Response to threat of lawsuit from ACLU is swift and sweepingWestmoreland County, VA – In response to the threat of a lawsuit from the ACLU of Virginia, the Westmoreland County Board of Supervisors yesterday adopted a plan to make county buildings fully accessible for disabled persons.
On March 22, the ACLU sent a letter to Westmoreland officials warning that that the lack of a ramp to the Clerk of the Court’s office, located in the old courthouse, and other barriers to accessibility in the new courthouse violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Prior to the ACLU’s letter, Westmoreland officials had been publicly criticized by disability rights advocates for spending $140,000 for new judge’s chambers, also located in the old courthouse, but not adding ramps to make the building accessible to disabled persons.
The ACLU also learned that county officials had been aware of the ADA violations for several years and had been communicating with the Virginia Office of Advocacy and Protection, but had still taken no steps to correct the situation.
Within two days of sending its letter, the ACLU received assurances from Westmoreland’s attorney that the Clerk’s office and the courthouse would be brought into compliance with disability law.
But Westmoreland went far beyond the ACLU’s demands, and before the end of March the county had hired engineering and architectural consultants to inspect the six main county buildings for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The consultants found 323 violations, and yesterday the Board of Supervisors appropriated $89,000 to make all six buildings fully accessible to disabled persons.
The only building escaping inspection was the county’s museum, which is being expanded and will be presumably brought into compliance when the work is completed.
“Westmoreland should be congratulated for moving so swiftly to bring county buildings into compliance with the ADA after we threatened to file suit,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. “They showed remarkable nimbleness for a governmental entity.”
“But when all is said and done” added Willis, “county officials should be wearing badges of dishonor for having ignored for years the pleas of disabled persons in their community and even the office of the state set up to advocate for disability rights.”
Contact: Kent Willis, Office: 804/644-8022