Bellefonte Borough has agreed to provide services including a sign-language interpreter for individuals with hearing disabilities at all public meetings as part of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice.

A resident with a hearing disability filed a complaint with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania alleging the borough violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by not providing her with with an auxiliary aide during an in-person council meeting, nor having an interpreter for a recorded broadcast of the meeting, U.S. Attorney Gerard M. Karam said in a news release on Friday.

The borough also did not have a process for individuals with disabilities to request accommodations, a way to file complaints about accessibility or an ADA coordinator.

After an investigation with the borough’s cooperation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office civil rights coordinator found the complaint had merit and Bellefonte agreed to a settlement .

In addition to ensuring proper auxiliary aides and services, including qualified sign-language interpreters, are made available at in-person meetings, the borough must have an in-frame American Sign Language interpreter on broadcasts and recordings of meetings.

Bellefonte also agreed to identify an ADA coordinator, provide notice on how to contact the coordinator and establish an ADA complaint process.

“The right to participate, attend or watch public local government meetings is a fundamental right in a democracy, and those with hearing disabilities cannot be excluded,” Karam said. “This agreement ensures that individuals with disabilities in the borough will now have an ADA coordinator who can answer questions, accept accommodations requests like auxiliary aides for council meetings and receive disability complaints.”

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