Department of Justice finds the City of New York's Public Schools in Violation of the Access Requirements of Title II of the ADA

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The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has just released the results of its investigation of the New York Public Schools for violating Title II of the ADA

 (see Letter to Courtney Jackson-Chase http://www.ada.gov/nyc_doe_lof.docx http://www.ada.gov/nyc_doe_lof.docx ).

After a two year investigation, the DOJ determined that:

     "... in New York City, 25 years after passage of the ADA, children with physical     disabilities still do not have equal access to this most fundamental of rights. Based on the City’s own statistics and characterizations of its schools, 83% of public elementary schools are not “fully accessible” to people with disabilities and six of the City’s school districts, serving over 50,000 elementary school students, do not have a single school that is “fully accessible” to people with disabilities. Moreover, children with disabilities are frequently denied the experience that many of their peers take for granted: attending their local public school with their friends and neighbors. Instead, starting in kindergarten, these children are often forced unnecessarily to travel outside of their neighborhoods to schools where there are no familiar faces."

The Justice Department specifically notes that as a result of this violation:

      "...children with disabilities and their families are being deprived of the countless meaningful and tangible benefits of being part of their own local school communities, including full and easy participation in after-school and extracurricular activities; attendance without hardship at parent- teacher conferences; reasonable commutes that don’t unduly interfere with study, homework, and family time; and natural bonds of friendship and community developed with neighborhood children through playdates and school activities. The costs of this situation are acutely illustrated when a parent so wants a child to go to school in the local zoned school that the parent is willing to go to the child’s school several times a day to literally carry the child up and down stairs so that the child can attend classes there."

The Department of Justice requests that New York respond to these findings and develop a plan of correction to remedy this violation.

In its findings DOJ notes that, even 25 years since the passage of Title II, New York has not:

  1. Made its schools readily accessible and usable by persons with disabilities. A group that includes "not only students, but teachers and family members, as well."
  2. Complied with the ADA when making alterations. The DOJ specifically notes: "For example, in one elementary school that we examined, the City installed an elevator in 2000, but neglected to make that elevator accessible to people with disabilities in accordance with the requirements specified under applicable federal regulations. As elevator access is almost always a significant logistical impediment to making a building accessible to those with mobility impairments, the City’s failure to consider the needs of individuals with disabilities when upgrading and renovating its existing facilities is inexcusable."
  3. Finally, DOJ points out that New York has not even made basic, low cost fixes that would make its school system more accessible.

In conclusion, the Letter of Findings goes on to describe DOJ’s investigation and it elaborates on the above three areas of violation. The letter specifically discusses the inaccessibility of cafeterias, playgrounds, gymnasiums, auditoriums, entrances, bathrooms, doors, main office counters, and alarm systems.

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