The Metropolitan Council is undertaking a comprehensive evaluation of the accessibility of its services and facilities to people with physical restrictions on their mobility.
Such limitations may result from the use of a wheelchair, because of sight or hearing limitations, or other disabilities not faced by the able-bodied.
Included in the evaluation is a look at Council facilities at 400 locations across the metro area including offices, treatment plants, transit garages, and other transit facilities.
Residents were invited to participate in the evaluation by taking a survey; 434 responded during August and September.
"This self-evaluation is not only a requirement of the Council, but work that we are eager to move forward to improve accessibility," said ADA & Title VI Administrator Guthrie Byard, who is coordinating the work. "Our region simply cannot thrive if we as a public agency do not ensure greater access to our programs and services. This work is core to our mission."
Goal is to bring Council into complete compliance with ADA
By year's end, the self-evaluation will result in a transition plan that will address the barriers that need to be fixed to bring the Council into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the federal law passed in 1990 that prohibits discrimination based on disability.
While much work has been done over many years addressing accessibility at Council facilities, this systematic approach per the ADA will help Council leaders see the whole landscape at once and will lead to a priority list of fixes, Byard said.
Byard pointed out that Metro Transit has been addressing accessibility issues for many years, especially at high-volume transit facilities like park-and-rides and the most popular bus routes. Newer transit facilities, including both light rail lines, were designed to meet current accessibility standards, though upgrades have also been made.
Nearly all of the Council’s public facilities have already been studied since the self-evaluation began in June by the respected accessibility vendor JQP, Inc., of Minneapolis, with the month of September set aside for reviews at wastewater treatment facilities.
Among the areas being evaluated are doorways, elevators, stairways, bathrooms, conference rooms, steps and curbs, parking lots, parking spaces, and much more.
Byard said the work addresses accessibility and compliance issues impacting both the general public who use Council facilities and Council employees who work at each facility.
The self-evaluation also will review all Council policies and procedures with an eye on accessibility. An important topic that many public agencies like the Council are facing is policies on service animals, making the distinction between what is allowed under the ADA and what is a pet or emotional support animal.
The self-evaluation of physical barriers is part of a larger accessibility initiative that also includes digital accessibility of its websites, electronic documents, and mobile applications.
This story was updated on September 17, 2019 to remove the link to the survey.