Public Involvement Techniques
1.A.b - People With Disabilities
Who are people with disabilities?
The disability community encompasses many people. The Census
2000 Supplementary Survey estimates that approximately 17% of the
American household population aged five and over has a disability.
This can include functional limitations (blindness, deafness, severe
vision or hearing impairments, physical mobility limitations), developmental
limitations, self-care limitations, and work limitations. In addition,
many other Americans are temporarily disabled during part of their
liveswhether aged, infirm, or recuperating. In identifying
and consulting with the disability community, agencies find a wide
range of strikingly different needs. Ideas and input from people
with disabilities provide insight about their needs in using the
programs or facilities being developed. Additionally, people with
disabilities participate as interested members of the community.
What guidelines apply to the accessibility of public involvement
activities for people with disabilities?
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) stipulates
involving the community, particularly those with disabilities, in
the development and improvement of services. For example, in
rail transit planning, participation by the disability community
is essential for a key station plan. People with disabilitiesin
particular those who have vision impairmentsrely on pedestrian
and transit modes for independent mobility. Accessible sidewalks,
street crossings, and accessible vehicles are effective ways of
reducing community use of costly paratransit options.
Self-evaluation and transition plans required under the ADA
(1990) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 also require consultation
with people who have disabilities. Many transportation agencies
rely on the advice of committees of disabled users. Also, sites
of public involvement activities as well as the information presented
must be accessible to persons with disabilities.
The ADA requires specific participation activitiesparticularly
for paratransit plans. These include:
- Outreach (developing contacts, mailing lists, and other means
of notification to participate);
- Consultation with individuals with disabilities;
- Opportunity for public comment;
- Information in accessible formats;
- Public hearings in accessible facilities;
- Summaries of significant issues raised during the public comment
- Ongoing efforts to involve the disability community in planning.
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended in
1998, requires that Federal agencies make electronic and information
technology accessible to people with disabilities. Inaccessible
technology can interfere with an individuals ability to obtain
and use information quickly and easily. Section 508 was enacted
to eliminate barriers in information technology, to make available
new opportunities for people with disabilities, and to encourage
the development of technologies that will achieve these goals. The
law applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure,
maintain, or use electronic information technology. Its standards
provide criteria specific to various types of technologies, including:
- Software applications and operating systems;
- Web-based information or applications;
- Telecommunication products;
- Video and multimedia products;
- Self contained, closed products (e.g., information kiosks,
fax machines); and
- Desktop and portable computers.
Under Section 508, Federal agencies must give disabled employees
and members of the public access to information that is comparable
to the access available to others.
Section 508 applies to the Federal government, but there may
be implications at the state level. Many states have also passed
legislation requiring electronic and information technology accessibility.
Who participates? And how?
People who have disabilities in sight, hearing, or mobility
participate. People with disabilities may be pedestrians, transit
riders, or drivers. They share many characteristics with other users
of transportation facilitieschildren, older Americans, and
traveling with packages, suitcase, strollers, and carts. A broadened
view of user characteristics in the design of transportation facilities
will build support from all facets of the community. The Spokane,
Washington, Transit Authority solicited disability community involvement
through a Rider Alert program. Orange County, California,
Transportation Authority scheduled one-on-one meetings with representatives
of individual groups to obtain input to its planning effort. In
Juneau, Alaska, public workshops were held to discuss compliance
with ADAs transportation requirements.
Does involving people with disabilities have special requirements?
Both facilities and information must be accessible. All
events held for programs or projects with Federal aid and open to
the general public must be made accessible to everyone, including
the disability community. Meeting notices should state that the
meeting is accessible and that services are provided for interpretation
(based on national and state civil rights laws for public meetings).
Special efforts are needed to comply with the statutory requirements
of the Federal transportation legislation, and ADA, and the Section
508 of Rehabilitation Act.
Sign language interpreters may be required. They must be
hired early, since they are in scarce supply. Two interpreters are
necessary for meetings longer than one hour, to provide breaks for
each other. Public notices for a meeting should state that sign
language interpreters will be made available upon request, as was
done by the Sacramento and San Mateo County, California, Regional
Transit Districts and the Johnson City, Tennessee, Transit System.
