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United States of America v. The International Spy Museum - Settlement Agreement

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4.  The Museum, developed by a private entity, The Malrite Company, is located at 800 F Street, N.W., in the District of Columbia. According to the Museum, it is the only public museum in the world solely dedicated to the tradecraft, history, and contemporary role of espionage. The Museum claims that its permanent exhibits feature the largest collection of international espionage artifacts ever placed on public display -- many for the first time. These artifacts, combined with historic photographs, are displayed in innovative formats including state-of-the-art audio visual programs, computer interactive displays and special effects. The Museum's operations include a museum, a restaurant, auditoriums, and a museum shop and affect commerce. Accordingly, the Museum is a place of public accommodation covered by title III of the ADA. 42 U.S.C. §§ 12181(7)(B), (D), (E), (H).

5.  Under title III, the Museum must ensure that no individual with a disability is discriminated against on the basis of a disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the Museum's goods, services and facilities. 42 U.S.C. § 12182; 28 C.F.R § 36.201. Title III also requires the Museum to remove barriers to access in existing facilities where it is readily achievable to do so. Any new construction or alteration to any buildings or facilities including exhibitions, must be made in such a manner that those buildings or facilities meet the requirements of title III of the ADA. 42 U.S.C. § 12183; 28 C.F.R. §§ 36.401, 36.402.

6.  The Museum is housed in a block of five historic buildings that were extensively renovated between 2001 and 2002 and is, therefore, covered by the alterations provisions of title III. 42 U.S.C. § 12183(a)(2); 28 C.F.R. § 36.402. Under title III, any alterations to a place of public accommodation, such as a museum, after January 26, 1992, shall be made to ensure that, to the maximum extent feasible, the altered portions of the facility are readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use wheelchairs. 42 U.S.C. §§ 12181(7)(H), 12183(a)(2); 28 C.F.R. § 36.402.

7.  Public accommodations, including those which own, lease or operate museums, are also required to provide full and equal enjoyment of the "goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations" in the most integrated setting appropriate to individuals with disabilities. 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(1)(B); 28 C.F.R. § 36.203. To do so, an entity must:

a.  Ensure that no individual with a disability is discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of its services and facilities, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12182 - 12183;

b.  Modify policies, practices, and procedures in order to afford access to services and facilities to individuals with disabilities, unless making such modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of such services and facilities, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12182(a), 12182(b)(2)(A)(ii);

c.  Remove architectural barriers in its existing facilities where such removal is readily achievable, 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(iv);

d.  Ensure that all of its newly constructed or altered buildings and facilities, including exhibitions, are readily accessible and usable by individuals with disabilities as required by the ADA regulations 42 U.S.C. § 12183(a); See 28 C.F.R. Part 36, Appendix A (the ADA Standards for Accessible Design ("Standards"));

e.  Ensure that the content of its exhibits, public programs, and other offerings are accessible and effectively communicated to individuals with disabilities making, where necessary, appropriate auxiliary aids and services available to ensure effective communication to individuals with hearing and vision impairments unless taking such steps would fundamentally alter the nature of the content of such exhibits, public programs and offerings or result in an undue burden. 42 U.S.C. § 12182(b)(2)(A)(iii).

8.  The ADA authorizes the Department to investigate any complaint alleging the Museum's failure to provide full and equal enjoyment of its goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations in an integrated setting to individuals with disabilities. 42 U.S.C. §§ 12182 - 12183, 12188(b)(1)(A)(i).

9.  The ADA also requires the Department to conduct periodic compliance reviews of public accommodations. 42 U.S.C. § 12188(b)(1)(A)(i).

10.  The Department is further authorized to commence a civil action in a United States district court if it is unable to secure voluntary compliance in any case that involves a pattern or practice of discrimination or that raises issues of general public importance and to seek injunctive relief, monetary damages, and civil penalties. 42 U.S.C. §§ 12188(b)(1)(B), 12188(b)(2).

11.  The Department, with the cooperation of the Museum, investigated Mr. Byington's complaint and conducted a compliance review of the Museum's accessibility to individuals with disabilities under title III and the Department's implementing regulation, 28 C.F.R. Part 36.

12.  As a result of the concerns raised by the Department, the Museum has engaged in some innovative efforts to offer individuals with disabilities equal access to its exhibits, programs and activities.


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