Accessibility is important. Everyone should be able to have access to services, facilities, transportation and more. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights law to ensure people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else. It also lays out parameters for organizations to follow to be accessible for all.
The ADA is not limited to people who use wheelchairs—it includes accommodations for all mobility needs, people who are blind, people who are deaf, and more. Within the City of Charlotte, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations leads ADA efforts and compliance.
In honor of the anniversary of the signing of the ADA on July 26, 1990, and as we look forward to an upcoming vote to adopt a transition plan that will outline the city's steps to make services, facilities, and infrastructure more accessible, we're sharing how the city has been incorporating ADA into our work thus far.
Rights of Way
The Charlotte Department of Transportation (CDOT) is responsible for managing the public rights of way, including meeting accessibility requirements for people with disabilities. The city recognizes the full range of disabilities and strives to provide the best environment for all users in the right of way.
One of the first issues CDOT committed to tackle was sidewalk accessibility. In the past, sidewalks were designed by people who didn't understand the difficulties faced by those with disabilities. For example, sidewalks were designed without curb ramps making it impossible for someone using a wheelchair to access the sidewalk. Now, requirements for curb ramps at street crossings are applied throughout the city.
Accessibility must keep up with ever-changing advances in technology and new standards. Forward thinking and collaboration with others is required to identify appropriate solutions. CDOT continues to serve as a leader in the effort to create and maintain public rights of way accessible to all users.
The Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) incorporates accessibility in the design of all its facilities. Rail stations and platforms are just some of the facilities with accessibility features that may be overlooked, but the features found at these stations provide customers with tools that make using the LYNX Blue Line easier. Some of the features are between car barriers, accessible paths, tactile warning strips, and tactile and braille signs. Many of the accessibility features are subtle but they make navigating within the Blue Line stations easier and safer for everyone.
General Services manages our city-owned facilities and capital improvement program projects. In city facilities there have been upgrades to signage, restrooms and egress pathways to ensure accessibility for all. Following approval of the ADA Transition Plan, nonstructural facility modifications are expected to be made, prioritizing the most public-facing facility locations. Achieving ADA compliance through scheduling and budgeting is the primary focus of the planning phase of facility implementation. A facility improvement plan will guide the modification of programs and facilities over the next several years.
The facility improvement program will focus on:
- Identifying physical barriers in city facilities that limit the accessibility of its programs, activities, or services to individuals with disabilities.
- A detailed outline of the methods to be used to remove these barriers and meet standards and accessibility regulations.
- Required structural modifications and a schedule for complying with Title II of the ADA.
- The most critical accessible egress paths.
- Accessible signage.
Web accessibility has been moving forward in a very positive way and the ADA Transition Plan will help the city's website become compliant with the federal guidelines. The concept of web or digital accessibility is simple: If you make something accessible for one person, you must make it accessible for all. The website the city's biggest digital property. Residents see all pages as belonging together as one city entity, so accessibility changes must be applied across all departments and pages. Here are some of the web design improvements:
- Web links are bold, and when a user is hovering or tabbing, they will be highlighted. This helps people who are colorblind.
- Phone numbers use dots instead of dashes. This will allow a screen reader to read the number as someone would speak it. For example, 704 with dashes would read "seven hundred four" instead of "seven, zero, four."
- Eliminating links with phrases like "click" and "click here," which aren't descriptive in letting someone know where the link is going.
- Buttons have a new look, with a focus when hovering.
- Adding closed captioning and transcriptions for all videos on the website or linking to YouTube.
This month, an update on the final ADA Transition Plan will be presented to the City Council on July 11. The ADA Transition Plan lays out steps the city needs to take to make its services, facilities, and infrastructure more accessible according to federal standards.
We are also celebrating the anniversary of the signing of the ADA with a joint city-county proclamation on July 6 and July 11.
Learn more about the city's ADA program.