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Disability Rights Wisconsin is pleased that the United States Department of Justice as part of its Project Civic Access has reached a comprehensive settlement agreement with the City of Milwaukee to ensure the City’s compliance with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the terms of the agreement the City will appoint an ADA coordinator, review architectural accessibility of City buildings, and ensure effective communication with Milwaukee citizens. In addition, the City will review emergency management procedures and shelters, and ensure polling place accessibility as well as accessibility for victims of domestic abuse.

The ADA was passed in 1990, but the transition to fully accessible City services and buildings has been slow and uneven. In Milwaukee, it has not always been clear where one should turn when they encounter accessibility issues. Over the years Disability Rights Wisconsin has been involved in many efforts to bring these issues to light. We are pleased to see the City moving forward. Under the terms of this agreement the City will hire ADA coordinators whose duty will be to coordinate efforts to comply with and carry out its responsibilities under the ADA. The City will make the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of the ADA coordinator(s) available to all interested individuals. The ADA coordinator will investigate ADA related complaints and the City will adopt a grievance procedure.

Accessibility of City owned buildings and other buildings where the City conducts activities has also been a recurring problem. To address this issue, the City will hire an independent licensed architect who will ensure that alterations, additions, or modifications made by the City comply with applicable ADA standards. In addition, the DOJ did a comprehensive review of polling place accessibility and laid out a plan for making polling places owned by the City fully accessible and asking that polling places not owned by the City be made accessible or substitute an accessible polling place.

Effective communication components of the agreement include a requirement that the City will contract with qualified oral and sign language interpreters to be available to the police department 24/7.  In addition the City will ensure that all of its 9-1-1 consoles can receive and respond to TTY communications effectively and will include training on various aspects of TTY calls. The City’s web based services will also meet website accessibility guidelines.

In addition, the City will incorporate ADA requirements into its emergency preparedness procedures and ensure that emergency shelters are physically accessible. Finally, if the City owns or operates any programs for victims of domestic violence or abuse, it will ensure that effective communication is provided, any shelters are accessible, and other ADA requirements are met.

DRW looks forward to these improvements in accessibility in Milwaukee and appreciates the City of Milwaukee’s efforts to make the city open and accessible to all of its citizens regardless of disability.