As we discussed last week in State Agencies: Implement ADA Transition Plans or Risk Funding, many communities are at risk of losing federal funding due to noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). And, as a result, organizations like the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) have dedicated its efforts to better serve these communities by implementing an ADA Transition Plan that comply with federal regulations.

But what does a proper ADA Transition Plan look like? And how can officials in such communities make sure they’ve covered all necessary aspects required by both the ADA and IDOT? Here are the first three steps required for creating a thorough Transition Plan:

Step 1: Self-Evaluation

The first step toward ADA compliance — as outlined in Title II of ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 — is to conduct a self-evaluation of existing facilities and rights-of-way to identify barriers that would prevent full accessibility for people with disabilities.

Self-evaluation includes examining all of the following facilities within your community:

  • Curb ramps, sidewalks and crosswalks
  • Pedestrian Signals
  • Rest Areas and Weigh Stations

The results of the self-evaluation identify the need for potential infrastructure improvements related to accessibility and can be added to the agencies’ Transition Plan.

Step 2: Establish a Plan

After the initial assessment, it’s time to outline the full scope of the project. That means determining how the agency plans to make its assets accessible to everyone — establishing priorities for necessary upgrades based on need and funding, and setting a timeline.

Transition Plans are intended to be living documents that should be updated as updates are made and non-compliant facilities are upgraded. At the same time, as accessibility guidelines are revised, the plan must be modified to reflect the latest guidelines.

Step 3: Compliant Policy and Design Standards

IDOT has been dedicated to updating its policies and programs as regulations at both the federal and state level are revised. IDOT’s curb ramp design standards, for example, have been continuously modified to reflect the latest accessibility guidelines since curb ramps were first developed in the mid-1970s.

As the self-evaluation process mentioned above is completed, facilities that are non-compliant are to be prioritized and programmed accordingly. The funding and scheduling of accessibility improvements will continue concurrently with IDOT’s routine construction programs.

As part of working toward ADA compliance, agencies will commit to constructing or upgrading pedestrian facilities to achieve full compliance within the scope of all improvement projects. If there are any limitations that make it technically infeasible to achieve full accessibility within the scope of a project, those facility limitations should be noted on the Transition Plan.

What’s Next?

While it’s crucial for state agencies to understand the value of adopting an ADA Transition Plan and what aspects are required for full federal compliance, even more critical is the importance of how to successfully implement a compliant Transition Plan.

Each state agency is responsible for assuring ADA compliance within its jurisdiction. And although many agencies have received some degree of training, IDOT has discovered — through interviews and field checks — a significant lack of centralized and trained oversight of ADA issues within state agencies.

My team and I have extensive firsthand experience in working with IDOT and other state transportation agencies, and we know exactly what goes into planning — and building — ADA-compliant projects.

If you’re interested in learning more about ADA compliance or would like a comprehensive assessment of your community’s ADA conditions, let’s connect. Contact us today to see how can help you comply with ADA’s current requirements.

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.