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ART’s Phone Line for Seniors, People with Disabilities Goes Down, Prompting Headaches

(Updated at 3 p.m.) Arlington Transit’s phone system to connect disabled and elderly riders to bus service has been hobbled by technical problems all week, prompting big headaches for people who rely on the program.

ART’s “Specialized Transit for Arlington Residents” service, commonly known as STAR, has been dealing with “technical difficulties” at the agency’s call center since Tuesday (June 26), according to a series of alerts sent out to riders.

The main STAR phone line hasn’t worked since then and remains down today (Friday). County transportation spokesman Eric Balliet says ART is working on the issue with service provider Verizon and even the state’s technology agency, with a temporary solution on the way.

“The temporary solution, estimated to be in place later today, will forward the main STAR number to a number provided by Red Top Cab, which dispatches service for STAR,” Balliet wrote in an email. “STAR personnel have been taking calls on this temporary line and will continue until the issue is resolved.”

The phone system is designed to connect riders who might have trouble using ART’s regular service with a scheduled, shared-ride service to take them wherever they need to go around the county. Accordingly, this week’s outages have created big problems for riders with disabilities, in particular.

ART has also dealt with a series of problems with its real-time alert service in recent weeks, not to mention a host of bus maintenance woes necessitating some service disruptions.

Photo via Facebook

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Amid Concerns, School Board Says New H-B Woodlawn Building is Inclusive of Students with Disabilities

As plans for a new building for the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program move forward, members of the Arlington Special Education Advisory Committee (ASEAC) say the design is not inclusive enough for students with disabilities.

In emails sent to the Arlington School Board, ASEAC and other groups expressed concern about a separate entrance intended for disabled students in the Stratford Program.

“The current design still appears to envision Stratford students entering the school through a separate door on the ground level of the building’s northwestern corner, next to the Stratford offices, with the main entrance being at the center of the building one level up, next to the H-B Woodlawn offices,” said a Jan. 14 email from a coalition of individuals and groups, including the Arlington Inclusion Task Force.

“Designing a building that has a separate entrance for students with significant disabilities reinforces the idea that students with disabilities are inferior, second-class citizens to be kept out of sight and out of mind,” the email continued. “Separate entrances emphasize difference, encourage isolation, and erect barriers, rather than fostering connections and providing opportunities for engagement. Separate entrances are an affront to Arlington’s inclusive values.”

The School Board responded in another email that all three entrances to the building will be accessible to all students.

The new facility, which will replace and demolish the Wilson School property in Rosslyn, has an estimated cost of around $100 million and is expected to be complete in time for the 2019-2020 school year.

ASEAC also criticized what it said was a lack of communication with community members during the design process.

“Feedback from parents, the Inclusion Task Force, and this committee appears to have had little, if any, impact on the final design. Concerns were raised and provided in writing to the School Board and APS staff in October 2015, allowing reasonable opportunity for these concerns to be accommodated,” ASEAC members wrote.

Universal Design principles, as defined by the Disability Act of 2005, were not applied to the new building and should not fall on the responsibility of parents to uphold, ASEAC said. Members called for the school to consider making the best of inclusive spaces such as the cafeteria, library and other common spaces.

In a letter, School Board Chair Barbara Kanninen said Universal Design was included throughout the design process and feedback from parents, administrators and faculty were considered throughout as well.

“We wish to confirm that design and operation of the new school on the Wilson will comply with the principles of Universal Design and inclusion and that students in the Stratford, ESOL HILT, Asperger’s and H-B Woodlawn programs will not be segregated from one another,” the School Board responded.

The full response to ASEAC, after the jump.

Thank you for writing to the School Board to share your concerns about the building design at the Wilson site.  We value your feedback on this matter and we have carefully reviewed your message.

We wish to confirm that design and operation of the new school on the Wilson will comply with the principles of Universal Design and inclusion and that students in the Stratford, ESOL HILT, Asperger’s and H-B Woodlawn programs will not be segregated from one another. Universal Design and inclusion have been addressed throughout the design process by APS staff and the architecture/engineering design team, with ongoing input from program parents, administrators and teachers.

