Five Questions with Roxanne Vierra, Disability Compliance Specialist, Office of Civil Rights & Open Government

Roxanne Vierra1. What was your first role at King County? I’d previously worked 10 years at the U.W. Disabled Student Services office, then 10 years at the Seattle Office for Civil Rights, where my position included primarily fair housing investigations and a bit of public disability access. When I was offered this job with King County 16 years ago, I was excited because it allowed me to use my Disability Specialist experience in a more active way. While I still handle fair housing enforcement and outreach, my role as Disability Compliance Specialist enables me to provide a much wider range of awareness and access assistance to county employees and members of the public.

2. What do you do as Disability Compliance Specialist? My role is to assist County departments and staff in providing accessible services, programs and activities for members of the public who have disabilities. I provide technical assistance about access laws, available resources, and information about accommodations. I conduct several disability awareness workshops for County staff. Many departments consult with me regarding access in the construction and remodeling of County facilities. I also handle grievances filed by residents who feel they didn’t obtain access or accommodations when dealing with County programs.

3. What are some of the services that King County offers people with disabilities? King County has a long and extensive history of ensuring that its residents with disabilities have needed access to obtain services and to participate in their government. Our transit system provides accessible transportation, our courts grant necessary accommodations, our Elections staff offer accessible voting, DCHS provides accessible housing and mental health services, both Public Health and DNRP make sure that their services and facilities are accessible for everyone – even the County jails are accessible. In addition, the Disability Services Specialists in HRD assist job applicants and employees to arrange needed on-the-job accommodations.

4. What do you like most about your job? The variety! Because of the many services provided by County government, and the wide range of disability needs our employees encounter, each day offers different opportunities to assist County staff and members of the public. I enjoy helping employees to identify access barriers and problem-solve ways to overcome them.

One of my favorite things is conducting workshops to educate staff about different disabilities and how to provide appropriate reasonable accommodations. I enjoy working with a terrific team of Public Disability Access Liaisons in every department and division, who alert me to access issues and assist in sharing disability information with County employees. It’s great having the chance to work with so many County staff in so many different settings, and helping the public to become aware of the access the County has to offer.

5. What is the biggest challenge in your job? The sheer number of individuals with disabilities (one in five people in the U.S.) and the vast range of disabling conditions create ongoing challenges for County staff. The County must follow several access laws, so sometimes I need to assess various codes and guidebooks in order to find the appropriate answers. Also, sometimes members of the public become annoyed or perplexed because they are unfamiliar with or uncertain about their access rights. At times, it can be a real challenge to determine the best course of action for County employees to ensure provision of needed accommodations.

The payoff for me over the years has been seeing the increasing number of people with disabilities being able to interact with and take advantage of County programs and services. Every challenge presents an opportunity for us all to learn and grow, and to benefit from the experience.