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The Americans with Disabilities Act

The year 2000, in addition to its many other distinctions, will be celebrated by many people as the 10th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and as the year the Morris Post Office became handicapped accessible. Since its passage by Congress in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act has helped people with disabilities engage in everyday activities like eating in a restaurant, visiting a public library, or buying an item in a store.

The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment. It requires that all government services (including schools and parks) be open and accessible to people with disabilities. It guarantees that goods and services be offered equally to all. (Most types of businesses, regardless of size, are covered by the law.) The intent of the law is to give people with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in the mainstream of public life offered to all Americans.

One of the goals of the ADA is to remove barriers that make it hard for the handicapped, the elderly, and other people to use facilities. Creating convenient parking stalls, providing curb cuts in sidewalks, providing alternatives to stairs, changing entrances so they have appropriate door hardware, upgrading restrooms, and lowering the height of public telephones are all examples of removing barriers. The universal accessibility achieved by the ADA through ramps, level thresholds, and elevators help the elderly and parents pushing strollers, as well as the handicapped.

In Morris, the effects of the ADA are visible in:
  • curb cuts in the sidewalks in the central business district and in residential areas
  • handicapped parking stalls downtown, at schools and churches, and at many businesses
  • handicapped-accessible transit buses
  • new doors and bathroom renovations at the Morris Public Library
  • a new handicapped-accessible entrance at the Morris Post Office.
The University of Minnesota, Morris, has established an Office of Disability Services and has been installing elevators and making other changes in campus buildings to make the campus more accessible.

To help businesses comply with the ADA, Congress has established tax credits and deductions that can be used to offset many costs of providing access. Technical assistance on ADA compliance is available from many sources including the City of Morris (589-3141) and the State of Minnesota (at 651-297-2920 or www.disability.state.mn.us). The federal government has an ADA Guide for Small Businesses and a Tax Incentive Packet, as well as other help, available at 800-514-0301 or www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/adahom1.htm.




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