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ADA self-evaluation deadline needs immediate attention.

As of January 26, 1993, cities were to have completed their self-evaluations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The self-evaluation process should prove to be a valuable tool in helping city officials meet their ongoing responsibility to comply with Title II of the ADA However, the timing of the self-evaluation requirement--a full year after the law became effective in January, 1992--is out of sequential sync.

City officials have had to cope with implementation of ADA without knowing what changes had to made, resulting from their self assessment process which is due next week.

Conducting a comprehensive self evaluation is critical for effective compliance, because it enables city officials to review all programs, services, and activities in terms of their availability (including employment opportunities) to qualified persons with disabilities living in their communities. The self-evaluation document becomes the blueprint for rectifying discriminatory practices throughout all city functions and activities.

The key purpose of the self-evaluation is to identify those changes in the city's practices and policies that will eliminate potential discrimination. If the local government can justify any exclusionary or limiting policies, those should be documented in the self-evaluation document. Of course, if a city ADA coordinator identifies a discriminatory practice, an amended policy should drafted immediately to eliminate the practice or out-dated policy.

The Department of Justice sets forth a series of questions that cities should address in preparing their self-evaluation. In a nutshell, Justice wants all programs, activities, and services, including employment, structures, historic preservation, public meetings, etc., to be accessible to all persons with all impairments. The questions can be found in the Title II Technical Assistance Manual prepared by the Office of ADA in the Civil Rights Division at DOJ.

Since DOJ only mentions some of the more common impairments, such es mobility, hearing, and vision, it is important that the ADA coordinator remind city officials that all disabilities are covered, including learning disabilities, mental impairments, or AIDS. Therefore, city officials must take a broad, 'across the board" approach when in developing their self-evaluation. Cities in the self-evaluation will be identifying structural and nonstructural changes which have to be made.

These structural changes become embodied in a city's transition plan which was technically required as of July 26, 1992. As you can see, this requirement was also out of logical sequence. The transition plan is required of al cities with fifty (50) or more employees. From a practical perspective, ADA coordinators should include nonstructural policy or program alternative changes in their self-evaluation and these should be linked to the structural changes that are documented in the transition plan. This will avoid being in noncompliance as well as show the city's good faith intent, particularly since structural changes which eliminate barriers don't have to be completed until January 26, 1995.

The Department of Justice regulations require cities to afford individuals, including persons with disabilities and their organization representatives, the opportunity to comment on the self-evaluation. Public hearings, while not technically required, could help in this effort.

If your community elects to conduct a public hearing, your ADA coordinator should ensure that any citizen, with or without a disability, can fully participate. This means that the ADA coordinator should arrange for sign language interpreters and should produce materials either on tape, braille, or computer disk as well as in print.

Larger cities, i.e., cities with fifty (50) or more employees, must retain the self-evaluation for three years. For smaller cities, it makes good sense to retain the self-evaluation document as a sign of good faith efforts and intent to comply with ADA.

If you have questions about how to conduct a self-evaluation of your city programs, contact NLC's Publications Sales Office at (202) 626-3150 to purchase a copy of their ADA compliance guidebooks.
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Title Annotation:includes related article on the McGann vs. H. & H. Music case; Americans with Disabilities Act
Author:Goldman, Charles
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Feb 1, 1993
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