A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n Report on the Section 504 Self-Evaluation - May 1996

Office for Civil Rights

Overview

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces Federal statutes and regulations that prohibit discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in education programs receiving Federal financial assistance. OCR conducts investigations of allegations of discrimination filed against recipients of Federal funds, provides technical assistance, and negotiates to secure voluntary compliance with civil rights statutes and regulations. If necessary, OCR will bring administrative enforcement proceedings to secure compliance. OCR also conducts research and surveys on civil rights and equity issues and develops policies and regulations in these areas.

OCR is located in the Mary E. Switzer Building in Washington, D.C. and also has staff in all ten Regional Offices.

OCR Evaluation: Program Accessibility

The Section 504 Self-Evaluation provided an opportunity to highlight those areas in which persons with disabilities might be excluded from activities or programs of OCR, despite OCR's current efforts to ensure equal physical and communications access. Additionally, the evaluation focused attention on those areas where staff are aware that policy and/or programmatic change might be necessary to ensure such access.

Documents in alternative formats are currently made available to staff and customers on a case-by-case basis. However, official OCR documents do not always inform customers with disabilities that they can be accommodated on request. OCR documents may not be readily available in alternative formats; availability varies from region to region. Information is made available on an ad hoc basis when requested. In general, at meetings, conferences, and technical assistance presentations, accommodations are provided when requested in advance. Trainers need advance notification of the accessibility needs of the participant.

Software is being purchased for an electronic library, under development, which will make the contents of the library accessible to visually impaired staff who are on line to the Department's computer network and to customers with access to a computer with a modem. Additionally, two visually impaired employees in Region X are having their computers reconfigured so that cc:mail will be accessible through their adaptive software.

Region I and headquarters staff with disabilities are dissatisfied with their emergency evacuation procedures. Region I is working with the General Services Administration and headquarters staff is working with the Department's Health and Safety Committee to address these concerns.

Currently, reasonable accommodations have been provided to all OCR staff who requested them. To ensure consistency of reasonable accommodations throughout OCR, the Office is in the process of creating a reasonable accommodation equipment inventory and drafting a memorandum to staff and managers clearly stating the procedures for requesting and providing reasonable accommodation.

For customers, the individual is asked what is needed to accommodate their disability. Whenever possible, the request is honored; sometimes an effective alternative means of communication is explored. Most problems occur when the individual with a disability is not clear about what is needed.

In general, sign language interpreters, TTYs, and paper and pencil are communication tools that are available to customers and the general public. However, interpreters are not available on an immediate basis and TTY numbers are not consistently listed in publications or with Directory Assistance. OCR plans to have TTY numbers typed on appropriate documents. Few videos are closed captioned.

Existing Auxiliary Aids and Services

Specific OCR Services

Braille Printers
Available from the Department

TTYs
Available within the Principal Office (availability may vary across Regional and Headquarters offices)

Commonly Available Services

All Principal Offices have available the following auxiliary aids and services: Large Print, Sign Language, Interpreters, Paper and Pen, and the Federal Information Relay System (FIRS). This Principal Office recognized its ability to provide the following:
Sign Language Interpreters
Available within Principal Office (availability may vary across Regional and Headquarters offices)

Paper and Pen
Available within Principal Office (availability may vary across Regional and Headquarters offices)

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