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October 22, 2015
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Assessing Local Accessibility -- Transition Plans

What makes for a "livable community?" GO TO 2040, the comprehensive regional plan for northeastern Illinois, envisions a region with a dynamic economy, abundant open spaces, a strong transportation network, and attractive housing options. Yet that vision is only livable if it is inclusive and accessible. Therefore, CMAP helps municipalities in the seven-county region plan for accessibility in land use, housing, and transportation.  In celebration of the Americans with Disabilities Act's (ADA) 25th Anniversary, CMAP is partnering with ADA25 Chicago to highlight planning policies, projects and programs that are improving accessibility in the Chicago region. This is the third in a series of posts on aspects of accessibility. The first post described advances and challenges in accessibility and the second described the history of national accessibility standards.

One of the most significant features of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is that it applied new accessibility standards to the private sector and local and state government buildings and services, whether or not they received federal financial assistance. To help local communities plan for how to implement federal accessibility standards, CMAP has published a community briefing paper to explain how to conduct an accessibility self-evaluation and create a Transition Plan.

ADA looks far beyond the built environment to also guarantee access to employment, services, and other activities. Within the CMAP region, all municipalities are subject to the ADA and must comply with the Access Board's standards for accessibility.

To help municipalities assess their level of accessibility and determine what changes they need to make to their policies, practices, and physical structures, the ADA requires all public entities to undertake a self-evaluation of their accessibility. Public entities with 50 or more employees must then create a plan for how to transition to national accessibility standards. Transition plans are designed to help municipalities plan and budget for necessary changes to their facilities and services so that they can be made compliant as expediently as possible.

While most local communities in northeastern Illinois are required to have a transition plan, a 2010 survey revealed that only 54 municipalities in our region had up-to-date transition plans.

To learn more about how the ADA applies to local and state governments, the U.S. Department of Justice's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission maintains a useful FAQ and  has also isolated some common problems to guaranteeing access at the local level.

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