  • All three entrances into the building from adjacent streets will be accessible and may serve all students to provide staff with multiple choices on how to manage arrival and dismissal.
  • All students will share the same library, cafeteria and clinic.
  • The main and auxiliary gymnasiums will be shared by all students; the two gymnasiums are needed to provide sufficient space for staff to schedule all physical education requirements for all students, including the three Adaptive Physical Education classes per week that are required for certain students in their IEPs.
  • Some classrooms used by students in the Stratford Program will be on the ground and first floors; classrooms for students in the ESOL HILT, Asperger’s and H-B Woodlawn programs will be distributed throughout the building.
  • All students will have access to an outdoor courtyard on the ground floor, the main field, which is accessed from the first floor, and to outdoor terraces on floors two, three, four and five.
  • Short-term reserved parking spaces will be provided for parents picking-up and dropping off students on-street, and in the adjacent parking garage, when completed.
  • The school will have four elevators, three main elevators that will serve all floors of the building and one that will serve the ground and first floors; all four elevators are sufficiently large to accommodate several different mobility devices at one time.

We are confident that when the new school on the Wilson property opens to students in 2019 it will provide innovative, agile and adaptable teaching and learning environments that will enable school administrators, teachers and staff to continue to find new ways of including students in all four programs with one another.

Information about Board action on the Final Design and Construction Award for the New School at Wilson is posted on Board Docs at http://www.boarddocs.com/vsba/arlington/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=AUWLER528046.

We appreciate the time you took to contact us.  Please continue to write to the School Board with any other concerns you may have or if you have any questions.

Sincerely,
Dr. Barbara Kanninen
School Board Chair
Arlington Public Schools

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More Than 300 APS Teachers Trained in Multi-Sensory Education to Combat Dyslexia

More than 300 Arlington Public Schools teachers have been trained to help students with dyslexia by using an approach that combines various senses and teaches sounds before making them into words.

The Institute for Multi-Sensory Education’s Orton-Gillingham approach trains teachers to have students learn language by listening, speaking, reading and writing. So, for example, a dyslexic student is taught to see the letter A, say it and write it in the air at the same time.

Students are also taught to read and write various sounds in isolation before making them into words, and learn the history of the English language to understand its rules and patterns.

An APS spokesman said training is part of a concerted effort for teachers to support dyslexic students and help them get their reading and writing abilities up to a good standard.

“A few years ago, APS began training teachers to be able to support students with Dyslexia in their classroom,” the spokesman said. “The decision was based on research through the International Dyslexia Association on the best instructional practices for students with dyslexia. APS continues to have a focus on literacy for all of our students and making sure our teachers have the training, tools and resources to meet the needs of all of their learners.”

APS teachers are given awareness training on dyslexia through a 10-minute overview video, handouts with characteristics of dyslexia and training for school psychologists and special education coordinators to help them determine if a student is dyslexic and help parents understand how to help.

According to testimonies provided by IMSE, the use of the Orton-Gillingham approach is paying dividends.

“A student with an Individualized Education Program who came from kindergarten not knowing letters and letter sounds, with significant deficits in memory and attention, after a year with IMSE’s [Orton-Gillingham approach] now has consistent memory of their letter and letter sounds,” one APS first-grade teacher said in a statement. “The sentence dictation has resulted in growth of concept of word as evidenced by spelling, word space and sentence structure.”

The APS spokesman said the Orton-Gillingham approach is just one way the school system helps students with dyslexia. APS paid a discounted rate of $800 per teacher for the training.

“We have trained teachers from all of our schools in not only Orton Gillingham but other structured literacy approaches that provide systematic, explicit and multi-sensory instruction for students who have Dyslexia,” the spokesman said. “Our goal is to build capacity with all of our teachers to know about Dyslexia and then build capacity within each team to be able to offer a variety of interventions and supports for all of our students.”

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Blind Triplets Make History With Eagle Scout Recognitions

(Updated 12 p.m.) As elementary school students, blind triplets Leo, Nick and Steven Cantos were bullied, had few friends and no role models.

