April 16, 2024

City to Improve Disability Access Through Department of Justice Veterans Access Initiative

Over the next three years, the City of Virginia Beach plans to make improvements for individuals with disabilities to access City services, facilities and information.

The City has taken great strides to provide access pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) since the federal law was enacted in 1990. After enactment, the City performed a self-evaluation and undertook alterations and adjustments to meet or exceed accessibility standards. For instance, the City identified a Citywide ADA Coordinator and adopted an ADA Grievance Procedure through which citizens can report complaints and concerns. The Mayor’s Committee for Persons with Disabilities was also created to increase awareness, develop policies and ensure accessibility in the City. While the City’s efforts have continued since the ‘90s, the City is now looking to enhance accessibility to City services, facilities and information through an agreement with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and its Veterans Access Initiative.

The Veterans Access Initiative works with communities that have large populations of veterans with disabilities to ensure they have equal access to local government programs, services and facilities. Virginia Beach, which is home to more than 55,000 veterans, was selected for collaboration in 2018.

“Virginia Beach is committed to eliminating barriers for all residents, and especially our military veterans, who have contributed so much to our country and our community,” said City Manager Patrick Duhaney. “Over the next several years, we ask City staff, residents and visitors to work with us as we increase access to the world-class services the City offers.”

City leaders and the Department of Justice have identified four key focus areas for the City: 

  • City facility improvements
  • Sidewalks and curb cut improvements
  • Web-based services and program improvements
  • Updated Emergency Operations Plan

While the City Council authorized City Manager Patrick Duhaney to sign the agreement at its April 16 meeting, the City already has begun some improvements identified in the plan, such as addressing ADA needs in 11 buildings, adding dedicated Capital Improvement Program (CIP) funds to ensure buildings remain ADA compliant, continuing to ensure all new intersections with street-level pedestrian walkways have curb ramps, and designating and training staff on Internet accessibility. In addition, policies are in place to ensure that people with disabilities have input into the policies and plans, as well as providing input to departments regarding accessibility concerns.

What the City will do next: 

  • Hire an independent licensed architect (ILA) knowledgeable in ADA to certify facility improvement efforts. 
  • Provide training for City staff. 
  • Identify facilities with multiple entrances that are not all accessible, certify that signs are installed at all inaccessible entrances to show the direction of accessible entrances, survey all facilities not reviewed by DOJ, and propose recommendations to DOJ for correction plans. 
  • Finalize an ADA ramp condition assessment/compliance report.  
  • Provide or repair curb ramps at all intersections of streets, if not in place or discovered not to meet guidelines, within 24 months. 
  • Create a policy for staff to follow requiring all web-based content to be ADA compliant. 
  • Train website content personnel on how to ensure all web content and services comply with the ADA. 
  • Update the Emergency Operations Plan to provide statements that emergency services be provided in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of individuals with disabilities and specific procedures to ensure integration; community evacuation plans to enable people with disabilities to self-evacuate safely or be evacuated by others; requirement that emergency shelters have a back-up generator and allow people to remain with service animals; and equivalent opportunities for post-emergency temporary shelter.

Questions may be directed to the City’s ADA Coordinator Raymond Mattes at 757-385-8190 or email adacoordinator@vbgov.com. To learn more about City resources for accessibility, visit virginiabeach.gov/accessibleVB.

Contact Information

Keep Reading

See All Posts