The following is a guest post from Carlos Santiago, a legal blogger for sennettlaw.com
In an effort to improve compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the city of West Lafayette, Indiana, is looking for ways to improve ease of access to the city's infrastructure for citizens with disabilities. Dennis Johnson, the city's mayor, recently introduced a draft of some of the city's plans for updating roads, sidewalks, and public buildings in order to increase compliance with federal requirements, but emphasized that he wanted input from the community to help better meet the needs of individuals with disabilities. Additionally, the city has hired David Meihls from ADA Consultants of Indiana to help oversee the efforts and propose additional improvements.
Improving infrastructure to help accommodate the needs of individuals with disabilities can often be more complicated than it might first appear. Aside from providing ramps and lift services, which are some of the most common forms of infrastructure accommodations, other improvements may also be necessary. Issues such as increasing the ease with which doors can be opened, improving bathroom facilities, and other measures are equally necessary to ensure that individuals with disabilities do not suffer what is essentially a form of discrimination by being unintentionally excluded from public services.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was, of course, originally implemented in order to ensure that this type of discrimination would be prevented in the future, and to this day it remains the most effective means of ensuring that individuals with disabilities are able to enjoy all of the benefits of American life without any unfair burdens placed in their way. Attempts by cities such as West Lafayette to ensure compliance with the ADA are a laudable step in the right direction.
People living with disabilities face many other challenges, however. While the ADA has cleared many of the bars to employment that these individuals faced in the past, the fact of the matter remains that working is not a viable option for many with disabilities. Social welfare programs, such as the Social Security Disability Insurance program, can help to provide financial assistance to those in this type of situation. However, with increasing congressional scrutiny, those applying for these benefits may find it more difficult to get the compensation they need in the near future. A Social Security disability lawyer working on these types of cases should keep in mind the increasing pressure being placed on governmental officials to reduce improperly awarded benefits.