But that changed when, at the age of 10, blind attorney and Crystal City resident Ollie Cantos became their mentor after learning about them through a friend at church. He legally adopted them two years ago, and turned their lives around.

“I didn’t have friends, my brothers were the only people, that was it,” Nick Cantos said. “I was essentially shut in for seven years, and I was a violent kid. I got into fights with people, because I was being bullied in school. It ended up getting so bad that I wanted to end [my life]. Dad really saved my life.”

A ceremony on Wednesday night marked how far they have come, having also graduated from Wakefield High School earlier this year. At The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Alexandria, the brothers became the first ever blind triplets to be honored as Eagle Scouts in the history of Boy Scouts of America.

To become Eagle Scouts, the highest honor in scouting, candidates must complete a slew of assignments, including tasks like first aid, knot-tying, leadership and orientation. It also requires community service, and six months or more spent in leadership positions at their troop.

Each also had to lead a community service project. Steven Cantos collected school supplies for low-income schoolchildren for nonprofit Aspire! Afterschool. He already volunteered with the organization, which helps children improve their reading, and had intended to collect enough supplies for 90 students.

When the supply drive was over, he had collected enough for 130 students.

“They go in and help kids read in a more advanced way, since they feel that reading is the first thing that kids need to learn, and then they learn other things if they can read better,” Steven Cantos said. “The project stemmed from the fact that I’d already volunteered a bit of time to them, so I wanted to give some more time… I decided that education is important, so let’s give them school supplies.”

Leo Cantos collected blood and blankets for INOVA Fairfax Hospital, a children’s hospital where he spent a month re-learning how to walk. He finished with 88 units of blood and 77 blankets, all donated by local people he had recruited.

“I wanted to give back to the kids, because I saw the kids there and I saw how they were not doing too well,” Leo Cantos said. “I wanted to give them a better experience, kind of like the one I had in the hospital but extended to them as well.”

And Nick Cantos collected donations of hygiene supplies for nonprofit Doorways for Women and Families, which helps people out of homelessness and away from domestic violence and sexual assault. He collected about $2,000 worth of supplies to donate to the organization.

“It took a lot of planning, it took a lot of work and papers,” Nick Cantos said. “The craziest part was seeing all my scout friends and leaders and brothers helping me to do this, and me managing this thing.”

And while they could have gotten extended time to complete their requirements to be Eagle Scouts due to their blindness, they chose not to. Ollie Cantos said that decision was made to show that being blind does not need to be a hindrance.

“We were absolutely intent on not asking for any extensions,” he said. “It wasn’t what we wanted to do. I wanted the boys to learn a lesson, a positive lesson, that we keep saying blindness is just a disability and it’s not really a big deal, so if it’s not a big deal, why do we need to make an exception? That’s just us.”

One of the biggest challenges for the brothers was the swimming requirement, as none of them had spent much time in the water before.

But in the summer of 2014, they were all able to dive in, swim to a target with the aid of voice assistance and then swim back. All the while, they were cheered on by their fellow scouts and leaders at poolside.

“As I observed this moment, I thought to myself, ‘There’s no stopping them,'” said Scott Blakeslee, a former leader at the church and scout troop, in a speech. “More than that, I knew that you were going to continue to grow into wonderful, capable men of God. I hope you can take that experience as you go forward.”

With the brothers now graduated from high school, they will go to Boston in about six months to learn further life skills so they can become more independent.

All three have ambitions to go to college. Steven wants to study political science, go to law school and study copyright law and intellectual property rights; Nick wants to study marketing and go into the real estate industry; and Leo wants to study political science also before specializing in cyber law and working to make technology accessible to all.

With all they have achieved already, U.S. Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, who worked with Ollie Cantos at the U.S. Department of Justice, said their futures look bright.

“There is no stopping you, and a large part of that is you, but a greater part of that is your family,” said Acosta, who was among the crowd of around 100 family members, Scouts and well-wishers at the ceremony.

“It’s you and your brothers and your dad together that show each other what courage is and what hard work is, and I have to say there is no stopping you, because you have done everything and you continue to do everything.”

