Improving accessibility and ADA compliance in northeastern Illinois

Improving accessibility and ADA compliance in northeastern Illinois

Woman walks with guide dog. Quote: Curb cuts, audible signals, and longer cross times don't just help people who have disabilities. They help everyone. Nicole Yarmolkevich

Accessibility is vital to creating an inclusive and thriving northeastern Illinois. Everyone in our region — including people with disabilities — needs to be able to get to work, visit with family and friends, access the goods and services they need, and enjoy all the region has to offer — dining, shopping, arts, sports, and recreation.

That’s why the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) is launching a program to help communities in northeastern Illinois improve accessibility for their residents and visitors with disabilities.

In particular, the program will equip local governments with the resources they need to improve their compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), including completing self-evaluations and transition plans — two requirements of the law. As a result, CMAP will help the region take important steps toward creating a transportation system that works better for everyone.

On this page, you can find the latest information about the program and resources to improve accessibility in your community. For questions, email Linda Mastandrea, director of regional ADA planning and local safety at CMAP.

Why every community should improve accessibility

Accessibility creates opportunity

Transportation is a literal route to opportunity, connecting residents to jobs, education, and services. But people with disabilities face barriers in moving around the region. Past CMAP research has shown that one in five residents with disabilities did not travel on an average day, compared to fewer than one in 10 other residents. 

We cannot achieve a prosperous, equitable region if people with disabilities are excluded.

There are economic benefits

Communities that are accessible are welcoming to everyone — residents, visitors, and shoppers. People with disabilities in the U.S. have about $500 billion in annual disposable income, which they are more likely to spend in communities that are accessible to them.

Many people have, or will have, disabilities

Our population is aging, with the senior population projected to increase by 880,000 people between 2015 and 2050. One-third of Americans over age 65 experience a disability that limits their mobility. And disability can affect any of us, at any time.

Everyone benefits

Accessibility improvements don’t just benefit those with disabilities. They make it easier for everyone to go about their daily lives. For example, curb cuts at sidewalk corners — originally intended for people using wheelchairs — make trips easier for parents with strollers, children on bikes, and people rolling luggage, among others.

It is required

Compliance with the ADA improves the resilience of our region. By meeting federal requirements, we can help ensure our region continues to receive millions of dollars in annual transportation funding.

Read more about the importance of accessibility.

Adult with child in wagon, adult with stroller, adult with two children in wagon, and boy cross at an intersection

What is the Americans with Disabilities Act?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), enacted on July 26, 1990, is a civil rights law prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities.

Under Title II of the ADA, people with disabilities must have an equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from state and local governments’ programs, services, and activities. Title II applies to state agencies, villages, cities, counties, schools, park and special purpose districts, transit agencies, colleges and universities, community colleges, libraries, and even museums when operating using public funds.

What does the ADA require local governments to do?

All local governments must conduct an ADA self-evaluation.

Local governments with 50 or more employees (either full- or part-time) must:

  • Designate an employee responsible for coordinating ADA compliance
  • Create a transition plan
  • Keep documents related to the self-evaluation for three years, including the consulted stakeholders and description of areas examined, problems identified, and modifications made


Still, it is strongly recommended that all local governments — regardless of their size — designate an ADA coordinator and keep records related to the self-evaluation.

What is an ADA self-evaluation?

A self-evaluation is a local government’s assessment of the accessibility of its programs, services, facilities, policies, and procedures. The self-evaluation identifies and corrects barriers to access that are inconsistent with Title II requirements (28 CFR. Sec. 35.105).

A self-evaluation must:

  • Evaluate current facilities, programs, services, policies, and practices for accessibility compliance
  • Identify necessary changes to become compliant
  • Provide an opportunity for the public to participate in the self-evaluation process


Findings from the self-evaluation are often included as part of a transition plan.

What is an ADA transition plan?

A transition plan identifies existing programs, services, facilities, policies, and procedures that require changes, and outlines the steps necessary to become accessible.

A transition plan must:

  • Identify physical obstacles that limit accessibility
  • Provide an opportunity for the public to participate in developing the plan
  • Describe how the facilities will be made accessible
  • Include a schedule to achieve compliance
  • List the official responsible for implementing the plan

What is an ADA coordinator?

An ADA coordinator is an employee designated by a local government to coordinate ADA compliance and investigate complaints. This is often the same employee who will manage the development and implementation of the transition plan (although there is no requirement that it is the same person).  

The ADA coordinator should be aware of engineering challenges associated with accessibility, including design standards, or should establish a close working relationship with relevant staff members or a consulting engineer.

How will CMAP’s ADA program help communities?

CMAP will equip local governments with the resources they need to improve accessibility and comply with the ADA.

Our program will:

  • Educate communities about the law
  • Support municipalities in appointing local ADA coordinators
  • Support municipalities in completing self-evaluations
  • Support municipalities in creating transition plans
  • Encourage implementation of accessibility improvements

 

Since 2021, CMAP has been busy laying the foundation for this collaborative initiative. We have added staff and hired consultants to develop trainings and provide communities with support. We look forward to launching trainings for municipalities in early 2023.

Resources

Although this initiative is just beginning, CMAP already has a list of resources that can help guide municipalities interested in learning more about this work:

Multimedia

Tools

Templates, toolkits, and other resources coming soon.  

