Accessibility of Election Voting Places
The following article is about a settlement agreement between the United States of America and Coconino County, Flagstaff, AZ 86001, regarding the accessibility of municipal election polling places for handicapped individuals. Information presented herein is available partially from the US Department of Justice (DOJ) website at https://www.ada.gov/coconino_sa.html. This Agreement will remain in effect for three years from the Effective Date.
Image of Typical Polling Place Plan View
The United States Department of Justice (the “Department”) opened an investigation of Coconino County (“County”) under title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131 - 12134, and title II’s implementing regulation, 28 C.F.R. Part 35, to determine the physical accessibility of the County’s polling places to people with mobility and vision disabilities. The County is a “public entity” within the meaning of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12131(1), and 28 C.F.R. Part 35.104, and is, therefore, subject to title II of the ADA and its implementing regulation. The County operates services, programs, and activities within the meaning of Title II, including operating a voting program for federal, state, and local elections for which it selects and uses sites as polling places. The County, through its Board of Supervisors, is responsible for reviewing the accessibility of each polling place and selecting each polling place. The County has 68 listed precincts, currently housed in 61 polling place locations, and seven early voting sites. During the August 30, 2016 Election, the Department surveyed 31 of the County’s 61 polling place locations and 7 early voting locations. The Department found that many of the County’s precincts and early voting locations are housed in polling places which contain barriers to access for persons with disabilities, and that the County violated title II by failing to select and use facilities as polling places on Election Day that are accessible to persons with disabilities.
Representative list of Barriers to Access:
The following list is representative of the discrepancies found by the DOJ at these sites that created barriers to accessibility. The list of discrepancies provided by DOJ included references to the standard in the 1991 Standards and 2010 Standards. The standards quoted below are from the 2010 Standards.
Ramp run slope or curb ramp slope exceeds 1:12. Standard 405.2, [Ramp] Slope, states, “Ramp runs shall have a running slope not steeper than 1:12.” In other words the slope of any ramped surface cannot exceed 1 inch vertical change over any 12 inch length of run in the direction of travel. Using this rule, the ramp run cannot exceed a 4 inch vertical change over any 48 inch length of run.
Ramp Slope Maximum Vertical Change
Cross slope of ramp, curb ramp, or walking surface exceeds 1:48. Cross slope is the slope of the surface perpendicular to the direction of travel. Standard 405.3, [Ramp] Cross Slope, states, “Cross slope of ramp runs shall not be steeper than 1:48.” Standard 403.3 [Walking Surface] Slope, states, “The cross slope of walking surfaces shall not be steeper than 1:48.”
Ramp Cross Slope
Parking lot ground surface not stable or slip-resistant. Standard 302.1 [Floor or Ground Surfaces] General, states, “Floor and ground surfaces shall be stable, firm, and slip resistant and shall comply with 302. Advisory 302.1 General, states, “A stable surface is one that remains unchanged by contaminants or applied force, so that when the contaminant or force is removed, the surface returns to its original condition. A firm surface resists deformation by either indentations or particles moving on its surface. A slip-resistant surface provides sufficient frictional counter force to the forces exerted in walking to permit safe ambulation.” The DOJ report for this site specifically mentions grass at the parking lot locations. Grass, gravel, or open grade (dirt) can all be considered unstable or slippery for walking purposes.
Missing Van Accessible parking signs. Standard 502.6, [Parking Spaces] Identification, states, “Parking space identification signs shall include the International Symbol of Accessibility complying with [Standard] 703.7.2.1. Signs identifying van parking spaces shall contain the designation “van accessible.” Signs shall be 60 inches (1525 mm) minimum above the finish floor or ground surface measured to the bottom of the sign.”
Parking spaces missing or not properly sized. Standard 502.1, [Parking Spaces] General, states, “Car and van parking spaces shall comply with [Standard] 502. Where parking spaces are marked with lines, width measurements of parking spaces and access aisles shall be made from the centerline of the markings. Standard 502.2, Vehicle Spaces, states, “Car parking spaces shall be 96 inches (2440 mm) wide minimum and van parking spaces shall be 132 inches (3350 mm) wide minimum, shall be marked to define the width, and shall have an adjacent access aisle complying with 502.3. An exception to this standard states, “Van parking spaces shall be permitted to be 96 inches (2440 mm) wide minimum where the
access aisle is 96 inches (2440 mm) wide minimum.”
Van Accessible Parking Spaces
Parking space access aisles were missing or not properly sized. Standard 502.3, [Parking Space] Access Aisle, states, “Access aisles serving parking spaces shall comply with 502.3. Access aisles shall adjoin an accessible route. Two parking spaces shall be permitted to share a common access aisle.” Standard 502.3.1 [Parking Space Aisle] Width, states, “Access aisles serving car and van parking spaces shall be 60 inches (1525 mm) wide minimum.” Standard 502.3.2, Length, states, “Access aisles shall extend the full length of the parking spaces they serve.” Standard 502.3.3, Marking, states, “Access aisles shall be marked so as to discourage parking in them.”