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STAR Call Center to Move to Columbia Pike Building

STAR, Arlington’s bus service for disabled residents, will move to a new call center on Columbia Pike after County Board approval of the plan at its meeting Saturday.

Specialized Transit for Arlington Residents will move to 2301 Columbia Pike, Suite 120, near Penrose Square, after the Board agreed to rent the property from the landlord.

STAR’s existing call center is located at 2300 9th Street S. in the same neighborhood. Its lease on the property expired on June 30, and while it can be renewed on a monthly basis, the landlord plans to redevelop the office building and no longer wanted a long-term tenant.

In a report on the project, county staff noted various positives for the move.

“It is accessible and near a major transit stop with weekend service,” staff wrote. “Because it has its own separately-powered HVAC system, the call center can operate on weekends without incurring the cost of heating and cooling the entire floor. This will yield significant savings for the County in comparison with conventional office space.”

STAR is a paratransit branch of the ART bus system and provides transportation options to the disabled and handicapped who are unable to use public transportation. Those who ride with STAR call ahead to make reservations to be picked up from their home. STAR then routes the ride to pick up other residents who use the system along the way.

The Board will rent 2,337 square foot property for an initial period of 10.5 years (126 months), with a base rent of $4,944.70 per month. That rent will be free for the first six months. Staff estimate it will take three months for the office to be built out and readied to be the call center, during which time STAR will stay in its current location.

The total cost of construction for the new property is estimated at $300,000, part of which will be paid for by the landlord.

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The Children’s School Plots Move, Possibly Parting Ways With Integration Station

(Updated at 11:15 a.m.) A co-op child care center for Arlington Public School employees has plans to move to a new space in Ballston, possibly splitting it up from a special needs program it has long integrated with.

The Children’s School’s board of directors this week signed a letter of intent to relocate its program to 4420 N. Fairfax Drive for the 2017-2018 school year.

The relocation could separate the center from the Integration Station, a program for Pre-K children with disabilities that allows them to interact with The Children’s School students. Both the daycare and the special needs program have worked together at the Reed School building in Westover for more than 20 years.

The move comes months after a plan from APS Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy to create a new 725-seat elementary school at the site of the Reed School building. Under the proposal, both The Children’s School and the Integration Station would likely have been displaced from their current home.

“APS has consistently informed TCS that they do not have any space and are running a deficit,” TCS board member Alec Strong said in a statement. “Our ultimate goal remains keeping TCS and Integration Station together, but we need APS’s help.”

The prospect of separating the daycare and integration program has worried many parents whose kids are enrolled in them. A group of parents and supporters of the programs spoke out against the plan during a School Board meeting earlier this month.

“As a mother of a student in Integration Station, the culture of Reed is one of safety, love and value to the special needs community, and that is something you just don’t find in a lot of places,” said one parent at that meeting. “Splitting it up would be devastating, both to the teachers, their children, and the special needs community.”

In a statement given to ARLnow.com on Feb. 3, APS said the decision regarding the future of TCS and the Integration Station is a tough one to make.

“While APS will continue to explore options as we move through this process, we cannot guarantee that we will be successful with any of the available space options,” the statement reads. “APS is committed, however, to continuing to provide support for students in the Integration Station program either as a partner with The Children’s School, or integrated into existing APS programs.”

Read a release from TCS about the move below:

The Children’s School Board of Directors signed a letter of intent yesterday to relocate its program to a new location in Arlington for the 2017-2018 school year. This follows confirmation at a School Board meeting two weeks ago that Arlington Public Schools does not have any space during planned renovations of the Reed School for the non-profit program, which has served pre-school aged children of APS teachers since 1987, and special needs students in the Integration Station program for more than 20 years.

In a statement to ARLnow.com, APS said: “While APS will continue to explore options as we move through this process, we cannot guarantee that we will be successful with any of the available space options. APS is committed, however, to continuing to provide support for students in the Integration Station program either as a partner with The Children’s School, or integrated into existing APS programs.”

