An inaccessible voting facility; lack of auxiliary aids and services when providing medical care; lack of auxiliary aids and services during law enforcement activities; alterations made to an existing health club facility but not making the altered areas accessible; refusal to make policy modifications: What do these issues have in common? They all resulted in having to contend with the U.S. Department of Justice because of a discrimination complaint. And the DOJ has been busy this year! We are halfway through 2021 and there are at least 26 ADA settlement agreements for the year, with others in the works. The discriminatory issues involved in these complaints are wide and varied, but not new. Celebrating its 31st Anniversary this year, there are still many businesses and government agencies that are still unaware of its ADA obligations. And DOJ has let it be known that the claim of ignorance of the law will not be a legitimate excuse.
Let’s take a look at some of the issues that were brought to the DOJ and the results of being in non-compliance.
- Settlement Agreement between the United States and the City of Killeen, TX (ada.gov) - Initiated by Project Civic Access, the City was determined to be out of compliance with a variety of Title II requirements.
- Justice Department Settles with North Carolina Dental Offices Over HIV Discrimination | OPA | Department of Justice – A medical facility discriminated against a patient with HIV.
- Settlement Agreement between the United States and Scheels All Sports, Inc. (ada.gov) – A business would not allow a customer with Down Syndrome to ride on a Ferris Wheel without an adult.
- Settlement Agreement between the United States and Newton County, Arkansas (ada.gov) – Utilized polling places that had architectural barriers for voters with mobility disabilities.
- Settlement Agreement between the United States and Whatcom County Sheriff's Office (ada.gov) – Law enforcement did not provide effective communication during a response for emergency call for a deaf citizen.
- Settlement Agreement between the United States and New London County 4H Foundation (ada.gov) – A 4-H camp would not modify its policy for a child with diabetes to be able to attend the camp.
- Justice Department Settles Disability Discrimination Claims Against 19 Building Owners | OPA | Department of Justice – Nineteen building owners agreed to fix their buildings so that people with mobility disabilities can get in to shop or eat.
- SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND THE BOARD OF ELECTION COMMISSIONERS FOR THE CITY OF ST. LOUIS (ada.gov) – Polling places had architectural barrier, such as stairs, excessively sloped parking areas, narrow doorways, steep ramps, protruding objects, and inaccessible doorknobs, that rendered the facilities inaccessible to voters with disabilities.
- Settlement Agreement between the United States and San Luis Obispo County (ada.gov) – A jail excluded individuals with mobility disabilities from participation in its program, including not providing an accessible cell or shower.
- Settlement Agreement between the United States and New England Orthopedic Surgeons (ada.gov) – An Orthopedic practice refused to treat a patient because she was prescribed a medication used to treat Opioid Use Disorder (OUD)
- Settlement Agreement between the United States and the City of Santa Barbara (ada.gov) - City failed to make the intercity rail station accessible to passengers with mobility impairments.
- Settlement Agreement between the United States and Brookside Rehabilitation and Nursing (ada.gov) – A Rehab and Nursing Center refused to admit a patient because she was deaf and would need sign language services.
- Settlement Agreement between the United States and the Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families, Child Welfare Program (ada.gov) - A State agency failed to provide sign language interpreters for deaf parents.
- Settlement Agreement between the United States and the Kroger Co. (ada.gov) – A grocery store had a policy that required customers with backpacks and large bags to check them in at the front office, which discriminated against a customer with diabetes who used a medical alert bag with an insulin pump.
- Settlement Agreement between the United States and Brookside Bar and Grill (ada.gov) – An eatery required a customer who used a service animal to produce a certificate or identification for the service animal, which the ADA prohibits.
These are just a few examples of the continuing problems that citizens with disabilities encounter in their day to day lives. As a business or a service provider, don’t be caught off-guard – know what to look for and how to plan for ADA compliance. To learn about other settlement agreement issues, visit the DOJ website.
The common good refers to what is shared and beneficial for all or most members of a community. An accessible society is one of these common goods, for we will all experience the need for accommodations at some point in our lives. When accessible services - whether it’s a building that can be used by a wheelchair user, or an important conversation between a doctor and a deaf patient is made clear - we ALL benefit from these provisions. The contributions each of us make to society have far-reaching consequences – what are you doing to ensure a society that welcomes all?