WRAL Investigates

Hundreds of DOT facilities violate federal law for disabled

Posted July 28, 2010

— Twenty years after the Americans with Disabilities Act mandated changes to public buildings to accommodate people with handicaps, hundreds of facilities operated by the state Department of Transportation remain out of compliance.

WRAL Investigates obtained a 48-page internal DOT report that details every violation of the ADA found by inspectors, ranging from a lack of handicapped parking or wheelchair ramps to bathroom stalls that are too small.

Violations were found in 91 of North Carolina's 100 counties and included 83 Division of Motor Vehicles driver's license offices, 100 vehicle tag offices – they are usually operated by private contractors – 30 rest areas and welcome centers and 98 other facilities, such as ferry terminals, Highway Patrol offices and administrative offices.

One of the tag offices found to be out of compliance with ADA standards is also one of only five locations in Wake County  where disabled drivers can pick up the placards that allow them to park in handicapped spaces.

The office, which is in the Holly Park Shopping Center, off Wake Forest Road in Raleigh, has no parking for people with wheelchair-accessible vans, and a cut in the curb to allow wheelchairs to get onto the sidewalk is too narrow, according to the DOT report.

"The state has a responsibility to ensure that its services are accessible," said Vicki Smith, executive director of advocacy group Disability Rights North Carolina.

Handicapped parking space and curb ramp DOT has drafted plan to make facilities ADA-compliant

If the state doesn't uphold the law, why should anyone else, Smith said.

DMV Commissioner Mike Robertson said he agrees with Smith, but he said the DOT has given each license plate agency until next January to become ADA-compliant.

"We've addressed that in our contracts," Robertson said. "They have to comply with our standard operating procedures."

Dan Johnston, the owner of the tag office in the Holly Park Shopping Center, said the property manager has told him that the center does comply with the ADA.

"At the end of the day, you've got to go back to the book and find out what it's supposed to be," Robertson said.

The DOT has drafted a 35-page plan that outlines the steps the agency plans to take to become ADA-compliant.


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  • Travised Jul 30, 2010

    Remember, the government exempted them from laws often. Sadly, this does not surprise me.

    The "requirement" for new construction to have fire and CO detectors, had a nice exemption for "government housing". I know of one structure, 25 stories, that did not have to install sprinklers. All other structures (old and new) with over 40 units were REQUIRED to retrofit so they met fire code.

    The fire code I am talking about may not be federal, but does apply where I am.

  • Slip Kid Jul 29, 2010

    As a taxpayer, I'm not keen to just fix them all. Perhaps making sure at least one office in each county/district is fully ADA and then tackle the rest with a longer term plan and budget is a better way to address the need? I agree, there is a need, but, like the global warming debate, we do not need to kill the patient to cure the disease.

  • affirmativediversity Jul 29, 2010

    Its not just the parking, its also the toilet stalls that are too small or have doors that can't close, its the aisles that are too narrow, its the doors that are too heavy (or have too much pressure on them), its the sinks that are too high with soap dishes mounted out of reach, its the customer counters that are too high and public offices that are too small, its the narrow door ways...its a lot of things. And its not just the physical barriers its the mental ones too: like try getting a job if you're in a wheelchair...doesn't matter how qualified you are or how much experience you have...bottom line you're probably NOT getting the job AND the State Government is the absolute worsed offender.

    Personally, I think they should have to remove the "disabled access" symbol from their "we are an equal opportunity employer" because THEY ARE NOT!

  • pbjbeach Jul 29, 2010

    This is just more typcial ncdot of do as i say do an not as i do . this also is anything when compared to the non-speceficaition work that is allowed to go on on highway construction project for their lack of compliance to their own state speceifciations that highway contractors are supposely to be complying with when they bid on highway construction contracts. these contractors know what is expected of them but in a large majority of thes case they intinally are faioling to comply with the ncdot state speceficiations. this is what i don understand when the state has highway inspectors that are hired to insure compliance with the states speceficiations but yet these inspectors aren being allowed to actual do an perform their jobs assigned dutys of enforcement of these state speceficiations. so i ask the question why arent they being allowed to do their jobs dutys an actual enforce the states speceficiations so as to protect the states taxpaying citizen from geting riped off by the high

  • mpheels Jul 29, 2010

    allie19, you are correct - parking tags/plates are for all people with disabilities who need to park closer to buildings b/c they can't walk across the parking lot for some reason, and/or need a spot with enough clearance for a van/lift. You do not have to have a drivers license to get a parking tag.

    I know several people who use wheelchairs who would be happy to park at the back of the lot as long as the spots were van/lift accessible. I know others with less obvious disabilities who truly need to park as close to the building as possible b/c they have just enough strength/energy to run their errands and walking across the parking lot will wear them out before they even start.

    Of course, I also know a few people who "borrow" a parking tag from an older family member as use/abuse it to save a few minutes, but they are in the minority.

  • Garnerwolf1 Jul 29, 2010

    More of your tax dollars required... While the State may well 'waste' a ton of money, there are a lot of things, such as this, they have to spend money on for which they have no control.

  • thought Jul 28, 2010

    The ADA is for all states not just NC. I am Disabled. THere are days it is bad and very noticable. THere are days you would not be able to tell. I do not have a card- I can not get one. I am fine with it. But, there are others who need it. I agre tax payers money is wasted on things like welfare.
    And as for the comment about if they don't follow the law - who will. Just think we have an immigration law that is broken evey day and the federal gov expects us to follow any law that wil get them further along.

  • affirmativediversity Jul 28, 2010

    WOW...I didn't realize there was so much animosity toward disabled people!!!

    Seriously, do you people really, I mean really, believe its okay to physically deny disabled people access to public buildings and services? Seriously?

    Here's a news flash for the "people that I see with handicapped signs in the car get around better than a lot of us" folks...those "people getting around better than you" are "get over any way they can and at anyone's expense" kind of people who could care less if ramps are available because they don't need them...they are not the people being denied access!!!!!!

  • mamabearprotectinghercub Jul 28, 2010

    The law is: North Carolina laws on afflicted, disabled or handicapped persons, found in sections 20-37.1 through 20.37.6A of Article 2A of General Statutes, provides for improved access to buildings by ensuring parking spaces are available close to building entryways. Handicapped parking laws make it easier for disabled people to more easily carry out day-to-day errands and business, often with less assistance from caregivers.
    There is a reason for this law.

  • mamabearprotectinghercub Jul 28, 2010

    Another thing is that people that are really disabled pay for there handicap plate, sticker or whatever, so they pay for it. There are some that are not disabled that are getting the handicap stickers. But that is the laws job to take care of them.