The TCS Board of Directors maintains that APS has never offered any space or location to TCS. “APS has consistently informed TCS that they do not have any space and are running a deficit. Our ultimate goal remains keeping TCS & Integration Station together, but we need APS’s help,” said TCS Board Member Alec Strong.

In a January 30, 2017 letter to concerned Integration Station parents, many of who spoke at the School Board meeting in support of the two programs remaining together, TCS Director Naseera Maqsood said:

“As of Friday, January 27, 2017, we were informed (by Assistant Superintendent Leslie Peterson) in very clear terms that we need to find a new location. We were informed that there is no space at the Madison Community Center (technically an Arlington County property) and that no Arlington Public School grounds have enough space for us to put relocatables (trailers). Arlington County has also indicated that there is no space for us to use relocatables.”

“We want desperately to keep all of our children together,” Maqsood added. “As educators, we are committed to having our students in integrated classrooms. We will ensure that any space we seek to lease or buy will have room for the Integration Station students. Ultimately though, the decision to keep our programs together is in the hands of Arlington Public Schools, not The Children’s School.”

“We continue to hope and work towards some miracle that will allow us to remain on APS or Arlington County grounds, and to continue providing more than 150 affordable childcare positions to Arlington teachers and parents,” Maqsood added. “We believe this aligns with our shared values, legacy and the desires of the Arlington County electorate.”

Fairfax Drive photo via Google Maps

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Parents Wary of Plan That Could Separate APS Daycare, Special Needs Program

A plan to build a new educational facility at the Reed School in Westover has some parents worried for the future of a daycare and special needs program there.

Last year, Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy announced a renovation project to create a new 725-seat elementary school at the site of the Reed School building in Westover.

The Reed School building currently houses The Children’s School , a co-op child care center for APS employees, and the Integration Station, a program for Pre-K children with disabilities that allows them to interact with The Children’s School students. Both the daycare and the special needs program have worked together for more than 20 years.

But the longtime collaboration may soon come to an end. Under the proposal, The Children’s Center and the Integration Station could be moved out of the building and separated from one another. Arlington Public Schools hasn’t yet announced a home for either one.

The possibility of separating the daycare and integration program has worried some parents whose kids are enrolled in both. A group of parents and supporters of the programs spoke out against the plan during a School Board meeting Thursday evening.

“As a mother of a student in Integration Station, the culture of Reed is one of safety, love and value to the special needs community, and that is something you just don’t find in a lot of places,” said one parent. “Splitting it up would be devastating, both to the teachers, their children, and the special needs community.”

One parent fought back tears as she urged School Board to keep the two programs under the same roof. She described how her son, who is autistic, benefitted from the Integration Station.

“Had he not received the level of special integration care from the staff, I’m sure he would not be where he is right now, which is attending a typical school surrounded by typical kids,” the parent said.

She continued: “Without TCS, the Integration Station is no longer possible and much of its value is lost…  We ask that the board take concrete steps toward ensuring that the children’s school can continue to serve both the staff and the students of the Integration Station.”

In a statement given to ARLnow.com, APS said the decision regarding the future of TCS and the Integration Station is a tough one to make.

Everyone in Arlington knows that APS is facing a period of unprecedented enrollment growth that is creating significant demands on school capacity. Providing seats for the growing number of students in APS has stretched the capacity of our schools and our school sites. APS is working closely with the County and The Children’s School to explore viable options for relocation. To date, TCS wants to continue to pursue additional options beyond those that have been identified.

While APS will continue to explore options as we move through this process, we cannot guarantee that we will be successful with any of the available space options. APS is committed, however, to continuing to provide support for students in the Integration Station program either as a partner with The Children’s School, or integrated into existing APS programs.

