Tuesday, April 02, 2013

DOJ Civil Rights Division's Four-Year Accomplishments Include Many Disability Rights Advances

Last week, the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division issued a report describing its accomplishments during the first Obama term.  (As many of you know, I was a senior political appointee in the Division for two years of that time.)  The report includes a number of accomplishments relating to disability rights enforcement.  Here's the summary, but there's much more in the report:
Expanding access to opportunity for people with disabilities cuts across almost every area of the Division’s work. The Division’s disability rights docket has grown dramatically as we work to break down physical and attitudinal barriers in public accommodations and state and local government. We have also expanded access to housing, educational, and employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

A centerpiece of the Division’s disability rights work over the past four years has been an aggressive effort to realize the promise of the Supreme Court’s landmark Olmstead decision, which recognizes the right of individuals with disabilities to live and receive services in their communities rather than in institutions or other segregated settings. Since the beginning of this Administration, the Division has been involved in 44 Olmstead matters in 23 states. These efforts include four groundbreaking settlement agreements that the Division has signed with the states of Georgia, Delaware, Virginia, and North Carolina. Collectively, this ongoing commitment to community integration will benefit tens of thousands of individuals with disabilities throughout the country. And because Olmstead is not simply about where one lives, but also how one lives, we have worked to ensure that people with disabilities have access to other key elements for self-sufficiency and community membership, including integrated employment opportunities.

The Division has also worked hard to ensure that individuals with disabilities can access public accommodations and state and local government services without facing unnecessary and illegal barriers. Through Project Civic Access, we partner with communities to identify and break down such barriers, and have reached agreements with 42 communities of all sizes throughout the country in the past four years. As a result of these agreements, more than 1 million people with disabilities have increased civic access and can live, work, and thrive in their communities alongside their neighbors.

Meanwhile, the explosion of new technology has dramatically changed the way Americans communicate, learn, and conduct business. But for too many people with disabilities, the benefits of this technology revolution remain beyond their reach. Many websites of public accommodations and public entities are not accessible to people with vision or hearing disabilities. Devices like Electronic book (e-book) readers, whether used as textbooks in a classroom or as a way to check out books from a library, can be unusable by someone who is blind because of the accessible features they need. Over the last four years, the Division has reached settlements to ensure that people with disabilities are not left behind as new technology emerges in libraries and schools.


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