There are significant safety risks for people with disabilities in the US Capitol and Congressional buildings, a new report out tomorrow from the Office of Compliance concludes.
The findings show that most curb ramps on Capitol grounds were not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and most of the identified barriers posed a safety risk for people with disabilities.
The report, of the annual State of the Congressional Workplace report for FY 2011, identifies numerous ramps or sidewalks on Capitol grounds that "could cause wheelchairs to flip backwards or fall sideways."
Inspections were made of sidewalks and curb ramps surrounding the Cannon, Longworth and Rayburn House Office Buildings, finding 154 barriers to access under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-84 barriers pose safety risks to people with disabilities; 26 barriers block access; and 44 barriers are major inconveniences.
Approximately 93 percent of the curb ramps on the sidewalks surrounding the House office buildings are not in compliance with ADA Accessibility standards and 71 percent of these raise safety concerns.
In addition, a random inspection of six restrooms in Senate and House Buildings found that none of them met ADA standards.
The Office of Compliance says identifying this is a problem is helpful toward a solution.
"By providing information to Congress and the Architect of the Capitol about the nature and location of the access barriers, and how to remove them, we hope to improve the safety of exterior pathways for people with disabilities," said Barbara L. Camens, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Office of Compliance (OOC).
The report notes that that budget cuts have hampered the office's ability to conduct wall-to-wall safety and health inspections on the Capitol Campus.
The potential downside to limiting wall-to-wall inspections is that there is no longer a comprehensive system to encourage employing offices to eliminate potential hazards. In addition, they remain concerned that district and state offices have never been inspected due to lack of OOC resources.
Another key finding of the report is the annual collection of what makes up the employment discrimination claims in the congressional workplace, showing that claims of discrimination and/or harassment have increased compared with five years ago. As in prior years, the most common alleged violations of discrimination and harassment based on a protected trait such as sex, race, age, and/or disability.