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Morning Notes

Doggie dip at the Arlington Forest swim club (Flickr pool photo by Vandiik)

Arlington Golfer Competing for Amateur Title — Psychotherapist Matthew Sughrue, an Arlington resident, has advanced to the championship match of the U.S. Senior Amateur golf tournament. Sughrue, 57, will face 62-year-old Dave Ryan, of Illinois, in a final round today. [ESPN,  USGA]

Local Photographer Has Overcome Many Obstacles — Susan Bainbridge, a freelance news photographer and journalist, has a remarkable story of overcoming obstacles. Bainbridge, who also co-founded Arlington County Crime Solvers, has battled disabilities and a series of debilitating accidents from birth into adulthood. Since 2011 Bainbridge has served as an usher during Sunday evening mass at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More, even working through a torn knee ligament and a hip injury from a fall last year. [Catholic Herald]

Letter to the Editor: We Should Welcome Refugees — The closer-in suburbs of Northern Virginia, including Arlington, should be welcoming more refugees, say the writers of a letter to the editor of the Sun Gazette. In Virginia, refugees have largely been placed downstate and in outer suburbs. “They are not threats,” the letter says, addressing the fears some have of refugees. “They are the new Americans.” [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Vandiik

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Morning Notes

Blooming in Barcroft (Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick)

VDOT Holds HOT Lane Meeting — Last night VDOT gave the first formal public presentation of its plan to expand the I-395 HOV lanes and convert them to High Occupancy Toll lanes. The meeting was held at Wakefield High School and addressed issues from toll pricing to transit improvements to sound walls. [WTOP, Fox 5]

Bike-on-Bike Crashes Problematic for the Law — A new article asserts that Arlington County Police normally do not file reports for bike-on-bike crashes. “This is a bike accident. Life happens,” an officer reportedly told a victim after one recent incident. Incomplete or nonexistent police reports have frustrated victims and attorneys seeking legal redress — and led to the hiring of private investigators who try to gather evidence and find witnesses. [Washingtonian]

Disability Advocates Protest in Arlington — Disability rights advocates made their frustrations personal yesterday by protesting in front of the Arlington home of Vanita Gupta, head of the U.S. Justice Department Civil Rights Division. [Disability Scoop]

Proposal: Allow Older Cabs in Arlington — The Arlington County Board on Saturday is expected to consider a policy change that would allow older cabs on the road, among other changes. Currently, cabs entering service may be no older than two years old and then must be retired after reaching seven years old or 350,000 miles. Recognizing advances in vehicle reliability, the new policy would do away with the two year provision and set the maximum age of cabs at 10 years old. [Arlington County]

Free Donuts for Lawyers Today — It’s Be Kind to Lawyers Day and to mark the occasion Sugar Shack Donuts on Columbia Pike is offering a free “house donut” to lawyers today. Sugar Shack is also beginning a promotion that will give select customers free donuts to distribute to their favorite local teachers. “To participate, folks just need to use the hashtag #Treats4Teach to tell us on Facebook or Twitter why they should be picked to deliver donuts to their local school teachers and to which school,” said a press release.

Nice Weather at Last — After this morning’s rain, expect clearing skies and pleasant weather that should stretch into next week. [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

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Morning Notes

Rainbow over Rosslyn (Flickr pool photo by

Wakefield Advances to Finals — The Wakefield boys varsity basketball squad defeated Potomac Falls last night, 76-67, in the regional semifinals. The Warriors will now face Potomac in the 5A North Region final at 7 p.m. Saturday. [Washington Post, Twitter]

Hough, Laich Tip Big at Don Tito — Caps player Brooks Laich and his fiancée, dancer and actress Julianne Hough, recently left a server at Don Tito in Clarendon a $100 tip on a $24 bill. [Washington Post]

Wakefield Grad to NFL Combine — Former standout Wakefield High quarterback Drew Powell will be competing at the NFL regional Combine in Baltimore tomorrow. Powell just finished his final season as quarterback at Division II Livingstone College, where he broke six school records. [InsideNova]

Spotlight on Developmental Disabilities — The Arlington County Board has declared March 2016 “Including People with Developmental Disabilities Month.” [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by J.D. Moore

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Accessibility Changes Coming to Crystal City Shops

Former Hamburger Hamlet in the shops at Crystal CityThe Crystal City Shops will become more accessible thanks to an agreement reached between property owner Vornado and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

A citizen’s complaint led federal prosecutors to investigate the indoor shopping concourse, which runs along Crystal Drive and connects with the Crystal City Metro station. The complaint stated that portions of the shops are inaccessible to those with disabilities, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

As a result of the agreement, Vornado will build ramps or lifts in portions of the shopping center that were previously only accessible by stairs. New signage, accessible parking spaces and accessible restroom fixtures will also be added.

