Kettering could spend $3M improving compliance for people with disabilities

City officials have started work to improve compliance with the American Disabilities Act (ADA) after a consultant’s report that found Kettering had potentially thousands of issues that needed to be addressed.

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City Manager Mark Schwieterman said that the city has been working to make sure that Kettering is in compliance with the ADA laws and has implemented the “Lean Towards Yes” campaign — a transition plan designed to fix non-compliance issues with the federal law.

“We make sure that we are leaning towards ‘yes’ when we are asked by residents, ‘Can I do this in the city of Kettering?’” he said about situations that require an ADA modification.

“We have an estimate from the consultant, which is about $3 million for all of the things that they found, and I think there was about 4,000 things that need to be fixed. Some of them are significant, and some of them are very minor,” Schwieterman said.

The WT Group — an engineering, design and consulting company — was hired by the city in 2017 to study what Kettering could do to improve its compliance with the ADA.

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The WT Group inspected 47 sites in Kettering and found that “44,000 access elements were done right, and there are approximately 4,400 deficits.”

City staff has worked on prioritization of the transition plan since the first quarter of 2018.

“We hired the consultant to come in and help us with that process, and they put together a transition plan for us, so we could start implementing that plan,” Schwieterman said. “So, we now have a plan and currently city staff is working on the prioritization of the plan to make sure that our future budgets and all of our designs incorporate all of what we’ve learned.”

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In 2018, Kettering hired ADA Inclusion and Compliance manager Anna Breidenbach to follow up on the improvements suggested by the consultant to become ADA compliant.

“She is also responsible for working with and training our staff on how to make correct decisions regarding requests,” Schwieterman said. “So, if you come into the Rec Center and want to sign up for a class, but you need something to do it, Anna will meet with you or your family and come up with a solution and provide you with that opportunity to participate.”

The issues being addressed range from having a proper turning radius for a wheelchair in city buildings to making sure that the height of a counter in a bathroom is correct.

A grandparent of a child has met with Breidenbach to arrange modifications for summer camp programs.

“My granddaughter absolutely loved CSI camp. She looked forward to going to camp every day,” said Cheryl Yeager. “Having handicapped transportation was fantastic. She can’t wait to turn 14 so she can volunteer.”

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The costs to address both the large and small issues for ADA compliance, according to Schwieterman, are built into the city’s budget.

“We have a 5-year capital improvement budget,” he said. “So, when our Engineering Department says, ‘We are going to repave section A of neighborhood B in 3 years,’ when they complete the plans for that, they will use this transition plan to ensure that all the areas of the transition plan are covered when we do that project.”

“When we remodel a bathroom, we have to make sure it is an accessible height and it is within the guidelines of the Department of Justice,” Schwieterman said. “Curb cuts and ramps are major issues. Making sure that they are at the right slope and grade.”

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What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

The ADA is a civil rights law enacted in 1990 that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and public and private places that are open to the general public.

In 2008, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) was signed into law and became effective on January 1, 2009.

The ADAAA made a number of significant changes to the definition of “disability.” The changes in the definition of disability in the ADAAA apply to all titles of the ADA, including Title I (employment practices of private employers with 15 or more employees, state and local governments, employment agencies, labor unions, agents of the employer and joint management labor committees); Title II (programs and activities of state and local government entities); and Title III (private entities that are considered places of public accommodation).

SOURCE: National Network for the American Disabilities Act.

5 things to know about Kettering’s efforts to get ADA compliant:

-City Council support of ADA transition plan has been absolutely critical. All jurisdictions are required by law to have a plan, but Kettering is leading the region in the comprehensive professional analysis of all of our sites and facilities to determine access needs and the dedicated resources to implement potential projects identified in the plan

- The City of Kettering ADA Transition plan has several components. It addresses both improvements that could be made to infrastructure and facilities, as well as modifications for program access.

- The City of Kettering Compliance & Inclusion Manager is dedicated to managing the implementation of the city’s transition plan. She works extensively in partnership with all city departments. Her work varies from assessing needs for infrastructure projects that improve accessibility in public right of way to one-on-one assistance for families who seek to enroll their child in summer camps and need modifications to do so.

- All city departments are using the transition plan to prioritize needs and incorporate projects in future budget cycles. Most importantly, critical accessibility guidelines are a part the early stages of project planning & design.

- The City of Kettering’s approach to accessibility and inclusion is to “Lean Toward Yes” and to provide the staff training and support to ensure that the public can expect us to lead the way in the region.

Source: City Manager Mark Schwieterman and ADA Inclusion and Compliance manager, Anna Breidenbach.

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