The Self-Evaluation is a comprehensive report that outlines the barriers to programs for people with disabilities as they seek to use local government services and programs. It is drafted by the state or local government in collaboration and review of a sample user group of people with disabilities. It includes a transition plan of architectural and administrative barriers to programs that need to be removed in order to make the program accessible. It establishes a timeline for barrier removal over a three year time frame.
The Self-Evaluation does not require that all architectural barriers be removed; it requires that all programs be accessible (whatever that might entail). If no modifications can be made to make the program accessible (i.e., relocating the program to an accessible location, service at home, or service at an accessible location) then architectural barriers need to be removed to make the program accessible.
In order for a state or local government to manage efficiently the removal of barriers, a prioritization of programmatic barrier removal should be identified.
Program access is a wrinkle in the Title II regulations that allow the state or local government to do whatever they must do in order to make goods and services accessible. Program access is a feature state and local governments can use for as long as they need it. That said, in a facility alteration or new construction all the features of a facility and the programs in them must be accessible to, and usable by, people with disabilities. Program access is not available in new construction or alteration because it is expected that new or upgraded facilities will meet the access requirements of the ADA.
It is important to note that the transition plan is designed to identify architectural barriers to programs. For instance, if you have a city government that owns 20 buildings built in the 1940's, and half of them have architectural barriers that prevent participation in the programs, a transition plan will need to be developed to outline how and when in the following three years (from the time of the self-evaluation) programmatic barriers will be eliminated. This was to have been initiated and accomplished by July 26th, 1995. If this has not been done it still needs to be done. If a complaint is filed with the Department of Justice, any consent decree initiated by DOJ will require a Self-Evaluation be done. It is also one of the first documents the Department of Justice asks for in the course of complaint investigation.
The Self-Evaluation Report
Generally a survey or review of the different programs that are a part of the state or local government is compiled to analyze and identify programmatic, architectural, and administrative barriers to programs. A questionnaire circulated among all divisions of a state or local government is generally the easiest way to get a systemic picture or snapshot of the program delivery for each aspect of a covered state or local government department.
The questionnaire should be based upon the Title II regulations. Different versions of the Self-Evaluation Report have been used depending on the specific government program. i.e. University, state or local government, etc. Samples can be found here.
An ADA Self-Evaluation Committee (made up of people with disabilities and members of government agency) meets and analyzes the completed survey results. This committee prioritizes the issue of compliance in programs with barriers serving people with disabilities.
After the analysis and problem resolution of identified programmatic barriers by a group of concerned citizens with disabilities is finished, a report is written and made available to the public or federal investigators for review. This report will serve as a demonstration of good faith to comply with the access requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
• Included in this aspect are examples about how they will handle requests for modification of policy and procedure from people with disabilities. In addition, information about what resources they will use should be included.
• A facilities survey identifying the architectural barriers for deaf, blind, and mobility challenged citizens should be initiated. If the ADA Self-Evaluation Committee identifies programs that need architectural barrier removal in order to be accessible, they should prioritize which barriers need to be addressed first. This then becomes the transition plan and the government entity has three years to remove barriers on this list.
• A list of the programs reviewed during the self-evaluation should be included.
• Identification of facilities surveyed and what facilities were not audited and why.
As you can see, depending on the size of the state or local government agency, this can be a big undertaking. This is why the ADA requires the appointment of a responsible person to coordinate these activities.
The unique feature of this requirement is that there is no formula that has to be followed to accomplish this. This allows each state and local government to create a game they can win within the confines of the time lines and administrative requirements, and with the involvement of people with disabilities. For example, though both the state of Alaska and the state of Hawaii wrote Self-Evaluations, neither state set in motion a plan to mimic the other but they both met the requirements of Title II and are considered to have met their administrative requirements under the ADA.
Does this have to be done on a regular basis?
Although the obligation to engage in barrier removal is clearly a continuing duty, the Department has declined to establish any independent requirement for an annual assessment or self-evaluation. However, even in the absence of an explicit regulatory requirement for periodic self-evaluations, the Department still urges state or local governments to establish procedures for an ongoing assessment of their compliance with the ADA's barrier removal requirements.
The Department recommends that this process include appropriate consultation with individuals with disabilities or organizations representing them. A serious effort at self-assessment and consultation can diminish the threat of litigation and save resources by identifying the most efficient means of providing required access.