Disability Education Awareness For Municipalities (DEAM)
While municipalities may be well intended, the lack of awareness and subsequent poor response to the needs of citizens with disabilities is rampant. The base of this is accessibility, hiring practices, department specific understanding (i.e., police, emergency services), program options (i.e. recreation, parks), and employee education. This does not mean that employees and elected officials do not care and are not willing to learn, but it is a reflection of today’s society and the lack of knowledge to what is NOT being done to bring equity to the disability community. This is oftentimes discriminatory (unknowingly) and, quite possibly, a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). United States Department of Justice audits in WNY have cited the City of Niagara Falls and Chautauqua County for non-compliance. Baiting municipalities into responding appropriately is not the goal. If communities take the threat of DOJ citations seriously, DAT will help the municipality to be proactive so as to avoid any greater issues.