The ADA is a comprehensive civil rights law for people with disabilities. Its purpose is to provide a “clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.” Congress emphasized that the ADA seeks to dispel stereotypes and assumptions about disabilities and to assure equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities. As a public entity, the City of Boise is subject to the ADA’s Title II Requirements for State and Local Government Programs and Services and is responsible for the provision of accessible programs and facilities that are available without discrimination toward people with disabilities. Programs offered by the City of Boise to the public must be accessible and free from barriers. Barriers include any obstacles that prevent or restrict the entrance to or use of a facility. Accessibility applies to all aspects of a program or service, including advertisement, eligibility, and participation.
The City of Boise is obligated by 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. and Idaho Code § 67-5909 concerning the rights of people with disabilities in the daily provision of programs, services, and activities. the daily provision of programs, services, and activities.
Federal Obligation: American with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Based on the 1964 Civil Rights Act and expanding upon the obligations set forth in Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, the 1990 ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. The ADA provides civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those afforded to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. The cornerstone of Title II of the ADA, which applies to state and local governments, is clear: no qualified person with a disability may be excluded from participating in, or denied the benefits of, the programs, services, and activities provided by state and local governments because of a disability.
The 2008 Amendments to the ADA (ADAAA), signed into law on September 25, 2008, describes in more detail the range of conditions covered by the civil rights protections of the ADA. The amendments expand the definition of “disability” to include impairments that substantially limit a major life activity and states that when determining whether someone qualifies as having a disability, one cannot take into account assistive devices, auxiliary aids, accommodations, medical therapies and supplies. The amendments also address episodic disabilities that may go into remission but still can significantly limit a major life activity when active, such as epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder. The ADA defines a disability as:
- A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (i.e., working, talking, hearing, seeing, caring for oneself)
- Having a record of a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities
- Being regarded by others as having an impairment such as individuals with severe facial scarring
It is important to note that the primary obligation to public entities such as the City of Boise, under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, is to ensure that, when viewed in their entirety, the programs, services, and activities offered are equally available to people with disabilities. The city is required to follow the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design in new construction and major alterations. The 2010 ADA Standards must also be used for corrective actions if existing conditions don’t comply with the original ADA Accessibility Guidelines. Municipalities also must relocate programs or otherwise provide access to programs located in inaccessible older facilities (i.e., facilities built before the ADA went into effect January 26, 1992).
The websites of Title II entities are also considered “programs” and should be accessible to the standards of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 AA. An extensive and proper review of the City of Boise’s website has not been scoped out, but it will be a future iteration of this plan and likely contracted with an experienced consultant.
The city must communicate effectively with people who have hearing, vision, or speech disabilities. City of Boise is also required to make reasonable modifications to policies, practices, and procedures where necessary to ensure the equal participation of people with disabilities.
Facilities that meet or exceed 1991 ADA Standards are not required to make changes to the new standards except in the case of significant renovation. For elements that are non-compliant, the corrective measures must align with the 2010 ADA Standards. It is not expected that the buildings will meet or be brought up to all of the 2010 ADA Standards absent significant or total renovation. State and local governments must ensure that individuals with disabilities are not excluded from services, programs, and activities because buildings are inaccessible. This means Title II entities need not remove physical barriers, such as stairs, in all existing buildings, as long as they make their programs accessible to individuals who are unable to use an inaccessible existing facility.
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