others. In terms of the physicalness of that, there may be issues where they can't in terms of an existing facility. Let's say Title III are readily achievable barrier removal, they may not be able to provide you seats to a second balcony because there is no accessible route to it. Then they would have to make up for those seats in the nearest accessible location to that second balcony, but in terms of providing lines of sight, I think I'm a little confused. If everybody is standing and you use a wheelchair, you are not going to see.
But that comparable line of sight to what over else is getting. So if I'm sitting in the back and I'm a short person, I will not see either.
That’s right. It's comparable to the line of sight other people have. Yes. As yucky as it may be.
So let's move on, because were you able to find the information on the Georgia investigation?
Yes. Hang on.
We don't want to forget that one or leave that off.
Hang on. Okay I am going to tell you what I know. Hang on. We did -- let me tell you when we did this. July of 2015 we did a letter of findings. And this G net is a Georgia network for educational and therapeutic support. And this relates to, this is a state system and it was filed under Title II, and it involved the Georgia Department of Education. The issue was that students with disabilities were not being provided access to sustain admission to service and utilities all of the stuff that relates to the entire program. G net is a program, and that students on a statewide systematic issue were, this was for educational therapeutic support services for kids with behavior issues that were manifestations of their disability. And it was our position that the state administered this program that resulted in essentially segregation of students with disabilities. And I'm trying to see just where we are though at the moment. That's what I'm trying to find. Hang on one second. I will find out exactly where we are. And the recommended -- this is on our website. And I have not looked at this forever, ever, ever, ever.
And the idea here is that kids have to be place in order to receive these, quote, special services related to their disability, to make sure that it was the most integrated setting, not physically apart from other students, not at other parts of a facility, and they were also, it was unnecessary placement, but they kept kids in that system for a very long time. I would encourage folks who really want more information, because I know that was really pathetic is to look on line and for our letter of findings to the governor and the Attorney General of Georgia. And it's the United States investigations with Georgia network for educational and therapeutic support. I did a terrible job on that and I'm very sorry.
Okay. Another question for you is can you please give the status of where the federal agencies are on adopting or modifying their regulations to incorporate the definition of disability from section -- Correct.
You know, I don't --
I believe you had some regulations out yourself, did you not?
Yes. And the final rule is, the final rule is looking at the unified agenda as being next December, but we are really moving in relation to 504, we are moving ahead. I know other agencies are moving ahead on that. And we have our own amendments act for Title II and Title III. And that should all hopefully be done very, very soon. So I don't know, I think -- here is what my understanding is that other agencies are moving forward under 504, under federally conducted, but I can't tell you where they are as far as in the process of it.
And what agency is responsible for monitoring that?
Okay. D.O.J. Okay. I wasn't even sure about that myself. Okay. Great. We will go back to the phone and see if there are any questions there. We are getting towards the end of the hour. We have about five minutes left.
Ladies and gentlemen, if you have questions or comments at this time, please press the star and went the 1 key on your touch tone telephone.
Let me go back and, again, grab something from the webinar platform that somebody asked. Can you give some additional information in regards to when the Department of Justice will move forward on some of the other advanced notices of proposed rulemaking that was issued in 2010 specific to the, you already asked the question about the Internet but application of Title II versus Title III and also the notice for equipment, furniture, things of that nature.
I can tell you, but here is all I can tell you is what is currently on the fall unified regulatory agenda, so that is the information that I can give you. So let me give you a quick run-down. The Amendments Act -- Title II web rule is listed for the NPRM January 2016, the movie rule, the final rule May 2016, the Title III web, the NPRM to be determined, the next generation 911, September of 2017, that would be an NPRM. Equipment and furniture, NPRM June 2018, medical equipment, NPRM December 2017, and hotel beds and all it says here is April of 2017. It doesn't say whether it's going to be ANPRM or NPRM.
Just for clarification, NPRM is advanced Notice of Proposed Rule Making this is where the D.O.J. seeks to identify engaging in rulemaking and asking questions for public comment. Notice of Proposed Rule Making is putting out an actual notice that they are doing rulemaking in a particular area, asking for public comment just so people know the difference.
And, you know, I would encourage everybody out there whenever there is an open comment period, it's really important that you comment. Don't assume that other people are going to do it. You know, when we did the 2010, the big revision, people commented and every single comment gets reviewed. And if you don't believe me, look at the guidance and analysis that comes with the regulation, the Title II regs. and the title III and it will talk about why we made the decisions we did, what specific parts of the industry, the constituency raised certain issues, and why we changed something because of that. So I just can't encourage people enough that when there is an open comment period, please comment. It really is the time for your voice to be heard, and it does make a big difference. That's enough of that soap box.
So just for clarification and for comment, we have seen some pressure at least some comments that have been made by members of Congress about the issue of web accessibility rules and regulations, things of that nature and somewhat of I don't want to say pressure but definitely some comments of the DOJ needing to move forward with that particular issue. From what you said it was January of 2016 and we have seen that move several times on the calendar.
Yes, we have.
Do you have any sense of since we are now more than halfway through this month whether that is still realistic in this month or whether or not that's not realistic in this month?
It was a good try, Robin.
But I can't comment. And I did, I know that we have gotten the congressional letter, but I just cannot comment. I'm not allowed to.
Okay. All right. Well, I did try.
It was valiant.
Thank you, well, we are at the end of our hour unfortunately, our 90 minutes. Unfortunately. We do want to thank Sally for the time and honesty that she has put into responding to your questions and concerns. We have some we will be following up with based on some of the discussion that was had or questions that were asked so those of you that asked for follow-up, we will be doing that with Sally for you on your behalf. So thank you, everyone, for participation today. You will be receiving a follow-up email after this session which will give you some additional information about receiving your certificates of attendance, etcetera. We do not have our session able to announce for February, but please keep it on your calendar for the third Tuesday of February, and we will be announcing as soon as we get that ready. We have some final confirmations to be able to let that out at this point and we apologize for that. And we will get back to you on that. So, again, the email will also have evaluation information. Please fill that out as we are interested in your comments and related to the session on this program as well. Sally, thank you very much for your time. Thank you, everybody, for your participation, and at this time if you are on the phone, you can hang up, and if you are on the webinar platform, you can go ahead and close your browser. And that will close you out of the session. Again, have a good day, everybody!