Please circulate these announcements that again demonstrate this administration’s commitment to enforcing and protecting the civil rights of people with disabilities.
1. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REACHES ADA SETTLEMENT TO MAKE LAW SCHOOL APPLICATION
PROCESSES ACCESSIBLE TO BLIND APPLICANTS
Agreement also reached with Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School
WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced today its participation in two related settlement agreements involving the accessibility of the Law School Admission Council’s (LSAC) online application service, which is used by law schools nationwide for their application processes. As a result of these agreements, LSAC’s online application service, and the online application process of the nation’s law schools, will be accessible to individuals who are blind.
Under the first agreement, which resolves a lawsuit filed against LSAC by the National Federation of the Blind, LSAC will take critical steps to ensure that its online application website, www.lsac.org, will be fully accessible to individuals who use screen readers by the beginning of the fall 2012 application cycle. Application through the LSAC website offers several convenient features to applicants-including LSAC’s “Common Information Form;” bundling of applications into the required LSAC Credential Assembly Service, which eliminates the need to obtain multiple transcripts, letters of recommendations and evaluations for applicants to more than one school; and online payment of the application fee. The department is a signatory to this agreement, which signifies that the steps the LSAC will undertake for its website will satisfy, in part, the law schools’ obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to make their application processes equally accessible to individuals who are blind.
The second agreement is between the department and Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School. It requires the law school to modify its own website to notify potential applicants of a process they may use to apply to the law school until the LSAC electronic application process has been made fully accessible. Specifically, the notice will state that LSAC currently provides telephone assistance free of charge to individuals completing applications. The law school will also post current policies of non-discrimination on the basis of disability on its application website. Finally, the law school will cease using the LSAC electronic application process for the fall 2012 application cycle if the LSAC website is not fully accessible under the terms reached in the agreement involving the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), LSAC and the department. The agreement is the result of an investigation following a complaint from the NFB about the school’s use of the LSAC website. The department is working with other law schools to reach similar agreements.
“Increased use of the Internet or other electronic technologies may enhance convenience for law schools and applicants alike, but the rights of individuals with disabilities may not be violated in the process,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “In this case, blind students were denied an equal opportunity to apply to law school. The ADA requires equal access to educational opportunities, and the Civil Rights Division is committed to vigorous enforcement of the ADA.”
In passing the ADA and the recent ADA Amendments Act, Congress found that individuals with disabilities were uniquely disadvantaged in critical areas, including education. The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by public accommodations and covers discrimination by private educational facilities, including law schools and other post-graduate institutions. Those interested in seeking information about ADA rights and responsibilities may access the department’s ADA website . or call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at (800) 514-0301 or (800) 514-0383 (TDD). For the full agreements, visit www.ada.gov/LSAC.htm and www.ada.gov/john-marshall-lawsch.htm.
2. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SIGNS AGREEMENT WITH THE CITY OF INDEPENDENCE, KANSAS, TO ENSURE CIVIL ACCESS FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today announced an agreement with the city of Independence, Kan., to improve access to all aspects of civic life for people with disabilities. The agreement was reached under Project Civic Access (PCA), the department’s wide-ranging initiative to ensure that cities, towns and counties throughout the country comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
“Individuals with disabilities must have the opportunity to participate in local government programs, services and activities on an equal basis with their neighbors,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “We applaud Independence officials for their commitment to improving access for all residents and visitors with disabilities to the full range of city programs and facilities, including the zoo, library, aquatic center and city hall.”
“I hope Kansans will take note of this settlement,” said Barry Grissom, U.S. Attorney for the District of Kansas. “It is time to recognize the right of Americans with disabilities to the care and services they need.”
PCA was initiated to ensure that persons with disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate in civic life, a fundamental part of American society. As part of the PCA initiative, Justice Department investigators, attorneys and architects survey state and local government facilities, services and programs in communities across the country to identify the modifications needed for compliance with ADA requirements. The agreements are tailored to address the steps each community must take to improve access. This agreement is the 189th under the PCA initiative. According to census data, the city population is 9,846, and 23 percent of Independence residents have a disability.
Under the agreement announced today, the city of Independence will take several important steps to improve access for individuals with disabilities, such as:
Making physical modifications to facilities surveyed by the department so that parking, routes into the buildings, entrances, service areas and counters, restrooms, public telephones and drinking fountains are accessible to people with disabilities;
Surveying other facilities and programs and making modifications wherever necessary to achieve full compliance with ADA requirements;
Ensuring that buildings and outdoor facilities that will be built or altered by or
on behalf of the city comply with the ADA’s architectural requirements;
Posting, publishing and distributing a notice to inform members of the public of
the provisions of Title II and their applicability to the city’s programs, services
Officially recognizing the Kansas telephone relay service as a key means of communicating with individuals who are deaf, are hard-of-hearing, or have speech impairments, and training staff in using the relay service for telephone communications;
Undertaking the required planning and modifications to ensure equal, integrated
access to emergency management for individuals with disabilities, including
emergency preparedness, notification, evacuation, sheltering, response, clean up and recovery;
Developing a method for providing information for interested persons with disabilities concerning the existence and location of the city’s accessible services, activities and programs;
Installing signs at any inaccessible entrance to a facility directing individuals with disabilities to an accessible entrance or to information about accessing programs and services at other accessible facilities;
Implementing a plan to improve the accessibility of city sidewalks and provide for
the installation of accessible curb ramps throughout the city; and
Adopting a grievance procedure to deal with complaints of disability discrimination relating to city programs and services.
Today’s agreement was reached under Title II of the ADA, which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities by state and local governments. The agreement requires most actions to be completed within three years. For the required accessibility modifications to sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, transportation stops and curb ramps, the city will work with the disability community to prioritize and complete these modifications within five years. The department will actively monitor compliance with the agreement until it has confirmed that all required actions have been completed.
People interested in finding out more about the ADA, today’s agreement with the city of Independence, the Project Civic Access initiative, or the ADA Best Practices Tool Kit for State and Local Governments can access the ADA website at www.ada.gov or call the toll-free ADA Information Line at (800) 514-0301 or (800) 514-0383 (TTY).