Parking Space Marked Aisle
Building entry door thresholds exceed ¾ inch in height and/or not properly beveled. Standard 404.2.5, [Doors] Thresholds, states, “Thresholds, if provided at doorways, shall be ½ inch (13 mm) high maximum. Raised thresholds and changes in level at doorways shall comply with [Standards] 302 and 303. An exception to this standard states, “Existing or altered thresholds ¾ inch (19 mm) high maximum that have a beveled edge on each side with a slope not steeper than 1:2 shall not be required to comply with [Standard] 404.2.5.”
Beveled Change in Level
Accessible route protrusions more than 4 inches into the route. Standard 307.2, [Accessible Route] Protrusion Limits, states, “Objects with leading edges more than 27 inches (685 mm) and not more than 80 inches (2030 mm) above the finish floor or ground shall protrude 4 inches (100 mm) maximum horizontally into the circulation path [route].
Limits of Protruding Objects
Maintenance of accessible features. Several elements (accessible features) did not operate properly. Implementation rule 28 CFR Part 35.133 for Title II facilities (and 28 CFR Part 36.211 for Title III facilities), states, “A public entity shall maintain in operable working condition those features of facilities and equipment that are required to be readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities by the Act or this part. This section does not prohibit isolated or temporary interruptions in service or access due to maintenance or repairs.”
Obligations of Coconino County for an Accessible Voting Program:
As a result of this agreement, Coconino County must comply with the following conditions.
1. The County shall provide an accessible voting program, including a program that is accessible to persons with mobility or vision disabilities and accessible polling places at accessible sites. 42 U.S.C. 12132; 28 C.F.R. 35.130, 35.149. The County shall select facilities to be used as polling places that do not exclude individuals with disabilities from or deny them the benefits of the polling place, or otherwise subject them to discrimination. 42 U.S.C. 12132; 28 C.F.R. 35.130(b)(4). The County shall administer its voting program in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of persons with disabilities. 28 C.F.R. Part 35.130(d).
2. For all elections occurring after the Effective Date of this Agreement, the County will implement measures to remediate the violations at polling places identified by the DOJ, to make those polling place locations accessible on Election Day, or will relocate those locations not remediated to an alternative accessible location pursuant to the process established in Paragraph 18 of this Agreement. The County will provide its remediation plan to the United States within 90 days of the Effective Date of this Agreement. If the County asserts, and the United States agrees, that remediation or relocation to an accessible facility is infeasible, then the County shall comply with Title II program accessibility requirements. 28 C.F.R. 35.150.
3. Nothing in this Agreement limits the County from making ADA-compliant, permanent modifications to its polling place locations instead of providing temporary remedial measures or relocating a polling place location.
4. The County shall maintain in operable working condition on Election Day those features of facilities and equipment (including permanent equipment such as lifts and elevators, and temporary equipment such as portable ramps, traffic cones, signs, wedges, and door stops) that are required to make polling places accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities. 28 C.F.R. 35.133(a). If circumstances arise such that a polling place location that was previously accessible is no longer accessible because a feature of the facility or equipment is no longer operable, then the County shall replace the inoperable equipment, or relocate the polling place to an alternative, accessible location pursuant to the process established in Paragraph 18 of this Agreement. If the County asserts, and the United States agrees, that remediation or relocation to an accessible facility is infeasible, then the County shall comply with Title II program accessibility requirements.
5. The County will cooperate fully with the United States efforts to monitor compliance with this Agreement, including by providing the United States with timely access to polling places (including on Election Day), maps, surveys, and other information requested by the Department.
6. The County agrees that the following measures will be implemented where necessary to make an otherwise inaccessible polling place accessible on Election Day. The list of measures is not exhaustive; the County may propose other reasonable temporary measures subject to the review and approval of the United States.
a.Portable ramps (including curb ramps) up to and including ramps six feet long,
with side edge protection.
b.Portable wedges or wedge ramps.
e.Relocating furniture or other moveable barriers.
g.Propping open doors.
i.Signage, including parking and accessible entrance signage.
j.Portable buzzers or door bells.
k.Removing astragals (center door posts) that are not a permanent part of the
structure from doorways.
The 1991 ADA Standards and the 2010 ADA Standards are laws, not building codes. It is the responsibility of all government agencies and private enterprise building owners and tenants to be aware of these laws and how they may pertain to their buildings. Failure to comply with these laws could result in a similar settlement or agreement.
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