by eila in Accessibility, Civic Action, Civil and Human Rights, Government Reform, Investigative Reports, Public Health & Safety, Public Records / FOIA Requests
Posted on August 17, 2009 at 3:23 pm
Last Modified on August 22, 2009 at 8:22 pm
Thanks to SomervilleVoices for providing this venue to post our Public Information Requests -and to share the responses (or lack therof) that we receive.
Here’s one example of a PIR response that raises red flags.
June 15, 2009 Request for ADA Transition Plans of 10 City facilities
“TO: Carlene Campbell, ADA Coordinator for City of Somerville, 93 Highland Avenue, Somerville, MA 02143
Pursuant to Public Records Law, M.G.L. Chapter 66: Section 10, and in the public interest, I respectfully submit to you the following requests…
If there are links to this information on the city website, your provision of accurate links will be sufficient.
If there is any reason you cannot provide access to these records, please inform me of that reason.
[Please provide] the City of Somerville’s most recent Transition Plan for the following municipal facilities (total= 10 Transition Plans):
Per ADA Section 35.150: 3) The plan shall, at a minimum – (i) Identify physical obstacles in the public entity’s facilities that limit the accessibility of its programs or activities to individuals with disabilities; (ii) Describe in detail the methods that will be used to make the facilities accessible; (iii) Specify the schedule for taking the steps necessary to achieve compliance with this section and, if the time period of the transition plan is longer than one year, identify steps that will be taken during each year of the transition period; and (iv) Indicate the official responsible for implementation of the plan.
a. City Hall, 93 Highland Avenue
b. City Hall Annex, 50 Evergreen Avenue
c. Recreation Building, 19 Walnut Street
d. Public Safety Building, 220 Washington Street
e. Department of Public Works,1 Franey Road
f. Browne School
g. Traffic and Parking Building, 133 Holland Street
h. All three libraries- West, Central and East.”
PIR RESULT: Somerville’s ADA Coordinator ignored this public information request. In this instance, her lack of response led to a letter to the MA Secretary of State’s Office, who then informed her that she needed to provide these public records; or, to provide a legal reason for witholding them.
After that, she sent this response by snail mail to my home address, cc’d to Alan Cote, Commonwealth of MA Supervisor of Public Records, and Assistant City Solicitor David Shapiro:
“In response to your public records request dated June 13, 2009, please be advised that the City does not have any documentation at this time responsive to your request for a Transition Plan.”
RED FLAG: Now, if the City does not retain an ADA Transition Plan, this is a clear signal that the City feels that it has appropriately fulfilled its Federally- mandated responsibility to comply with all pertinant ADA compliance requirements- because, per Federal law and all interpretations of that law, that’s the only legitimate reason that a local government would not have a current Transition Plan on file. See: PROJECT CIVIC ACCESS for more details.
In Somerville’s case, the majority of the above-named facilities do not even have an accessible alternate entrance, let alone a front door that allows each resident to participate in an integrated manner. As of this writing, none of the programs provided within these facilities have established practices or procedures that will allow them to communicate successfully with people who utilize Braille and ASL in their work. And, as has been noted in a prior post, the City’s website is not yet configured to allow residents using certain assistive technologies to adequately and equally do their resident business online. Those are not the only ADA regulations that remain unfulfilled in the ‘ville.
These are standard civil rights requirements throughout the nation- and this ADA Coordinator has been informed of the need to uphold these standards on many (documented) occasions. Does her response represent willful negligence?
HERE’S THE LAW, from the Americans with DisAbilities Act, Title II:
Transition Plan Where structural modifications are required to achieve program accessibility, a public entity with 50 or more employees must have done a transition plan by July 26, 1992, that provides for the removal of these barriers. Any structural modifications must be completed as expeditiously as possible, but, in any event, by July 26, 1995. See 35.150(d).