- Architects and contractors follow only local building codes, which do not ensure compliance with the ADA. Facilities constructed or altered after January 26, 1992, must comply with the ADA Standards for Accessible Design or with the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS).
- Objects such as pay phones and drinking fountains can cause injury to people who are blind or who have low vision because the objects protrude into walkways and are positioned so they cannot be detected by someone using a cane.
- Permanent door signs do not have Braille, high-contrast and raised lettering, and are not located on the latch side of the door.
- Parking areas have too few accessible spaces, no van-accessible spaces or access aisles, or have access aisles that are too narrow.
- Routes to building entrances have steps but no ramp, or ramps that are too steep or go too long without level rest areas; and handrails are not provided on both sides.
- Round doorknob hardware is used, preventing someone who cannot grasp or a turn a doorknob from entering.
- In lavatories: the door is too narrow; there is not enough maneuvering space immediately inside or outside the door; paper towels, soap and toilet paper are located out of reach; the toilet is placed too close or too far from the wall; grab bars are missing or are too short; the sink counter is too high; or the sink has exposed hot water and drain pipes, which can cause serious burns.
The ADA, to some, may first bring to mind images of physical barriers such as curbs and stairs, but removing communications barriers is equally as important. Title II of the ADA does not require a public entity to take any action if it can demonstrate that the action would result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of the service, program or activity, or undue financial and administrative burden.
Two common problems with communications, according to the DOJ, include:
- Information that is only available in standard print format. All written materials prepared for public distribution should be accessible in formats such as large print, Braille and digital formats (for example, e-mail) that can be read aloud using a computer.
- Public meetings that are held without audio amplification, sign language interpreters, real-time transcription services, etc. As a result, those who are deaf or hard of hearing may not be able to fully participate in live presentations or interactive discussions. Upon request, sign language interpreters, real-time captioning, and assistive listening devices should be provided based on the needs of the participants.
In recent years, law enforcement has been improving 911 services and working to remove barriers so people who are deaf or hard of hearing can communicate with 911 dispatchers. Local law enforcement call centers together with the U.S. Attorney's offices have worked to equip 911 systems with teletypewriters (TTYs) or equivalent technology at each call-taking station and to train dispatchers to consistently query all silent calls to determine if they are TTY calls.
With new communications technology emerging continually, accessibility must remain a priority. People who are deaf or hard of hearing, for example, today may use personal digital assistants (PDAs) and e-mail instead of telephones or TTYs.
"We're working with the Federal Communications Commission to ensure that people who are deaf or hard of hearing can provide information from cell phones, handheld devices and other technologies," King reports.
Work to educate local communities continues here as well.
New technology leads to new areas requiring accessibility.
Many agencies have created Web sites to keep citizens informed about what's going on at the agency and within the community. But if a Web site depends exclusively on graphics for content or navigation, then those who are blind and who use "talking" screen-reader technology may not be able to use the Web sites because screen readers and refreshable Braille displays cannot interpret graphics even if the images are pictures of text. They only read text. Adding a line of simple HTML code to provide text for each image and graphic will enable a user with a vision disability to understand what it is. PDFs or other image-based formats are often not accessible to blind people who use screen readers or to people with low vision. In addition to PDFs, documents should be provided in alternative text-based formats such as HTML or Rich Text Format. Web page designers also should keep in mind that some Internet users need to be able to manipulate color and font settings to make pages readable.
To create accessible Web sites, the DOJ suggests that departments:
- Have their Web master and staff read the DOJ's technical assistance document, Accessibility of State and Local Government Web sites to People with Disabilities.
- Establish, implement and post online a policy that Web pages will be accessible, and create a process for implementation.
- Ensure that all new and modified Web pages and content are accessible.
- Develop and implement a plan for making existing Web content more accessible.
- Provide a way for online visitors to request accessible information or services by posting a telephone number or e-mail address on the home page.
- Periodically (at least once a year) enlist people with disabilities to test your pages for ease of use.