To Top

Improving accessibility and ADA compliance in northeastern Illinois

Woman walks with guide dog. Quote: Curb cuts, audible signals, and longer cross times don't just help people who have disabilities. They help everyone. Nicole Yarmolkevich

Accessibility is vital to creating an inclusive and thriving northeastern Illinois. Everyone in our region — including people with disabilities — needs to be able to get to work, visit with family and friends, access the goods and services they need, and enjoy all the region has to offer — dining, shopping, arts, sports, and recreation.

That’s why the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) is launching a program to help communities in northeastern Illinois improve accessibility for their residents and visitors with disabilities.

In particular, the program will equip local governments with the resources they need to improve their compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), including completing self-evaluations and transition plans — two requirements of the law. As a result, CMAP will help the region take important steps toward creating a transportation system that works better for everyone.

On this page, you can find the latest information about the program and resources to improve accessibility in your community. For questions, email Linda Mastandrea, director of regional ADA planning and local safety at CMAP.

Why every community should improve accessibility

Accessibility creates opportunity

Transportation is a literal route to opportunity, connecting residents to jobs, education, and services. But people with disabilities face barriers in moving around the region. Past CMAP research has shown that one in five residents with disabilities did not travel on an average day, compared to fewer than one in 10 other residents. 

We cannot achieve a prosperous, equitable region if people with disabilities are excluded.

There are economic benefits

Communities that are accessible are welcoming to everyone — residents, visitors, and shoppers. People with disabilities in the U.S. have about $500 billion in annual disposable income, which they are more likely to spend in communities that are accessible to them.

Many people have, or will have, disabilities

Our population is aging, with the senior population projected to increase by 880,000 people between 2015 and 2050. One-third of Americans over age 65 experience a disability that limits their mobility. And disability can affect any of us, at any time.

Everyone benefits

Accessibility improvements don’t just benefit those with disabilities. They make it easier for everyone to go about their daily lives. For example, curb cuts at sidewalk corners — originally intended for people using wheelchairs — make trips easier for parents with strollers, children on bikes, and people rolling luggage, among others.

It is required

Compliance with the ADA improves the resilience of our region. By meeting federal requirements, we can help ensure our region continues to receive millions of dollars in annual transportation funding.

Read more about the importance of accessibility.

Adult with child in wagon, adult with stroller, adult with two children in wagon, and boy cross at an intersection

What is the Americans with Disabilities Act?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), enacted on July 26, 1990, is a civil rights law prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities.

Under Title II of the ADA, people with disabilities must have an equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from state and local governments’ programs, services, and activities. Title II applies to state agencies, villages, cities, counties, schools, park and special purpose districts, transit agencies, colleges and universities, community colleges, libraries, and even museums when operating using public funds.

What does the ADA require local governments to do?

All local governments must conduct an ADA self-evaluation.

Local governments with 50 or more employees (either full- or part-time) must:

  • Designate an employee responsible for coordinating ADA compliance
  • Create a transition plan
  • Keep documents related to the self-evaluation for three years, including the consulted stakeholders and description of areas examined, problems identified, and modifications made


Still, it is strongly recommended that all local governments — regardless of their size — designate an ADA coordinator and keep records related to the self-evaluation.

What is an ADA self-evaluation?

A self-evaluation is a local government’s assessment of the accessibility of its programs, services, facilities, policies, and procedures. The self-evaluation identifies and corrects barriers to access that are inconsistent with Title II requirements (28 CFR. Sec. 35.105).

A self-evaluation must:

  • Evaluate current facilities, programs, services, policies, and practices for accessibility compliance
  • Identify necessary changes to become compliant
  • Provide an opportunity for the public to participate in the self-evaluation process


Findings from the self-evaluation are often included as part of a transition plan.

What is an ADA transition plan?

A transition plan identifies existing programs, services, facilities, policies, and procedures that require changes, and outlines the steps necessary to become accessible.

A transition plan must:

  • Identify physical obstacles that limit accessibility
  • Provide an opportunity for the public to participate in developing the plan
  • Describe how the facilities will be made accessible
  • Include a schedule to achieve compliance
  • List the official responsible for implementing the plan

What is an ADA coordinator?

An ADA coordinator is an employee designated by a local government to coordinate ADA compliance and investigate complaints. This is often the same employee who will manage the development and implementation of the transition plan (although there is no requirement that it is the same person).  

The ADA coordinator should be aware of engineering challenges associated with accessibility, including design standards, or should establish a close working relationship with relevant staff members or a consulting engineer.

How will CMAP’s ADA program help communities?

CMAP will equip local governments with the resources they need to improve accessibility and comply with the ADA.

Our program will:

  • Educate communities about the law
  • Support municipalities in appointing local ADA coordinators
  • Support municipalities in completing self-evaluations
  • Support municipalities in creating transition plans
  • Encourage implementation of accessibility improvements

 

Since 2021, CMAP has been busy laying the foundation for this collaborative initiative. We have added staff and hired consultants to develop trainings and provide communities with support. We look forward to launching trainings for municipalities in early 2023.

Resources

Although this initiative is just beginning, CMAP already has a list of resources that can help guide municipalities interested in learning more about this work:

Multimedia

Tools

Templates, toolkits, and other resources coming soon.  

To Top
Woman walks with guide dog