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Jacksonville, Alabama Sets Plan to Comply with Federal Disability Standards

January 12, 2016
Source: Anniston Star, AL

The City Council on Monday adopted a plan that would make the town more user-friendly for people with disabilities.

The plan, which in 82 pages includes recommendations for infrastructural adjustments to 52 city streets and 26 city-maintained facilities, is intended to keep Jacksonville compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Passed in 1990, the act identifies steps local governments must take in order to prevent discrimination on the basis of disability, including forming “a transition plan” — like the one Jacksonville now has in place.

The plan comes six months after the Alabama Department of Transportation notified the Anniston-based East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission that member municipalities — being Jacksonville, Anniston, Oxford, Hobson City, Weaver and urban portions of the county — needed to provide documentation showing compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The notification implies that municipalities may not be eligible for federal funding without up-to-date transition plans.

Jack Plunk, a principal planner with the East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission, said some of those member municipalities hadnt updated their transition plans since the 1990s. Jacksonvilles hadnt been updated since 1993, according to city Administrator Jarrod Simmons.

“You dont have to immediately fix things,” Plunk said over the phone Monday. “But you do have to put in place a plan that will provide services in alternative ways or start about identifying ways to repair things.

“More and more, our citizens are aging,” he added. “The baby boomers are getting older and theyre increasingly using walkers and canes and some in wheelchairs. This is a way to make sure were not discriminating against them.”

Jacksonvilles transition plan, drawn up by city planning and development director Mark Stephens, introduces a procedure through which people can file complaints to the city alleging discrimination on the basis of discrimination and also submit requests for special services.

Recommendations for street modifications all regard adding sidewalks and curb ramps. Solutions are listed for all included city facilities, including installing automatic door openers at city hall; reconstructing ramps at the public library; adding parking space signage at the senior citizens center; and renovating bathrooms. City Hall had the longest list of to-dos.

All projects are listed as having “unknown” estimated costs and estimated completions that are “subject to available funding.”

“I dont know if theres anything I would consider major,” Stephens said, when asked if any project needed immediate attention.

Mayor Johnny Smith said the city would address street and facility recommendations on a priority basis, with projects being done first at sites that are used more or at sites that residents perceive as needing attention.

“Theres some things we may need to fix now and some we can wait long term, but at least having that plan we can having something to go back to,” he said. “Its a good thing for us. We may not have done it if it wasnt required, but its probably good for us to have it.”

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