ADA in Focus: Fall 2017

Volume 21, Number 3

ADA In Focus is published three times yearly by the Mid-Atlantic ADA Center. It is also available by request in large print, Braille, audio CD, and computer disk. To obtain copies in other formats, contact us.

ADA In Focus is intended for use by individuals, state and local governments, businesses, legal entities, and others interested in developments in the Americans with Disabilities Act. This publication is intended solely as an informal guidance and should not be construed as legally binding. ADA In Focus does not serve as determination of the legal rights or responsibilities under the ADA for any individual, business or entity. Learn more about the Mid-Atlantic ADA Center.

Fall 2017, Volume 21, Number 3 (suitable for printing)

Fall 2017, Volume 21, Number 3, in large print (suitable for printing)

In this issue:

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Center Update

Community Spotlight:
Pittsburgh’s “Oakland For All”

Oakland For All - Beyond Accessible is an initiative promoting accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood. Oakland, home to the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, is an urban area with a lively business district.

Oakland For All (OFA), founded in 2015 in honor of the 25th anniversary of the ADA, is facilitated by the Oakland Business Improvement District (OBID) and the Oakland Transportation Management Association (OTMA). OFA is a collaboration of stakeholders, advocacy groups, non-profit organizations, universities, and businesses. Their mission statement is "Together, we are opening a pathway to a community without barriers." 

Georgia Petropoulus, Executive Director of the OBID, answered some questions recently about Oakland For All.

How did your organization get involved?

There was a very active advocacy group called Accessible Oakland that reached out to the Oakland Business Improvement District (OBID) regarding help to work with businesses to improve access to their storefronts. Accessible Oakland is made up of employees, students, and residents of Oakland. The issue of storefront access was the first issue, and over time we also captured additional community issues such as bike lane policies.

What kind of support have you received from the city and community?

​Enormous! We have a very active group of stakeholders representing various Oakland and city entities such as universities, hospitals, museums, libraries, and city government. We have received support from city offices and departments with regards to policy and infrastructure changes (such as bringing back blue paint to mark ADA on-street parking spaces). We have also raised over $50,000 in support from local and state government and from local foundations to support our various efforts. 

Tell us a little something about the grants available to businesses in the community to improve accessibility.

​To improve storefront accessibility and encourage business patronage from all Oakland stakeholders, OBID received $35,000 from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development Keystone Communities Fund and the City of Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority to provide matching grants to Oakland businesses to remove any storefront barriers, such as adding a ramp or adding a power door.

How did the idea of the Ramp Crawl come about?

sidewalk sign for "Ramp Crawl 2017" in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood(Oakland For All organizes an annual "Ramp Crawl" to raise awareness of accessibility of Oakland's businesses.)

The idea was suggested by a member of our Oakland for All Stakeholder Committee during an idea-generating session about how to celebrate business owners that have made efforts to be accessible and to attract more people with disabilities to patronize our businesses.

Can you give us a few examples of some positive outcomes from the initiative?

​Plenty! We completed an extensive promotion and outreach campaign. We’ve hosted the Oakland Ramp Crawl for three years and the event continues to grow. For the first time, this year's event included a performance from a local artist with a disability, and we are planning to celebrate more artists in future. Two businesses have removed access barriers by adding ramps and two more are in the application process. We worked with the city to update its bike lane policy to accommodate public and private access vehicles, and we brought back blue paint along curbs to denote on-street ADA metered parking.

Is there anything new coming up?

​Current advocacy efforts are occurring around access needs and the Allegheny County and City of Pittsburgh's proposed Bus Rapid Transit system that will capture the Oakland community. More business owners are applying for the Storefront Barrier Removal program and we are planning Oakland Ramp Crawl 2018!!  ​

Tell us your story! Do you have a program or project in your community that has made an impact on accessibility and inclusion? Let us know! 

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Focal Point

Planning Accessible Events, Conferences, and Meetings: Planning for Emergencies

Adapted from an article by June Isaacson Kailes, Disability Policy Consultant

Procedures for emergencies should be incorporated into event planning, and planners should consider the needs of everyone. Planners should expect that there will be attendees with disabilities who may need assistance in an emergency, even if no one has requested specific disability-related accommodations. Many individuals have hidden disabilities, which they may not disclose if they don’t need accommodations for routine activities.

Additionally, some people may not realize that they will need assistance in an emergency because they have never experienced one before.

