Are you ADA compliant?

Stephen G. Metzer, AICP, PWS

Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates that all governmental agencies perform a self-evaluation (SE) of their facilities to determine compliance with applicable ADA standards. Those governmental agencies with 50 or more employees also are required to prepare a transition plan to identify the steps they will take to correct non-compliant issues and to ensure access to their programs for persons with disabilities. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 1 in 5 Americans has a disability, and that number is expected to increase as the baby-boomer generation enters retirement age.

Passed in 1990, the ADA requires completion of the self-evaluation and transition plan (SETP), a requirement that few governmental entities did, and those that did perform a SETP, have not updated or implemented their plan. Due to low compliance and the increasing need for accessibility, some states have gone so far as to issue mandates that governmental entities must have a compliant SETP to remain eligible for federal funding. Threatened with the prospect of losing funding for road, bridge, and other vital projects, communities took notice and had to determine how they could preserve funding by meeting their ADA compliance obligations.

The 2010 mandate in Indiana led to DLZ’s assisting dozens of clients with a variety of ADA compliance services. DLZ sponsored full-day seminars in Indianapolis, South Bend, and Fort Wayne to provide information about the ADA compliance requirements for governmental entities, including towns, cities, and counties. DLZ offered services ranging from training on how to collect SE data to as-needed consultation to full service SETP data collection and document preparation. The clients ranged in size from small rural towns to larger cities, such as Mishawaka, Elkhart, and Terre Haute.

More recently, a 2016 Tennessee mandate enabled DLZ to assist numerous client communities in East Tennessee, such as Maryville, Alcoa, Sevierville, Blount County, and Gatlinburg, with full-service ADA evaluation of their facilities, policies, and programs and preparing their transition plans. DLZ was invited to respond to a City of Sevierville Request for Qualifications (RFQ) at the 2017 National ADA Symposium in Chicago. Several other RFQs followed and DLZ teamed with a local Tennessee-based firm that is collecting data within the public right-of-way (curb ramps, sidewalks, pedestrian signals, transit stops, etc.).

DLZ’s team of planners, architects, engineers, landscape architects, and construction observers work cooperatively to assist our clients and to determine the unique facilities and programs each client needs to provide access to. DLZ’s professionals assist clients by working through a detailed scoping process to identify facilities and portions within each facility that need to be included in the self-evaluation. Areas that need to be included in the facility self-evaluation are all areas open to the public, as well as common-use employee areas such as break rooms, conference rooms, restrooms, locker rooms, etc. Areas excluded from the evaluation are private offices and other employee work areas, mechanical and electrical rooms, janitor closets, etc. The policies and procedures portion of the self-evaluation includes a review of personnel practices, websites, staff training, emergency preparedness, signage, and numerous documents or publications provided to the public. Our process is proven effective and tailored specifically to each client’s needs.

In addition to full SETP services, DLZ also has provided both governmental and private, commercial clients with ADA compliance evaluations for a variety of facilities. Our staff assesses compliance of building and site features, determines priority for corrective action based on the difficulty non-compliant features present, and when possible provides immediate and long-term solutions and cost estimates.

Our staff are recognized authorities on ADA standards and guidelines. DLZ has presented on various ADA topics at numerous conferences and seminars, including Purdue Road School, Indiana Association of Cities and Towns, Indiana Society of Professional Engineers, Michigan Public Transit Association, and Transport Chicago. To expand their knowledge and understanding of ADA issues, these same individuals also participate in ADA webinars and attend the National ADA Symposium, the largest, educational opportunity about ADA issues.

Let DLZ’s team of ADA specialists assist you with improving access to your facilities and with meeting your ADA compliance obligations.