Inside: Accessibility

ACCESSIBILITY SETTLEMENT EARMARKED FOR ADA IMPROVEMENTS

The San Francisco school district will allocate a portion of the funds from a lawsuit settlement to upgrade facilities so that they comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The district agreed this summer to accept $43.1 million to settle a lawsuit against Strategic Resource Solutions (SRS), which had contracted with the district for energy retrofit work related primarily to boilers and lighting. The district contended in the lawsuit that the work was not done properly. The company tried to amend its contract with the district, and subsequently the company was accused of pursuing the amendments as part of a scheme to defraud the school system. The company pleaded guilty to two counts of grand theft in 2002.

The district says it will devote $25 million of the settlement to facilities-related purposes, including replacement and repair of equipment that was the subject of the legal action as well as actions to meet obligations related to the ADA.

IMPROVEMENTS WILL BOOST ACCESSIBILITY

The Lawrence, Kan., school district has approved plans to bring six elementary schools into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The district will spend about $160,000 to make improvements at the six schools. The work includes reconfiguring doorways, upgrading parking lots and bathrooms, and installing playground equipment accessible to those with disabilities.

The push for the improvements stemmed from a complaint to the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights from the parent of a child about the accessibility of some of the district facilities.

SCHOOLS SERVING AS POLLING PLACES NEED BETTER ACCESS

The city of Springfield, Mass., has signed an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department that calls for it to make improvements at city facilities, including five schools, to improve access for people with disabilities.

The agreement spells out the upgrades needed at the five educational facilities, all of which serve as polling places. The schools need a variety of upgrades to become compliant with the ADA — more clearly marked parking spaces designated for persons with disabilities, appropriate signage, ramps at entrances, handrails and more accessible doorway thresholds.

The settlement is one of many the Justice Department has negotiated with cities and counties as part of “Project Civic Access,” which seeks to improve compliance with the ADA. The department has put together an “ADA Checklist for Polling Places” at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/votingchecklist.htm to help facilities that house polling places comply with accessibility guidelines.

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