Attendees may have a variety of disabilities, both apparent and hidden, that limit breathing, hearing, seeing, reading, understanding, walking, climbing, reaching, or other functions. These individuals may have difficultyor be unable to:

  • Use stairs
  • Hear alarms
  • See or read exit signs
  • Understand written or verbal instructions

There are many kinds of emergencies, and this article does not address every type, but applying the strategies outlined here will help avoid inadequate planning and response.

Considerations for Site Selection

fire alarm signal with visible light signalChoose facilities that are equipped with audible and visible (flashing light) fire alarms and a fire sprinkler system. The U.S. Fire Administration has a list of hotels and motels approved for federal travelers which can be helpful in identifying properties that have certain safety features.

Facilities that have ground floor meeting rooms with accessible paths directly to the outside can make it easier to evacuate large numbers of people, and greater numbers of individuals with disabilities may be able to evacuate independently.

A tour of an event facility should include an assessment of other features related to safety or evacuation. For example:

A facility’s emergency procedures should also be reviewed, including those related to sleeping accommodations if your event involves overnight stays.

  • What information about emergency procedures and evacuation is provided in guest rooms?

    • Are materials available in alternate formats, such as large print, if requested?
  • Are staff trained to provide verbal descriptions and directions that may be needed to orient guests with vision disabilities to the facility?
  • If the facility is equipped with evacuation devices, are staff trained and drilled on how to use them?

    • Do procedures address the potential need for repeated use of evacuation devices?
    • Do procedures address retrieval of personal mobility devices that may be left behind during assisted evacuation?

Inclusive Safety Information

Consider a variety of methods and formats to inform attendees about safety information and procedures, and include personal safety tips in event materials such as websites, apps, and programs.

Announce pertinent safety and evacuation information at the start of meetings and workshops. Remember to use specific, descriptive language and avoid directions such as “look for the nearest exit,” or “the exits are there,” which are not meaningful for individuals with vision disabilities. For example:

  • The nearest fire alarm, fire extinguisher, and automatic external defibrillator (AED) is located at the back of this room, to the left of the doors as you are facing them from inside the room; be aware that when you remove the AED from its cabinet, an alarm will sound
  • In case of a fire emergency the fire alarm makes a loud, slow whoop, and strobe lights will flash
  • If the fire alarm sounds, take the stairs marked EXIT located in the back corners of this room; go down two flights to exit on the ground level
  • If you are not able to use stairs go to the area of refuge located in front of the elevators; to reach the area of refuge exit this room through the doors in the back of the room, where you entered; turn left and follow the hallway for about 50 feet to the elevator lobby; the area of refuge is marked with signage and equipped with a two-way communication system to register a call for help; staff will be on hand to provide you with further direction and assistance
  • In case of an earthquake, duck under a table or another stable object and hold on; if no table or other stable object is available, clasp your hands and use them to cover the back of your neck; if you cannot duck, cover your head and neck with your arms, a book, or another object until the shaking stops

For more information on planning accessible meetings and inclusive events, check out our Accessible Meetings, Events, and Conferences Guide.

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Zoom in on Training

TransCen and Mid-Atlantic ADA Center Webinars

Check our Trainings/Workshops pages for more details!

ADA National Network Online Learning

Check out the ADA National Network’s programs, which include the ADA Audio-Conference Series, the ADA Legal Webinar Series, the Accessible Technology Webinar Series, the ADA Conferences Series, and, in collaboration with the U.S. Access Board, the Accessibility Online Webinar Series. Upcoming sessions:

This is just a sample of the variety of training opportunities coming up on a local, regional, and national level. Visit our Trainings pages for a comprehensive listing!

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Close-Ups: What's New

NDEAM Recap: Inclusion Drives Innovation

The 2017 NDEAM theme–Inclusion Drives Innovation–appears at the top of the poster in large blue, black and red letters on a light-blue background that depicts the lobes of the brain. Running through the center of the poster are threads of small innovation icons such as computer screens, transmission towers and lightbulbs. The icon threads frame a roadway that contains four images of people with disabilities offering solutions in inclusive work environments. Below the roadway are the words National Disability Employment Awareness Month followed by hashtag NDEAM. At the bottom is DOL's logo with the following words: OFFICE OF DISABILITY EMPLOYMENT POLICY, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR and the URL to ODEP's website dol.gov/odep.National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) draws to a close, and this year’s theme, “Inclusion Drives Innovation,” reminds us that successful employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities mean successful outcomes for their employers, too.

