A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that 22% of 256 medical specialists in four US cities could not serve a patient who uses a wheelchair. The doctors said that people who used wheelchairs could not get into their inaccessible building, could not get onto an exam table, or would not be able to receive assistance to transfer to an exam table. Gynecology was the subspecialty with the highest rate of inaccessible practices (44%). The journal published an editorial that describes the study and refers to a requirement in the Affordable Care Act that the Access Board develop accessibility standards for medical diagnostic equipment. Proposed standards were published in February 2012 and an advisory committee is working on refinements.
The Department of Justice released a report on the federal government’s compliance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which requires federal agencies to ensure that the electronic and information technology (EIT) they procure, develop, maintain, and use is accessible to people with disabilities. The last report on Section 508 compliance was issued in 2004; the current report covers fiscal year 2010. Overall, the report found that agencies of the federal government continue to experience challenges in fully complying with Section 508. Only slightly over 50% of agencies had policies in place to implement the accessibility requirements. The great majority of agencies that developed software, videos, or multimedia products did not have a process to ensure accessibility of those products. Agencies also reported great difficulty in ensuring that federal contractors and programs that receive federal funds provide EIT that is accessible.
The next webinar in the Board’s monthly series will take place September 6 from 2:30 – 4:00 (ET) and will cover webinar accessibility. The session will review the use of interactive features, captioning, audio connections, and other features to ensure that webinars are accessible to people with disabilities, including those who use assistive technologies. The webinar will be conducted by Peggy Greenwell, the Board’s Training Coordinator, and Robin Jones, Director of the Great Lakes National ADA Center, the organization that has teamed up with the Board to make its popular webinar series possible.
To register for this free webinar, visit http://www.accessibilityonline.org/. Questions for the webinar can be submitted in advance through this website. Archived copies of previous Board webinars are also available on the site.
The Access Board has named an advisory committee to provide recommendations on new standards for medical diagnostic equipment that were released for public comment earlier this year. The Medical Diagnostic Equipment Accessibility Standards Advisory Committee will advise the Board on matters associated with the comments the Board received and information it requested in proposing the standards. Members of the committee include representatives from disability and veterans advocacy organizations, universities, and industry.
Representatives from the departments of Health and Human Services, Justice, and Veterans Affairs will serve as ex officio members of the committee. The committee will hold its first meeting September 27 and 28 at the Board’s Conference Center at 1331 F Street, NW, Suite 800, Washington, D.C. Committee meetings are open to the public. The committee is expected to meet several times over the next few months. For further information, visit the Board’s website.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) reached the largest ever housing settlement agreement under the Fair Housing Act with Texas-based JPI Construction and its six affiliates. JPI has built over 200 multifamily properties in 26 states and the District of Columbia since 1991. DOJ found accessibility problems in 32 of its multifamily housing complexes where JPI failed to include features that would make them accessible to people with disabilities. Under the settlement, JPI will pay over $10 million into an accessibility fund which will be used to retrofit the properties and increase the number of accessible housing units and will pay a civil penalty of $250,000. For more information, see DOJ’s press release.
The Department of Justice reached a settlement agreement under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with the city of Flint, Michigan, to make all of its polling places accessible to people with disabilities by the November 2012 election. The city has 61 voting precincts housed in 35 polling locations. DOJ found that many of the locations were not accessible to people with disabilities. The city agreed to remove all barriers to access at polling places or to relocate polling places to alternative, accessible locations by Election Day. After the election, the city agreed to make accessibility a major criterion when selecting new locations for polling places.
The House passed H.R. 5326, The Commerce/Justice/Science (CJS) and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2013 on May 10. The bill would fund the Departments of Commerce and Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) among other agencies. Two amendments that threaten the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also passed. One amendment would prohibit the Department of Justice (DOJ) from using any appropriated funds to enforce the existing requirement for public entities, places of public accommodation, and commercial facilities to provide a permanent means of accessible entry to pools and spas under Titles II and III of the ADA, even when it is readily achievable to do so. The other would prohibit DOJ from using funds to implement a section of the ADA which allows miniature horses to be used as service animals. As troubling as these amendments are, the real threat is picking apart the ADA piece by piece by taking away DOJ’s enforcement ability. Several Members made strong statements in support of the ADA during House floor debate on the bill, including Representatives Hoyer (D-MD), Nadler (D-NY), Farr (D-CA), Holt (D-NJ), Langevin (D-RI), Miller (D-CA), Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), and Rothman (D-NJ).
During the deliberations on the bill, an amendment was introduced that would have limited DOJ’s ability to enforce a portion of the Voting Rights Act. The portion in question was Section 5 which requires certain states to obtain permission from DOJ prior to implementing or changing voting practices. The purpose of Section 5 is to ensure that proposed changes do not deny or abridge the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group. After an impassioned defense of the Act by Representative John Lewis, in which he called the amendment “shameful,” the sponsor withdrew the amendment. The Arc is concerned that there may be an attempt by some members of Congress to erode important civil rights that afford citizens with disabilities and other minorities the ability to participate in society as full citizens of this country. The Arc is working to ensure that similar language does not pass in the Senate when it considers its version of the CJS Appropriations bill.
The Access Board will host a free webinar on Thursday, May 3 from 2:30 – 4:00 (ET) to review requirements for communication features in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and The Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) Accessibility Standards. The session will cover fire alarm systems, signs, telephones, detectable warnings, assistive listening systems, automatic teller machines, and two-way communication systems, and highlight updated provisions in the latest editions of the standards. To register for this free webinar, visit www.accessibilityonline.org. Questions for the webinar can be submitted in advance through the website.