An individual who is both blind and deaf can be accommodated by
a deaf/blind interpreter, who uses sign language in direct contact
with that persons hands.
Listening assistance may be required, depending on the meeting
place. For example, small devices are available to amplify speakers
voices via an FM, infrared, or inductive loop system. It is possible
to rent or borrow them from a State commission for the deaf. In
Massachusetts, the Guild for the Hard of Hearing offers them on
loan. Many meeting rooms in newer buildings have embedded in the
floor an inductive loop to be used for transmission. A State commission
for the deaf may have Computer-Aided Real Time (CART) reporting
in which the reporter transcribes proceedings onto a screen during
the meeting. Cable television stations covering meetings should
provide interpretation or captioning in rebroadcasting.
A text telephone (TTY) is essential for communicating with people
who are deaf or have communications impairment over the telephone.
Under the ADA, all public agencies should have this inexpensive,
modem-like device for a telephone with a keyboard into which messages
are typed rather than spoken. A small light-emitting diode (LED)
screen on each machine shows the message. In some machines the message
may also be recorded on paper tape. Many telephone systems can now
be connected to utilize the computer screen and keyboard as a TTY.
People with disabilities require materials in accessible format.
Prior to meetings, the Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Bureau of Transportation
advertises the availability of its plan in large print, tape, Braille,
and computer diskette formats. The Delaware Administration for Specialized
Transportation certifies that plans are available in accessible
formats, either in large print or on cassette tape. For people with
sight impairments, documents are prepared in large (22 point) print
in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Meeting announcements are prepared
in large print in Wheeling, West Virginia. The Phoenix, Arizona,
Regional Public Transportation Authority used large, bold, sans
serif typefaces in its questionnaire on a plan update. Whichever
formats are chosen, the person making the request must be able to
use them. Many consumers with vision impairments now rely on electronic
files, especially for larger texts.
Many states, local agencies, and organizations have developed
checklists for planning accessible events. Below is a sample
created by the Office of Equity Programs and the Fairfax Disability
Service Board for Fairfax County, VA.
- Do you know your agencys responsibility to provide
accessibility to persons with disabilities?
- Is the facility/meeting location accessible by public
- If yes, is public transportation available at the time
of your meeting/training?
- Do you know the emergency evacuation plans for the meeting/training
- Does the building have accessible (handicap) parking spaces?
- If yes, are they at least 8 wide and have 5
aisles next to them?
- Are there unobstructed curb ramps leading to the sidewalk
- Is there a walkway from the parking lot to the building,
at least 36 wide?
- Does the walkway have a stable and firm surface?
- If the accessible route is different from the primary
route to and through the building, can you post signs with
the wheelchair symbol that show the route?
- Is the walkway level and free of steps?
- If no, is there a ramp at least 36 wide?
- If there is a ramp, does it have a gentle slope (1
rise to 12 length)?
- Is the door at least 32 wide (wide enough for a
- Can the hardware be operated with one hand (level, push
plate, etc.) with a minimum of twisting or grasping)?
- Are the handles low enough to reach? (maximum 48
- Can the door be pushed open easily?
- Is the threshold no more than 1/2 high and beveled?
- When a vestibule, is there a minimum of 48 between
the sets of doors?
- Are the floors hard and not slippery?
- Is there a floor mat to dry feet and crutch tips to prevent
- Is there a 36 corridor, from the entrance to where
the meeting/training is held?
- Is the path free of objects projecting 4 maximum
into the corridor?
- Is there an elevator in the facility where the meeting/training
- If yes, is it a working one that is large enough for a
- Are the controls within reach? (maximum 48)
- Do the controls have Braille?
- Is there an audible signal ringing at each floor?
- Is there an audible two-way emergency communication system
in the elevator?
- Is there enough clearance around the table for a wheelchair
- Can the wheelchair pull under the edge of the table to
- Is there a wide, accessible path to the restroom?
