The Southwest ADA Center serves Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.
This region has a diverse population, with communities of varying cultural and national backgrounds, and people with disabilities dispersed throughout the five states in both urban and rural areas. Six of the 20 largest American cities are in Region 6, and the region is heavily invested in the health care, energy and tourism industries. The Southwest ADA Center’s main offices are located in the Texas Medical Center in Houston, Texas which happens to be the largest city in the region. In addition, affiliates are available in each of the four surrounding states to provide technical assistance, trainings and material dissemination.
The City of Houston created the Houston Transportation Accessibility Task Force for implementing an accessible private transportation system in the city. One of the task force’s main goals was to adapt local laws to the changing ways private transportation is provided, especially with the introduction of transportation network companies like Uber. The Southwest ADA Center (SWADA) provided extensive consultation and training to the task force, which recommended that within three years transportation providers either adopt a minimum number of wheelchair accessible vehicles or an average response time of less than 20 minutes. The task force also recommended mandatory disability etiquette training and accessible point of sale terminals in vehicles.
In June 2017, SWADA along with the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF) hosted a two-and-a-half-day seminar on disability and transportation. This event which was held in Houston, Texas addressed emerging issues brought on by the changing landscape of public transportation for persons with disabilities. Consumers, providers, researchers, advocates and other stakeholders took part in discussions and made recommendations on issues related to demand-responsive services. A summary report from those discussions was developed and shared publicly in the Spring of 2018. Details from the report included recommendations ranging from fixed-route and Paratransit services to the role and influence of transportation network companies. The report is available for downloading/reading at: https://www.ilru.org/sites/default/files/FODAT-report_0.pdf.
In February 2019, SWADA completed a two-year ADA Training Accessibility program for the Texas Department of Transportation’s ADA Liaisons. The program featured in-person trainings on topics including Emergency Preparedness & Inclusion of People with Disabilities (Nov. 2018), Disability Etiquette & Interacting with People with Disabilities (2017) and Common ADA Title II Issues for staff (2017). SWADA also provided training during 6 quarterly webinars to over 200 DOT ADA Liaisons and staff from across the state and focused on topics including: ADA Employment and Reasonable Accommodation Issues, Planning Accessible Meetings, Top 10 Transit Related Issues Pertaining to People with Disabilities, and Service Animals in Transportation settings (Parts 1 & 2). A final portion of the program included direct technical assistance and the development of content for use with an ADA Title II Awareness course that is used for TX DOT’s employee on-boarding process. The content is posted on the TX DOT’s Intranet in addition to archived recordings of the quarterly webinars.
Local Government Training
In February 2019, SWADA provided their second in a three part series of ADA Title II workshops for staffs of McLennan County located in Waco, Texas. These interactive workshops brought between 40 and 60 participants from across the county’s vast operations including the County's police department, jail/corrections departments, public libraries, Justice of the Peace Courts, and other divisions. Our combination learning retention and satisfaction surveys showed staff retained 91% of the information provided as well as 88% relevance of the topics as they pertained to their daily work. The third and final installment of the workshop series is scheduled for summer 2020 and will once again focus on staff and activities of police, patrol and other related law enforcement staffs. SWADA continues to provide training and technical assistance to the New Mexico ADA Coordinator’s Council as part of training program jointly developed through the New Mexico Governor’s Commission on Disability. The program, which began in late 2017, has consisted of three in-person, two day workshops with ADA coordinators and related staffs from throughout New Mexico held in Santa Fe. SWADA and its affiliates provide additional technical assistance and training on topics such as ADA Title I Reasonable Accommodations issues, Disability Awareness and Customer Service and Title II training for state & local government staff.
Focus on Criminal Justice
Through our New Mexico affiliate, SWADA completed the Americans with Disabilities Act Disability Related Access for Inmates and Visitors Guide. The guide was designed to be utilized by local, state, and federal government correctional institutions to educate facility staff regarding their obligations towards inmates and visitors with disabilities represents two years of work in partnership with officials from the NM state department of corrections and law enforcement. A session by SWADA affiliates Julie Ballinger and Melanie Thornton featuring the guide was also held during the 2019 ADA Symposium as well as a recent webinar in conjunction with our ADA National Network partner the Mid-Atlantic ADA Center.
