Jacksonville settles with feds on ADA violations

Original estimates showed building, sidewalk upgrades costing $37 million


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The U.S. Justice Department has agreed to settle with the city of Jacksonville over dozens violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act at city buildings and property.

The agreement was reached under Project Civic Access, the Justice Department's initiative to ensure that cities, towns and counties throughout the country comply with the ADA.

"Together, we are taking significant steps to ensure accessibility by focusing on accountability and responsibility," said Mayor Alvin Brown. "I'm encouraged by the teamwork and support that we've enjoyed with the Justice Department and many other stakeholders so that our public buildings can be used and enjoyed by all in our community."

The agreement requires the city to correct deficiencies identified at the 64 facilities, as well as to review and correct identified deficiencies at non-surveyed facilities. The agreement will remain in effect for five years and the Department of Justice will monitor the city's compliance with the agreement.

"Access to your city is a basic civil right, and the doors to government programs, services and activities must be open for people with disabilities," said Eve L. Hill, with the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. "I commend the city of Jacksonville for its commitment that all people have full access to what the city has to offer."

In February, city General Counsel Cindy Laquidara said the city would make changes at places like the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, City Hall, the downtown library and Metropolitan Park. The city said they will also be repairing a lot of sidewalks that are in desperate need of repair.

"It has been an unwieldy process because with such a large city, we have 3,200 miles of sidewalks and 400-something buildings that have to be reviewed," said Laquidara in February.

The document outlining the settlement does not list a cost for upgrades to make all public access in Jacksonville ADA compliant, but original estimates were that Jacksonville taxpayers would ultimately pay $37 million, but the city only has $5.6 million budgeted through 2015.

"In past years, the city has failed to ensure the work has been in compliance with ADA," Laquidara said. "There's nothing you can do about that except fix those past years, and put a process in for solving it in the future."

People interested in finding out more about the ADA, the agreement with the city of Jacksonville can access the ADA webpage or call the toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (TDD 800-514-0383).