DOJ Reaches Agreement with Robeson County, North Carolina, to Improve Accessibility
Americas, News, July 30 2015
As part of the Justice Department’s celebration marking the 25th anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act this year, the department announced on July the signing of a settlement agreement with Robeson County, North Carolina, to improve access to all aspects of civic life for persons with disabilities. The agreement is part of 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).
As part of the PCA initiative, Justice Department staff survey state and local government facilities, services and programs in communities across the country to identify what is needed to comply with the ADA. The agreements address the steps a community must take to improve access. With the signing of this agreement, the department has entered into 11 PCA agreements this year alone, and 219 agreements since the initiative began.
The agreement will benefit the residents of the geographically largest county in the state which is also one of its most diverse. With a population of 134,760, that is 39.5 percent Native American and 24.7 percent African American, the county also had 31.7 percent of its residents living below the poverty level. Under the agreement announced today, Robeson County will remove barriers to accessibility in buildings, such as government office buildings providing services to its citizens, libraries, recreation centers, community centers, polling places, parks, courthouses, police or sheriff offices, and detention facilities. The agreement also requires the county to:
- Make physical modifications to facilities so that parking, routes to parks and playgrounds, routes into the buildings, entrances, public telephones, restrooms, service counters and drinking fountains are accessible to people with disabilities, and that assembly areas have the required wheelchair and companion seating;
- Post, publish and distribute a notice to inform members of the public of the provisions of Title II and their applicability to the county’s programs, services and activities;
- Operate each county program, service or activity so that it is readily accessible to people with disabilities, and to deliver county services, programs and activities in alternate ways;
- Train staff in using their state relay service for telephone communications;
- Provide an accessible voting program for people who use wheelchairs and for people who are blind or have low vision;
Establish a policy for the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office when its officers are in contact with people who are deaf or hard of hearing;
- Provide information for interested persons with disabilities concerning the existence and location of the county’s accessible services, activities and programs; and
- Establish, implement and post online a policy that their web pages be accessible, create a process for implementation and ensure that all new and modified web pages are accessible.
“We commend Robeson County officials for their cooperation in reaching this settlement, which will remove barriers so that people with disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate in civic life, a fundamental part of American society,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division. “As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of this major civil rights law, the department renews its commitment to work with state and local governments across the country, in rural and in urban communities, to ensure that all citizens with disabilities attain equal access to all of their programs, activities and services.”
“Protecting access for individuals with disabilities will continue to be a priority for this district,” said U.S. Attorney Thomas G. Walker of the Eastern District of North Carolina.