The press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, after the jump.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia announced today a compliance agreement under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with Vornado/Charles E. Smith related to the Crystal City Shops and City Underground, which is an interior pedestrian concourse located in Arlington County, to improve accessibility to persons with disabilities through the removal of architectural barriers.

“This significant compliance agreement exemplifies our commitment to protect the rights of people with disabilities,” said U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente.  “The corrective measures agreed to will allow people with mobility disabilities and impaired vision to have an improved opportunity to enjoy the Crystal City Shops and Underground.”

The investigation began with a complaint from the public alleging that the Crystal City Shops and Underground violated the ADA by failing to ensure the accessibility of the interior pedestrian concourse which connects underground and grade level retail shops, service establishments, restaurants, theaters, hotels, office buildings, residential buildings and the Crystal City Metro Station.  The pedestrian concourse spans from 12th Street South to 23rd Street South in Arlington, and is composed of five sections connected by tunnels.  The Crystal City neighborhood is home to a high density of hotel rooms, residences, offices, and multiple federal agencies.

In addition to remedial measures that Vornado/Charles E. Smith took during the course of the investigation, the compliance agreement requires that Vornado/Charles E. Smith make a number of changes to increase accessibility, including:

  • Performing alterations to Section D of the Crystal City Shops and Underground to ensure that retail space that is currently accessible only by stairs will be made accessible to individuals with disabilities who use mobility devices.
  • Installing ADA compliant handrails in various tunnels that connect multiple sections of the Crystal City Underground.
  • Installing a lift at the stairs in front of the Crystal City Marriott lower level lobby entrance in order to provide an accessible route from the accessible plaza level.
  • Creating new accessible parking spaces and relocating others.
  • Installing signage that will direct the public to accessible entrances and routes of travel.
  • Modifying restrooms to have the appropriate accessible features.
  • Updating the maps throughout the pedestrian concourse and on its website showing accessible entrances and routes.

This matter was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Gordon, who serves as the Civil Rights Enforcement Coordinator for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.

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Morning Notes

Children and parents gather around Santa and his fire truck in Fairlington

Local Man Wins ‘Ultimate Fighter’ — Arlington native Ryan Hall has captured the Ultimate Fighter title for his weight class after soundly defeating Artem Lobov in the Octagon on national television Friday. [Fox Sports]

New Ballston Apartments Rent Quickly — Less than a year after it opened, The Maxwell, a 163-unit luxury apartment building on N. Glebe Road in Ballston, is now 93 percent leased. [PR Newswire, Multifamily Biz]

County: Don’t Worry About Orange Tubes — Arlington County is telling residents not to worry about the orange plastic tubes they may see sprouting from the ground. The tubes are not part of a nefarious terrorist plot, they’re conduits for Arlington’s upgraded fiber optic traffic signal system. [Arlington County]

Local Nonspeaking Youth Present at Conference — Three nonspeaking Arlington students gave 10 minute TED-style talks at a disability advocacy conference in Portland, Oregon earlier this month. [Growing Kids Therapy Center]

Pet Photo Contest Cancelled — Our Dress Your Pet Like a James Bond Character photo contest has been cancelled. The contest was to promote a James Bond-themed New Years Eve event in Ballston that has since been cancelled due to a regulatory issue. Those who have already submitted photos for the contest will be contacted soon and given a consolation prize.

