Berea City Council members attended a special called meeting Monday night to learn about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the 1990 law that is designed to protect disabled individuals from discrimination and ensure their access to public facilities.
The training session is the latest in a series of events sponsored by the city and the Berea Human Rights Commission (BHRC). Other BHRC training sessions included a presentation/forum on housing discrimination and another on employment discrimination.
Speaking on behalf of the Lexington Human Rights Commission, Ray Sexton noted the ADA is designed to serve as a guideline for public and private institutions, but nearly 30 years after its implementation, new questions arise for policy makers. “Even though the law is 200-plus pages long, there are still issues popping up for which there is no guidance,” Sexton said.
In one example, Berea City Councilman Tom Schultz asked whether the city should install a lift at Berea City Pool so that disabled individuals could enjoy the facility. City Administrator Randy Stone interjected the pool does have a ramp and what officials call “zero depth” access to the pool – a gradual incline. Schultz noted he knew of at least one individual in Berea who couldn’t use the pool without a lift because they have an electric wheel hair. But Sexton said the city is in compliance.
“I think given the age of the pool and the fact that it’s a zero depth, I think your obligations under the ADA have been met,” Sexton said. “You try to make it accommodating but there will always be one or two exceptions. You’re not going to be able to accommodate completely.”
Schultz asked if the city could install a lift despite already being in compliance. Again, Sexton said the city could install such a lift, which is estimated to cost at least $8,000, but that it is probably not a legal necessity. “If you wanted to, you could, but I’m talking about requirements versus a perfect world,” Sexton said.
Sexton noted the Lexington Human Rights Commission is seeing a lot of complaints regarding parking at public facilities. Under the ADA regulations, at least five percent of available parking spots at a facility must be for disabled access. Sexton also noted that businesses and public facilities must also provide van accessible spaces – slots wide enough to accommodate vehicles that are equipped to transport individuals with disabilities.
In recent months, at least one citizen has expressed concern about whether the BHRC is filing complaints with the Kentucky Human Rights Commission, specifically as it regards ensuring adequate access and parking for disabled people attending city-sponsored events. Councilman Ronnie Terrill asked BHRC chair Mim Pride if such documents are being filed with the KHRC. Pride responded that the commission will obtain receipts of filings with the KHRC in the future, but that it wasn’t done in the past. Pride added that in a recent case, the complaint was filed in a timely manner, according to BHRC computer records, but that no receipt of filing was obtained from KHRC.