U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division DOJ # XX Disability Rights Section P.O.

Box 66738 Washington, DC 20035-6738

CERTIFIED MAIL RETURN RECEIPT REQUESTED

10/22/96 (HANDWRITTEN DATE)

Ms. Catherine L. O'Connell City ADA Coordinator Fleet and Facilities Administration 2221 Pacific Street Bellingham, WA 98226 Re: Complaint Number XX Dear Ms. O'Connell: This letter constitutes a letter of resolution in regards to a complaint that was filed with the U.S. Department of Justice against the City of Bellingham, Washington, alleging violations of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) Title II, 42 U.S.C. SS 12131-12134, prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities on the basis of disability in the services, programs, or activities of State and local governments. As an instrumentality of the State or local government, the City of Bellingham (the "City") is a public entity subject to the requirements of Title II and its implementing regulation. 28 C.R.F. S 35.104. The U.S. Department of Justice (the "Department") is responsible for investigation and resolution of complaints alleging violations of Title II and its implementing regulation in all programs and services of State and local governments. As you are aware, the complaint filed with the Department alleged that the City: scheduled and held a public meeting for

people with disabilities on August 23, 1993 in an inaccessible location; failed to develop a self-evaluation plan and a transition plan; failed to provide individuals with disabilities an opportunity to participate in the development of the selfevaluation plan and transition plan; and failed to establish a grievance procedure for filing complaints alleging violations of the ADA. Sections 35.105 and 35.150 of the Department's Title II implementing regulation require that a public entity evaluate its services, policies, and practices, and the effects thereof; develop a transition plan in the event that structural changes to facilities will be undertaken to achieve program access; and 01-00454 -2provide an opportunity to interested persons to participate in the evaluation process, and the development of the transition plan. Section 35.107 requires that the entity establish an effective grievance procedure for providing prompt and equitable resolution of ADA complaints. On January 29, 1996, the Department notified the City of the complaint alleging violations of Title II of the ADA. The Department requested copies of the City's self-evaluation and transition plans; documentation indicating that individuals with disabilities were provided the opportunity to participate in the plans; documentation that the plans are available for public inspection; a copy of the City's policy for scheduling public meetings; and a copy of the City's grievance procedure permitting individuals to register complaints regarding ADA compliance. The City provided the Department with written responses to the request on February 1, 1996, April 19, 1996, and September 18, 1996, including documentation that a self-evaluation and transition plans had been developed; that individuals with disabilities were provided the opportunity to participate in both plans; that the plans are available for inspection by the public in an accessible location; and that both a City meeting policy and an ADA grievance procedure had been established since the date of the alleged complaint. The Department recommended that the City consider taking several corrective actions to clarify the public meeting policy; and to ensure that an effective procedure is established for filing complaints of ADA non-compliance. The actions the

Department recommended include: modifying the City's written meeting policy to clarify that all meetings are scheduled in a readily accessible manner for persons who use wheelchairs; modifying the City's meeting policy to reflect that deaf or hearing impaired persons who require interpreters, and who wish to participate in public meetings but have not given the City 48 hours advance notice to obtain interpreter services, will be accommodated to the extent that time permits; that in situations where interpreter services can not be obtained when 48 hours advance notice has not been given, that it will be up to the meeting planner to reschedule or continue the meeting, but that each situation of this type will be dealt with on a case by case basis. The Department also recommended that the City extend the time permitted in its grievance procedure for filing complaints of ADA non-compliance, from 15 days from the date the person becomes aware of the alleged violation, to 30 days from the date the person becomes aware of the alleged violation. The City subsequently provided written and verbal assurances that they have clarified their meeting policy to reflect that all public meetings are required to be scheduled in a manner that is readily accessible to people who use wheelchairs; that individuals requiring interpreter accommodations will be 01-00455 -3accommodated to the extent possible when 48 hours advance notice has not been given; and that individuals who wish to file grievances alleging ADA non-compliance can do so up to 30 dates from the date the person becomes aware of the alleged violation. Because of the foregoing, the Department considers this complaint resolved and has closed its file in regard to the complaint as of the date of this letter. This letter is not intended and should not he construed to cover any other issues regarding compliance with the Title II regulation which may exist but are not specifically discussed herein. The Department appreciates the cooperation and assistance by the City of Bellingham, particularly that extended by Chief Jay Gunsauls of the Bellingham Fire Department, and Ms. Catherine O'Connell of the Fleet and Facilities Division, during the course

of this investigation. If you have any questions about this matter, please contact me at (202) 307-1085, voice or TDD. Sincerely, Robin C. Deykes Investigator Disability Rights Section 01-00456