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Americans with Disabilities/Section 504


Frequently Asked Questions


Q. What is a disability?
A. A disability is physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. Major life activities may include but are not necessarily limited to life functions such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing and learning.
   
Q. What are some statistics of disability populations in New Jersey by county and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs)?
A. The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) utilizes data from the American Community Survey, which provides up-to-date information about the social and economic needs of communities; how people live -- our education, housing, jobs etc.

An MPO is a federally-mandated and federally-funded transportation policy-making organization in the United States that is made up of representatives from local governments and governmental transportation authorities. New Jersey has three MPOs which represent the corresponding 21 counties: South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization (SJTPO) - Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and Salem Counties; North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA) - Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union and Warren Counties; Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) - Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Mercer Counties.

   
Q. Does the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) apply to State and local governments?
A. Yes. Title II of the ADA applies to all State and local governments, their departments and agencies, and any other special purpose districts of State or local governments. It explains the requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 for public transportation systems that receive Federal financial assistance, and extends coverage to all public entities that provide public transportation, whether or not they receive Federal financial assistance. It establishes detailed standards for the operation of public transit systems, including commuter and intercity rail (AMTRAK).
   
Q. When did the requirements for State and local governments become effective?
A. They became effective on January 26, 1992.
   
Q. How does Title II affect participation in a State or local government's programs activities and services?
A. A State or local government must eliminate any eligibility criteria for participation in programs, activities and services that screen out or tend to screen out persons with disabilities, unless it can establish that the requirements are necessary for the provision of the service, program or activity. The State or local government may adopt valid safety requirements necessary for safe operation if they are based on real risks, not stereotypes or generalizations about individuals with disabilities. A public entity must reasonably modify its policies, practices or procedures to avoid discrimination. If the public entity can show specific modification would essentially alter the nature of its service, program or activity, it is not required to make that modification.
   
Q. Does Title II cover a public entity's employment policies and practices?
A. Yes. Title II prohibits all public entities, regardless of the size of their work force, from discriminating in employment against qualified individuals with disabilities. In addition to Title II's employment coverage, Title I of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibit employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities by certain public entities.
   
Q. What changes must a public entity make to its existing facilities to make them accessible?
A. A public entity must ensure that individuals with disabilities are not excluded from services, programs and activities because the existing buildings are inaccessible. A State or local government's programs, when viewed in their entirety, must be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. This standard, known as "program accessibility," applies to facilities of a public entity that existed on January 26, 1995. Public entities do not necessarily have to make each of the existing facilities accessible. They may provide program accessibility by a number of methods including alteration of existing facilities, acquisition or construction of additional facilities, relocation of a service or program to an accessible facility or provision of services at alternate accessible sites.
   
Q. When must structural changes be made to attain program accessibility?
A. Structural changes needed for program accessibility were to be made as fast as possible, and no later than January 26, 1995. A public entity that employs 50 or more persons must have developed a transition plan by July 26, 1992, setting forth the steps necessary to complete such changes.
   
Q. What is a Self-Evaluation?
A. A Self-Evaluation (pdf 101k) is a public entity's assessment of its current policies and practices. The self-evaluation identifies and corrects those policies and practices that are inconsistent with Title II's requirements. All public entities must have completed a self-evaluation by January 26, 1993. A public entity that employs 50 or more employees must retain its self-evaluation for three years. Other public entities are not required to retain their self-evaluations, but are encouraged to do so because these documents evidence a public entity's good faith efforts to comply with Title II's requirements.
   
Q. What is a Transition Plan?
A. The public agency must develop a Transition Plan (pdf 382k) | Executive Summary (pdf 84k) addressing deficiencies identified in the Self-Evaluation. This plan assesses the needs of persons with disabilities, and then schedules the required pedestrian accessibility upgrades. The Transition Plan is to be updated periodically, with its needs reflected in the processes utilized by State Departments of Transportation, MPOs and transit agencies to develop the Statewide Transportation Improvement Programs and metropolitan Transportation Improvement Programs.
   
Q. What does Title II require for new construction and alterations?
A. The ADA requires that all new buildings constructed by a State or local government be accessible. In addition, when a State or local government undertakes alterations to a building, it must make the altered portions accessible.
   
Q. How will a State or local government know that a new building is accessible?
A. State or local government will be in compliance with the ADA for new construction and alterations if it follows either of two accessibility standards. It can choose either the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards or the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities, which is the standard that must be used for public accommodations and commercial facilities under Title III of the ADA. If the State or local government chooses the ADA Accessibility Guidelines, it is not entitled to the elevator exemption (which permits certain private buildings under three stories or under 3,000 square feet per floor to be constructed without an elevator).
   
Q. How will the ADA's requirements for State and local governments be enforced?
A. Private individuals may enforce their rights under Title II and may receive the same remedies as those provided under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, including reasonable attorney's fees. Individual may also file complaints with eight designated Federal agencies, including the Department of Justice and the Department of Transportation.
   
Q. How are ADA complaints processed?
A. All ADA complaints will be investigated by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Division Office or the State Transportation Agency (STA). click to enlarge

  • If the FHWA Division Office receives an ADA complaint directly it will forward a copy to the Headquarters Office of Civil Rights for a complaint number and entry into the United States Department of Transportation's tracking system.
  • If the complaint is against the STA, the FHWA Division Office will conduct the investigation and forward the file and investigative report to the Headquarters Office of Civil Rights for review and issuance of the Letter of Finding.
  • If the ADA complaint is against a local entity, the FHWA Division Office has the option of allowing the STA to conduct the investigation. Upon completion of an investigation by the STA, the STA will forward the file and the investigative report to the FHWA Division Office. The FHWA Division Office will review the file and investigative report for completeness before forwarding to the Headquarters Office of Civil Rights for final review and issuance of the Letter of Finding.
  • If the STA does not wish to investigate the ADA complaint, then the FHWA Division Office will conduct the investigation.
  • The Headquarters Office of Civil Rights will issue the Letter of Finding to the complainant and issue a decision Memorandum to the FHWA Division Office.
  • The decision Memorandum to the FHWA Division Office will state whether there is a finding of compliance or non-compliance.
  • If there is a finding of non-compliance, the Headquarters Office of Civil Rights will provide instructions to the FHWA Division Office regarding implementation of the required corrective action.
  • Whenever corrective action is required, the FHWA Division Office will send a letter to the STA or local entity stating what corrective action is necessary with the designated time frames for completion of the action.
  • The FHWA Division Office will provide periodic updates on the status of the corrective action to the Headquarters Office of Civil Rights.
  • All ADA complaints will remain open until all corrective action is completed.

The files listed above are in Portable Document Format (PDF). You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the files, which is available free from our state Adobe Access page.

 
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  Last Updated:  June 16, 2011