For more than 30 years, federal and state laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and its predecessor, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, have been in place to protect people with disabilities by providing equal access to any programs, services and activities available to the general public.

For the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), that means seeing that all Federal-aid recipients, including state and local public agencies responsible for roadways and pedestrian facilities, have highway transportation programs and facilities that are accessible to disabled individuals.

Even though these regulations have been in place for some time, many communities have yet to make the changes necessary to be ADA-compliant, putting public agencies at an increased risk for potential lawsuits over non-compliant facilities or infrastructure — not to mention loss of any potential state or federal funding for infrastructure improvements.

For many agencies, the issue of noncompliance is due to a simple yet significant lack of knowledge of the laws and policy requirements. That’s why state agencies like the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) are dedicating their efforts to better serve their communities by implementing ADA Transition Plans that comply with federal regulations.

IDOT’s Transition Plan Goals

In 1992, IDOT first prepared and adopted an ADA Transition Plan, with goals for attaining compliance and allocating resources statewide — specifically on pedestrian access routes.

In 2014, IDOT updated its nearly 20-year-old transition plan to design and track improvements toward a fully accessible community that would fulfill all requirements of the ADA and the Rehabilitation Action Act. This adaptation sparked several initiatives for agencies to conduct self-evaluations and develop their own transition plans to make all facilities, services, programs and activities in the public right-of-way accessible to every individual.

As part of these updates, IDOT requires that federally funded state and local public agencies responsible for roadways and pedestrian facilities aren’t discriminating against disabled individuals in any highway transportation program, including sidewalks maintained by IDOT, curb ramps, crosswalks, pedestrian signals, rest areas and weigh stations.

Under IDOT’s updated transition plan, there are three key areas of action:

  • Identifying physical obstacles in the public right-of-way that limit accessibility to the agency’s programs or activities by individuals with disabilities
  • Setting guidelines and timelines for modifying policies and practices that do not meet ADA requirements
  • Providing an opportunity for community stakeholders to participate in any necessary modifications of the Transition Plan

The plan also outlines specific methods that will be used to make pedestrian facilities accessible, sets a schedule for implementation and identifies the specific parties responsible for implementation.

Is Your Organization ADA Compliant?

If your organization is one of the many that has yet to implement an ADA compliant transition plan, now is the time to act. IDOT announced plans to withhold federal and state funding to communities lacking such transition plans, so don’t risk losing your federal and state funding — and don’t face the risk of a potential lawsuit.

Taking the next steps toward a compliant ADA Transition Plan would do more than help your community abide by state and federal laws, protect against lawsuits and safeguard potential access to federal funds. Moving forward also would help your community provide safer mobility for all community members.

Interested in learning about what a thorough ADA Transition Plan looks like and how your community can implement one? Connect with me on LinkedIn and I’d be happy to chat. And be sure to check back next week to learn more about the specifics of building your ADA Transition Plan.

With more than 26 years of experience in the industry, Mike Mack is the Director of Transportation Design for Burns & McDonnell’s Chicago office. Mike has dedicated his career to the planning and design of many complex urban highway systems and site improvement projects in the Chicago area.