Find the “Best Places to Work for Disability Inclusion in 2017”, as measured by the Disability Equality Index (DEI), and learn about some of their successful strategies in the 2017 DEI report.

The recipients of the 2017 Leading Disability Employer Seal™ as identified through the Disability Employment Tracker™, are also recognized for demonstrating exemplary disability employment practices.

Check out the Policies in Practice Series and the Workforce Recruitment Program Success Stories for profiles of individuals with disabilities who are achieving personal success and bringing valuable skills and talents to their workplaces.

It’s not too soon to start thinking about how you, your company, school, or organization can become involved in next year’s efforts to promote and support workforce inclusion for people with disabilities!

Resources for Youth Development

A number of recently released guides, training materials, and resources support the development of youth with disabilities as they transition to adulthood.

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Zoom in on Court Decisions and Settlements

DC Judge: EEOC Must Reconsider Rules on Employer Sponsored Wellness Programs

A judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a memorandum opinion in the case of AARP v EEOC, requiring the agency to reconsider its rules related to employer sponsored wellness programs under both the ADA and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).

The rules, which went into effect in January of this year, allow employers to penalize workers up to 30% of the cost of their health insurance premiums if they decline to participate in wellness programs that require them to undergo medical testing or answer questions about their health. Such programs are only permissible under the ADA if they are “voluntary.”

The level of incentive (either a reward or a penalty) that would preserve the voluntary nature of a program – in other words, an incentive not so great or so burdensome that it leaves workers with little meaningful choice – is at the center of the debate in this case.

One of the primary reasons the EEOC offered to justify the 30% level was to harmonize ADA and GINA regulations with those of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which allows the use of just such an incentive level in some cases.

However, the Court pointed out that the application of the 30% rule under HIPAA is significantly different from the way the EEOC chose to apply it in the context of the ADA and GINA. Additionally, the court noted that the 30% level in HIPAA was “adopted in a different statute based on different considerations and for different reasons,” and was “not intended to serve as a proxy for or interpretation of the term ‘voluntary.’” (The court pointed out that “[w]hether an individual’s participation in a wellness program is voluntary is not an issue under [HIPAA]”).

The judge also said the EEOC did not adequately justify the reasoning for the 30% level, and seemed to ignore members of the public who expressed serious concerns about it during the rulemaking process. Penalties based on the 30% level could range from several hundred to several thousand dollars a year for individual workers, and commenters had pointed out that imposition of such penalties “would double the cost of health insurance for most employees” and amount to the “equivalent of several months’ worth of food for the average family, two months of child care in most states, and roughly two months’ rent.”

Having chosen to define “voluntary” in financial terms – 30% of the cost of self-only coverage – the [EEOC] does not appear to have considered any factors relevant to the financial and economic impact the rule is likely to have on individuals who will be affected by the rule.
~ U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

Despite what the Court described as the “EEOC’s failure to engage meaningfully with the text and purpose of the ADA,” the Court decided that simply vacating the rules, which have already been in effect for many months, would likely create “widespread disruption and confusion.” Therefore, the EEOC must reconsider the rules.

Settlement Agreement: Bieber Tourways

The U. S. Department of Justice (DOJ) entered this settlement agreement with Bieber Tourways, a large, fixed-route transportation operator based in Pennsylvania. Such operators were required to ensure a 100% level of accessibility to bus fleets used for fixed-route services by 2012.

ADA compliance reviews conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in 2013 and 2014, as well as documents produced by the company in response to a request from DOJ in 2016, revealed that the company was using inaccessible buses on its fixed routes. For example, the company indicated inaccessible buses were used on fixed routes nearly half the time in June of 2016.

Bieber Tourways will ensure that only accessible buses are used for its fixed route services by January of 2018. The company will also revise its procedures, train its staff, and pay a $20,000 civil penalty to the United States.

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Snapshots: Cool and Useful Websites

National Research Center for Parents with Disabilities

This new website offers resources for parents with disabilities and their families, as well as information about working with parents with disabilities for social workers, researchers and legal professionals.

SCI Forum Video Series

This ever-growing collection of informative videos addresses a wide range of topics of interest to individuals with spinal cord injuries (SCI) and those who care about them.

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