Our Louisiana Disability Legal Resources website continues our mission of increasing access to justice for individuals with intellectual disabilities through posted materials and trainings conducted through our affiliate there the Arc of Louisiana. Several trainings have been conducted and continue to be provided to legal professionals, law enforcement and human service professionals on the rights of juveniles with disabilities in the juvenile justice system.
Training For Post-Secondary Education Institutions
In response to an increase in demand for ADA Title II related training for Post-Secondary and education institutions SWADA has provided continued outreach and training for institutions across the region. Institutions include The Texas Center for the Advancement of Literacy and Learning (TCALL) Adult Education program through Texas A&M University, system-wide training for Louisiana based Southern University Agricultural and Mechanical (SUAM) in early 2019 (300 faculty and staff), Texas AHEAD annual conferences and through our Arkansas affiliate Partners for Inclusive Communities through the University of Arkansas.
Access to Healthcare
SWADA staff has conducted several in-person and web-based trainings to health providers in the region on subjects such as service animals, disability etiquette, facility access, effective communication and others. An emerging concern in healthcare is the development of accessibility standards for medical diagnostic equipment . To curb the disparities in healthcare delivery for people with disabilities, SWADA developed a best practices toolkit for medical providers, as well as continuing efforts to provide trainings. SWADA staff provided training sessions in October 2018 during the annual Texas Indigent Health Care Association’s program of Urban Counties annual conference in San Antonio, Texas. Over 250 healthcare providers across over 60 counties, hospital districts and public hospitals attended this annual conference in 2018. Over 60 participants attended SWADA’s two sessions on “ADA Accommodations for Health Care Employees” and “Interacting with Patients/Customers with Disabilities in Health Care Settings”. A specific area of interest emerged with regard to service animals in these settings which led to additional requests for technical assistance and training on behalf of entities that attended our sessions.
SWADA continues to collaborate with the American Institutes for Research to address the employment barriers of individuals diagnosed with cancer. This project strives to improve employment outcomes for individuals after they have received a cancer diagnosis and uses strategies such as education and screening to help healthcare staff identify eligible participants for Vocational Rehabilitation.
The Southwest ADA Center and the Great Lakes ADA Center provide a monthly ADA Legal Webinar Series that covers a variety of topics including employment, website accessibility and higher education. SWADA also partners with the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America Catalyst Project to provide periodic webinars on assistive technology. Since 2018 the Southwest region has seen a steady increase in demand for ADA Title II related technical assistance and training for Post-Secondary Institutions. SWADA completed a two year training endeavor with the Texas Center for the Advancement of Literacy & Learning (TCALL) program of the Texas Research-based Adult Instruction Network based at Texas A&M University. The collaborative program focused on webinars addressing various ADA Title II issues of program providers, staffs and subcontractors. Topics included planning accessible webinars and meetings, creating accessible materials and documents, Effective Communication Obligations of providers in content and programming, service animals and understanding and avoiding reasonable accommodations pitfalls in program provisions. The webinars were recorded and have been posted on their Learning Management platform for use among staff. A series of post-questions were also developed for each webinar designed to measure learning for staff use with the archived versions. SWADA continues to provide the TCALL program with technical assistance and receives periodic progress reports related to the posted webinars within their online Learning Management System.
Improving Access for Service Animal Users
In order to gain a better understanding of emerging issues experienced by service animal users, SWADA developed and disseminated a survey to people with disabilities about their service animal and their experiences accessing public places. Afterwards SWADA convened groups of service animal users and representatives from key service industries to engage in deliberative dialogues. The results of those dialogues along with identified barriers and recommendations from stakeholders were published in a report released in February 2020. The report is available at: https://www.ilru.org/serviceanimalreport.