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Morning Notes

Crystal City Twilighter 5K on July 25, 2015 (photo courtesy Crystal City BID)

Fundraiser for Arlington Store Owner — The owner of Maley’s Music (2499 N. Harrison Street) has been hospitalized with a rare disease, just weeks after his wife suffered a debilitating stroke. That has prompted the couple’s daughter to start an online fundraiser to help the family pay its expenses. [Facebook, GoFundMe]

Arlington’s Inaccessible Bus Stops — About two thirds of Arlington’s 1,100 bus stops are not fully compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Metro estimates that the average cost of upgrading a bus stop to ADA standards is $10,000. [Washington Post]

USS Arlington Readies for Deployment — More than two years after its commissioning, the USS Arlington is getting ready for deployment. The ship has a 40 year expected lifespan in active naval service. [InsideNova]

Photo courtesy Crystal City BID

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Morning Notes

Wild flowers (Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok)

Dems Debate in Ballston — The six Democratic candidates for County Board faced off in their first debate last night, before a standing-room only crowd at the NRECA conference center in Ballston. The debate was held by Arlington Young Democrats. Though knowledgable about current issues facing Arlington, candidates were light on specifics about what should be done to address those issues. [InsideNova]

Disruption Corp. Sold to 1776 — Disruption Corp., the Crystal City-based tech investment fund and office space, has been acquired by D.C.-based tech incubator 1776. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. [Washington Post]

Caps Pep Rally at Elementary School — Third grade students at Carlin Springs Elementary School have won a contest to bring a Washington Capitals playoff pep rally to their school today. The rally will start at 12:30 p.m. “There won’t likely be any players, but it will be a great time for all,” a teacher tells ARLnow.com. “The kids will be getting prizes, pictures with Slapshot (the Caps’ mascot) and learning some hockey skills. The Caps are also donating equipment to the school.” [Washington Capitals]

Artisphere ‘Doomed from the Start’ — Artisphere, which is on the budgetary chopping block next week, was “doomed from the start,” according to the artistic director of a theatre company that was booted out of its space at the cultural center two years after it opened. An anonymous Artisphere employee said of the early, over-optimistic attendance and revenue projections: “All of those numbers were so completely false.” [Washington Post]

McAuliffe Signs Special Needs Bill in Arlington — On Tuesday, Gov. Terry McAuliffe came to Arlington to sign the ABLE Act, which will allow individuals with special needs, and their families, to set up tax-exempt accounts that will allow them to save for future living expenses. Virginia is the first state to enact such legislation, which received the blessing of the U.S. Congress in December. [WJLA]

Security of Va. Voting Machines Blasted — The touch screen voting machines now being replaced in Arlington and elsewhere in Virginia were “so easy to hack, it will take your breath away,” according to reports. [Ars Technica, The Guardian]

Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok

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County Board Approves 60 New Taxis

An All Access Taxi accessible cab (photo courtesy All Access Taxi)Arlington will soon see an influx of wheelchair accessible taxis.

The Arlington County Board voted on Saturday to approve the licenses for 60 new taxis, all wheelchair accessible. Ten of those taxis will be operated by Blue Top Cab while the other 50 licenses will be owned by new company All Access Taxi.

The Board’s unanimous decision adds 20 more taxis to the county’s fleet than County Manager Barbara Donnellan recommended, bringing the total number of licensed cabs in the county to 847, 97 of which will be accessible cabs.

“Our taxi companies, members of the disability community and riders are telling us there is a growing demand for accessible taxi service in Arlington,” Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a press release. “We strive to be a fully welcoming community, and these additional cabs will provide more options and convenience to many people with a disability.”

County staff’s report on the licenses said people with wheelchairs have had to wait three hours for an accessible taxi and have had trouble getting taxis from Reagan National Airport. Julie Piche, the CEO of All Access Taxi, said the County Board’s approval will drastically improve the lives of disabled Arlington residents.

“This is ground-breaking because for the first time a local government has recognized that accessible and equitable service requires a fleet and a dedicated effort,” Piche told ARLnow.com today. “This is a victory for people with disabilities across the nation because their needs have been recognized and their quest for accessible, on-demand transportation has been validated. Arlington’s leadership will set the standard for the nation.”

All Access Taxi anticipates offering rides on demand — via phone, online and a mobile app — in February, Piche said, and its full fleet is expected to be operational by April.

Photo courtesy All Access Taxi

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