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Existing and New Facilities: Program Accessibility

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990 to provide disabled Americans with equal accessibility to services. When programs, services, or activities are located in facilities built prior to January 26, 1992, districts must make sure that they are also available to persons with disabilities. The exception to this is when to do so would fundamentally alter a program, service, or activity or result in undue financial or administrative burdens. This requirement is called program accessibility. When a service, program, or activity is located in a building that is not accessible, a district can achieve program accessibility in several ways. It can:

  • Relocate the program or activity to an accessible facility;
  • Provide the activity, service, or benefit in another manner that meets ADA requirements; or,
  • Make modifications to the building or facility itself to provide accessibility.

Provide Public Notice About ADA Requirements

A district must provide notice to the public about its ADA obligations and about accessible facilities and services in the district. The notice must inform the public about the ADA's nondiscrimination requirements. It may also describe how the public or employees may contact specific district officials about problems with accessibility and the need for effective communication. The information must be accessible to the public, including people who have disabilities that affect communication, such as blindness, low vision, deafness, and hearing loss. Although no specific method is required to notify the public, notice can be provided in more than one format and by using more than one type of media, such as the district's website, print, radio, or television.

Processes for Complying with the ADA

(all city governments were required to complete a self-evaluation of their facilities, programs, policies, and practices by January 26, 1993.)

Districts that have not already conducted a self-evaluation or updated a previous self evaluation conducted under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act must do so. The self- evaluation is a review of all district services, programs, and activities to identify any physical barriers or policies, practices, or procedures that may limit or exclude participation by people with disabilities. The self-evaluation includes permanent, temporary, and periodic services, programs, and activities.

Any policies, practices, or procedures that may limit or exclude individuals with disabilities must be reasonably modified, unless doing so would result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of the service, program, or activity. The self-evaluation should identify changes to policies to be implemented. It should also identify any discriminatory policies, practices, and procedures that cannot be reasonably changed without resulting in a fundamental alteration.

The self-evaluation also identifies problems with the accessibility of facilities and establishes recommendations for providing program accessibility (which may include relocation to an accessible facility). It may also suggest short-term and long-term strategies to provide access to people with disabilities. Districts that completed a self-evaluation to comply with section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act only have to bring the 504 self-evaluation up to date ADA requirements by evaluating the services, programs, and activities that have changed.

For more information, contact the ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 voice and 800-514-0383 TTY, or view the Brochure for Small Towns, or visit the ADA Web site.

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