ADA Title II Transition Plan
Signed in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act is civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.
Title II of the ADA applies to state and local governments responsible for protecting individuals with disabilities from discrimination in the services, programs, and activities they provide. All departments, agencies, and special districts of state or local government, as well as colleges and universities that receive any public funding, are subject to Title II requirements and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Among specific Title II administrative obligations, state and local government entities are required to conduct a Self Evaluation and develop a Transition Plan to provide program accessibility*. Each entity is expected to identify policy and physical conditions that prevent a person with a disability from participating in a program or accessing a service. The entity must develop a feasible compliance plan that can be implemented within a reasonable period of time.
According to the law, the steps of an ADA Title II Transition Plan are straightforward:
- List the physical barriers that prevent program accessibility.
- Describe how those barriers will be removed.
- Establish a schedule to remove those barriers, identifying interim steps for transition periods longer than one year.
- Identify the official responsible for the plan’s implementation.
States, counties, cities, and public university campuses typically have limited budgets and a large number of departments and facilities that offer disparate programs and services to a diverse public. Acknowledging the operational and organizational complexity of large public entities and the potential cost associated with accessibility alterations, Title II specifies that public programs and services – but not necessarily every square inch of every facility – must be accessible to people with disabilities.
For example, if a park district has multiple golf courses or swimming pools, it can decide which to make accessible based on such factors as geographic distribution, availability of public transportation, hours of operation, integrated location, and services provided. Or, a biology course in an inaccessible building on a public university campus may be relocated to a building that is readily accessible or more suited for reasonable accessibility modifications.
The self-evaluation process is intended to identify practices and procedures that must be adjusted because, however unintentionally, they prevent someone with a disability from participating. For example, a policy that prohibits animals in public places must be modified to allow people with disabilities who use service animals to access public spaces.
Identifying barriers involves the technical and field experience of skilled accessibility specialists, who are familiar with ADA standards and their interpretation. With accurate and thorough facility survey data in hand and equipped with information about the scope, location, frequency of use, and demand for public programs and services, an experienced accessibility consultant can recommend reasonable program barrier removal options and help an entity to prioritize workable remediation steps within capital budget forecasts. This is the basis for a Transition Plan.
State and local government entities should have performed a Self Evaluation and developed a Transition Plan soon after the ADA Title II regulations were published in July 1991. It is prudent for Title II parties to update their Transition Plan and Self Evaluation periodically to ensure compliance with current regulations and design standards, such as the 2010 ADA Standards, and to ensure that changed policies or emerging technologies are in compliance.
Some state and local governments may have learned the hard way why it is essential to have a Transition Plan. Entities that do not comply with ADA regulations face possible consequences, which may include private lawsuits or complaints filed with designated federal enforcement agencies, including the Department of Justice, the Department of Education, and the Department of Transportation.
Having an up-to-date Transition Plan in place does not necessarily guarantee that a lawsuit or complaint will not be filed. Details of a plan to correct noncompliant conditions necessarily unfold over time. However, thoroughly investigating all potential barriers and proactively implementing corrective strategies may reduce the unwelcome surprise of a grievance and the cost of litigation.
* Program accessibility, as explained in the U.S. Department of Justice Title II Technical Assistance Manual: “A public entity’s services, programs, or activities, when viewed in their entirety, must be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. This standard, known as “program accessibility,” applies to all existing facilities of a public entity. Public entities, however, are not necessarily required to make each of their existing facilities accessible … Public entities may achieve program accessibility by a number of methods. In many situations, providing access to facilities through structural methods, such as alteration of existing facilities and acquisition or construction of additional facilities, may be the most efficient method of providing program accessibility. The public entity may, however, pursue alternatives to structural changes in order to achieve program accessibility. Nonstructural methods include acquisition or redesign of equipment, assignment of aides to beneficiaries, and provision of services at alternate accessible sites.”