- Is there a toilet stall wide enough that a wheelchair
can enter and close the door behind? Interior space to turn
- Is the water closet (toilet) 17-19 inches high to the
- Can the wheelchair roll under the sink (29 inches to the
- Can the faucets be reached and turned on easily?
- Are the dispensers (soap, towel, etc) reachable? (maximum
- Is there a mirror at an accessible height? (bottom of
the mirror 44 above the floor)
- Do you know how to arrange for sign language interpreters?
- (You must ask the participant the type of interpretation
- Is there a Teletype unit (TTY) in your facility/agency?
- If yes, is the number published on the announcements alongside
the phone number?
- Is the staff in your agency trained to use the TTY?
- Can the TTY be used by those attending your meeting/training?
- Does the staff know how to use the Virginia Relay Center?
|Assistive Listening System (ALS)
- Does your facility have permanent assistive listening
- If yes, do you know how to use it?
- Do you know how to arrange for an ALS (permanent, portable,
- (You must ask the participant the type of system and listening
- Do you know how to arrange for captioning or computer
assisted note-taking services?
- Do the videotapes or other broadcast programming materials
that you may be using during your meeting/ training carry
- Are there flash fire alarm signals in the building? In
the meeting/training room?
- Can you provide clear, detailed directions to the facility
and/or the meeting room?
- Is there a receptionist to offer assistance? (If not,
can someone be available to help?)
- Can you provide the meeting/training materials in alternative
formats if requested?
- (You must ask the participant what format is needed)
- Is there Braille text in the signage at the facility?
- Is there adequate lighting in the elevators, hallways,
Source: Fairfax County Virginia, Office of Equity Programs, http://www.co.fairfax.va.us/service/dsb/Meetacc.htm
Additional examples of checklists for planning accessible events
can be found at:
How do agencies use the output?
Agencies efforts are not fully inclusive of everyones
ideas until they include people with disabilities. This requires
an expansive approach to accommodate the population that is disabled.
Who leads the process?
Every State and MPO must make events accessible to people with
disabilities. Information on accessibility needs is offered
by State commissions dealing with disabilities, deafness, rehabilitation,
or blindness, as well as by local agencies or advocacy groups. Many
of these groups assist in doing outreach for transportation processes.
State agencies should be a central focus for information for
individuals with disabilities. In Massachusetts, for example,
the Commission on the Blind, the Association for the Blind, and
the Vision Foundation record information about dates or events and
provide it to telephone callers.
What does it cost?
Costs may include investigating meeting facilities for accessibility,
creating/providing accessible formats of outreach materials, websites,
and other information tools, and arranging for interpreters, assisted
listening systems, and captioning.
How does it relate to other techniques?
All meetings or hearings must be accessible to comply with ADA,
if they are open to the general public. (See Public
Houses/Open Forum Hearings.) This includes most public meetings
or hearings, as well as charrettes, brainstorming sessions, and
visioning meetings. (See Brainstorming;
Civic advisory committees can serve the interests of persons with
disabilities with appropriate representation of them. (See Civic
When is it most effective?
All events may attract people with disabilities. Special
efforts and events are useful to attract people with disabilities
and to encourage their participation in the process. When the expertise
of the disability community is used to make an event accessible,
it is likely to be more effective. (See Non-traditional
Meeting Places and Events.)
For further information:
and Business Technical Assistance Centers (DBTACs) - provide
information, materials, technical assistance and training on
for Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act
June Issacson and Daniel Jones, A Guide to Planning Accessible
Meetings, Houston: ILRU Program. (Available from ILRU program
for $25 plus P+H)
TDD (713) 520-5785
FAX (713) 520-5785
Transit, Juneau, Alaska
Assistive Technology Partnership Center
||Voice (617) 735-7820
TDD (617) 735-7301
ACTION, ADA Public Participation Handbook
(800) 659-NIAT (Voice/TTY)
Assistance Project, Technical Assistance Personnel Directory
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For more information about the TPCB program, contact Michelle
at FHWA (202-366-9206) or John Sprowls
at FTA (202-366-5362).