FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Barry C. Taylor, Legal Advocacy Director
(312) 341-0022, ext. 7317, (800) 537-2632
TTY (800) 610-2779
Janet Cartwright, Senior Attorney
(309) 786-6868, (800) 758-6869 (Voice/TTY)
Public Information Director
Matson Public Library Moves to Accessibility for Patrons with Disabilities
ADA Compliance Achieved by Equip for Equality
Princeton, Ill. (May 14, 2003) -- By October 1, 2003, The Matson Public Library in Princeton, Ill. will ensure that each of its programs or activities is accessible to and usable by people with disabilities. The compliance with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination based upon disability in a public facility, stems from an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR), in response to a complaint filed in September 2002 on behalf of two mobility-impaired Princeton residents by Equip for Equality (EFE), the federally mandated Protection & Advocacy (P&A) System for people with disabilities in Illinois.
"We are pleased that EFE was able to assist Princeton citizens who have mobility disabilities to gain equal access to the resources and programs at the public library," said Janet Cartwright, Senior Attorney for Equip for Equality. "The ability of people with disabilities to participate fully in community life is a natural fulfillment of their basic civil rights as defined by the ADA."
When OCR conducted an on-site inspection in November 2002, it verified the inaccessibility of the main entryways, all of which have stairs, and the facility's washrooms on the upper and lower levels. Built in 1913, the 90-year-old building has not undergone any renovations, alterations or addition since the 1960s.
OCR also determined that the library's Homebound Program operated by volunteers failed to allow patrons to borrow reference materials, such as encyclopedias and bibliographies, to view the library's catalog to determine the availability of materials, or to use its computers, and thus did not comply with the ADA.
"It should be noted," said Cartwright, "that for many low income people with disabilities, owning a personal computer is not an option and, consequently, they are denied access to the educational opportunities of practicing computer skills and access to the Internet."
OCR ruled that because the Matson Public Library is an "existing" facility, the building itself is not required to be made accessible, but instead may employ alternative methods such as reassignment of programs and activities to an accessible location, alteration or construction of facilities to provide accessibility, and various other combinations of innovative methods to accommodate mobility-impaired patrons, such as assigning personal aides and providing home visits.
By April 15, 2003, the Library was required to provide patrons with disabilities notice at key locations in the building and biannually in the local newspaper of its willingness to move programs and activities to an accessible location. By May 15, 2003, the Library is required to provide proof of the initial newspaper notice to OCR and postings throughout the Library. By Nov. 1, 2003, the Library must document implementation of its accessibility plan to OCR.
"The library experience is taken for granted by most of us," said Barry Taylor, EFE's Legal Advocacy Director, "and, before now, many individuals in Princeton with mobility and developmental disabilities have never been inside the library with the opportunity to examine the array of books, periodicals, audio tapes, books on tape, videotapes, CDs, reference materials and computers. Because of OCR's ruling, new doors are now open for people with disabilities."
Equip for Equality is the independent, private, not-for-profit organization designated by the Governor in 1985 to administer the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) System for safeguarding the rights of people with physical and mental disabilities in Illinois. It is the only comprehensive statewide advocacy organization providing self-advocacy assistance, legal services, disability rights education, public policy advocacy and abuse investigation.
For more information, contact Janet Cartwright at 309-786-6868 or 800-758-6869 (Voice/TTY).