FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 23, 2009
Contact: HHS Press Office
Alaska to Ensure Individuals with Disabilities Have Equal Access to Transportation Services at Anchorage Pioneer Home
HHS’ Office for Civil Rights and Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Sign Settlement Agreement
A licensed assisted living facility for Alaska seniors has modified its transportation policies and practices to better accommodate qualified individuals with disabilities, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS). As a result of the settlement agreement entered today among the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR), DHSS and the Anchorage Pioneer Home (APH), residents with disabilities will now have equal access to APH’s transportation services.
The settlement agreement will bring DHSS and APH into compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Section 504 requires state and local governments to ensure that qualified individuals with disabilities have equal access to programs, services, or activities receiving federal financial assistance. Title II of the ADA extends the prohibition against disability discrimination to state and local governments who do not receive federal financial assistance.
DHSS owns and operates APH, a licensed assisted living facility for seniors, 65 years of age or older. Serving more than 160 Alaska residents, APH provides care at three different levels: Level I (independent); Level II (basic assistance); and Level III (24-hour care for Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders).
“To participate fully and effectively in community life, individuals with disabilities must be afforded an equal opportunity to access transportation services,” said Acting OCR Director Robinsue Frohboese. “The HHS Office for Civil Rights will continue its vigorous enforcement of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities.”
The settlement resolves an administrative complaint filed with OCR against DHSS and APH. After investigating the complaint, OCR issued a Jan. 16, 2009, letter detailing its finding. In part, OCR found that DHSS had violated Section 504 and Title II of the ADA, by declining to consider a legitimate request for a reasonable modification to its policies to enable an APH resident with Alzheimer’s disease to use APH’s transportation services for medical appointments.
Under the settlement, APH will consider individual requests for reasonable modifications to its transportation policies and practices to ensure that APH residents with disabilities are afforded an equal opportunity to access transportation services. If, after an individualized assessment, an APH resident, who is a qualified individual with a disability, is determined to need an escort to access and benefit from APH transportation services, APH will provide an escort at no cost.
“We are pleased to have reached an amicable settlement with HHS on this case,” said Dave Cote, director of the Alaska Pioneers Homes. “We have long voluntarily offered escorted transport services in all our small communities. This brings that service into the far larger Anchorage area. We constantly strive to improve our services and our residents’ quality of life, and this settlement is consistent with those efforts.”
OCR, DHSS and APH have worked together to establish the following objectives under the agreement:
- DHSS reaffirmed its legal responsibility to ensure that no qualified individual with a disability is discriminated against in any DHSS service, program, or activity.
- DHSS reaffirmed its legal responsibility to not retaliate against any person for opposing discrimination under Section 504 or Title II of the ADA, or participating in an investigation under those laws.
- APH agreed to appoint a senior staff person to coordinate its compliance efforts under Section 504 and Title II of the ADA; provide additional staff training on preventing disability discrimination; publish a notice informing its residents and their guardians of their rights and responsibilities under these laws; and publish grievance procedures for handling disability discrimination complaints.
- APH agreed to implement a revised transportation policy to ensure that its residents with disabilities, who are eligible to receive transportation services, are afforded an equal opportunity to participate in APH’s transportation program.
A copy of the OCR letter of finding and the settlement agreement, along with more information about OCR’s civil rights enforcement activities, can be found at www.hhs.gov/ocr/civilrights/activities/agreements/.
Individuals who believe they have been discriminated against because of their race, color, national origin, disability, age, sex or religion by a health care or human services provider (such as a hospital, nursing home, or social service agency) or by a state or local government health or human services agency, may file a complaint with OCR. Additional information is available at 1-800-368-1019 or on OCR’s Web site at www.hhs.gov/ocr/civilrights/complaints/.
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Last revised: May 7, 2011