President's Post by L. Scott Lissner

Building Relationships and Awareness

Posted: February 3, 2014

This past week the Department of Justice updated its 2014 Regulatory Plan. They have included five disability-related initiatives as priorities that create an opportunity for you to share your expertise with leadership across campus. The initiatives identified by the Department of Justice are:

    1. Implementation of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 in the ADA regulations (Titles II and III);
    2. Implementation of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 in the Department's section 504 regulations;
    3. Movie Captioning and Audio Description;
    4. Accessibility of Web Information and Services of State and Local Governments (Title II); and
    5. Accessibility of Web Information and Services of Public Accommodations. (Title III)

Initiatives 1 and 2, released by the Department of Justice last week for public comment, are reflected in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to Implement ADA Amendments Act of 2008, which is available by visiting http://www.ada.gov/nprm_adaaa/nprm_adaaa.htm. Public comment will be accepted through March 31,2014 and can be provided by visiting http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=DOJ_FRDOC_0001-0140.

This rulemaking will harmonize the ADA’s Titles II, Title III and the Rehabilitation Act’s Section 504 definition of disability with the ADA Amendments and the Title I regulations that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission were directed by Congress to develop. If you adapted your documentation standards to reflect AHEAD “Supporting Accommodation Requests: Guidance on Documentation Practices", available by visiting http://www.ahead.org/resources/documentation-guidance, your policies are already in line with the proposed rule. Your human resources office may have already updated their approach to documenting accommodation requests and your grants management office will also need to update if they have not already. You may want to share information on the rulemaking, and AHEAD’s guidance on documentation, with these offices and university council suggesting that the campus take this moment to harmonize as well.

The last three initiatives involve Electronic Information and Communications Technologies. The third initiative which focuses on captioning and audio description rulemaking will provide additional guidance that will likely reinforce the standard set in recent settlement agreements for instructional material (Berkeley) without focusing on the educational context. The rulemaking on web based information and services is expected to consolidate and reinforce the recent settlement agreements (LA Tech, SCTCS, Penn State) on access to electronic information and communication services. A discussion of these agreements and resources can be found by visiting AHEAD's web page "A Clear Standard: Regarding the DOJ Settlement with Louisiana Tech University Concerning Inaccessible Course Materials" available by visiting http://www.ahead.org/DOJ_Louisiana_Tech_Settlement and the recorded audio conference presented by Anne Alangford from the Department of Justice, Judith Risch from the Department of Education, and myself titled, "A Clear Standard for Access to Instruction", which is available in AHEAD's course material offerings by visiting http://www.ahead.org/publications.

The upcoming rulemaking and settlements are an opportunity to share resources and collaborate with a team including members of distance education department, the chief information officer, instructional design, faculty development, the business office, and human resources (think of all those online training and employee self-serve forms and processes). The announcement also identified additional initiatives for fiscal year 2015 including:

    A. Accessibility of Medical Equipment and Furniture;
    B. Accessibility of Beds in Guestrooms with Mobility Features in Places of Lodging;
    C. Next Generation 9-1-1 Services;
    D. Accessibility of Equipment and Furniture; and
    E. Revisions to its regulations for Coordination of Enforcement of Non-Discrimination in Federally Assisted Programs.

Initiative A will impact your student health office and, if you have a medical center, it will have a potentially significant impact. The proposed standards for Medical Equipment can be found at http://www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/health-care/about-this-rulemaking. There is less information developed for initiative D which focuses on movable furniture and equipment that is not currently covered in the ADA Standards of Accessible Design which can be found by visiting http://www.ada.gov/2010ADAstandards_index.htm. This would include furniture and equipment in classrooms, libraries, and other spaces on campus. While in the early stages it is an opportunity to proactively work with purchasing and facilities offices to develop process to ensure accessible furniture and equipment are considered.