Access for the disabled will improve in California’s Merced County, under an agreement signed with the Justice Department on Monday.
Along with Champaign County in Illinois and Yakima County in Washington, Merced County signed the agreement after being scrutinized under the Justice Department’s Project Civic Access. The initiative ensures that cities, towns and counties comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Birthplace of former congressman Tony Coelho, who first introduced the Americans with Disabilities Act in the 1980s, Merced County reached the access agreement as the federal government marks the ADA’s 25th anniversary.
“Individuals with disabilities faced the indignities of not being able to enter public buildings or have equal access to the services, programs and activities offered by their local governments; they were barred from attending schools and getting jobs,” said Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Until, that is, the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
The 17-page settlement unveiled Monday details the scope of the Justice Department’s review, which ranged from the county’s Winton Park and Los Banos Fairgrounds to the jail and main library.
Under the agreement, Merced County will hire an independent architect who will certify that the required ADA modifications have been made. Oral and sign-language interpreters will be contracted with to serve the sheriff’s department 24 hours a day, polling place barriers will be removed and curb ramps will be installed as necessary, among other changes.