Disability Equity Action Plan Update   

In 2020, the disability community reached out to King County, pointing out areas where the County was falling short in equitably serving people with disabilities: ADA compliance, accessibility, communications, disability equity in programs, and inclusive employment. In response to the community feedback, the Office of Equity and Social Justice (OESJ) staff developed a Disability Equity Action Plan in partnership with disability community members and advocacy groups such as the Disability Empowerment Center (formerly Alliance of People with Disabilities), The ARC of King County, The NW ADA Center, and the King County Disability Consortium. 

This October marks one year since the King County Council accepted the Disability Equity Action Plan. OESJ hired three permanent staff in the Civil Rights/ADA Disability Equity Team and remains committed and accountable to the objectives of this plan. This update describes the progress on the main objectives highlighted.  

Objective 1: Continue development, utilization, and support of internal ADA liaison network. In 2021, the ADA Liaisons completed ADA initial assessments for their departments. This data was pivotal in planning and prioritizing which departments would first complete ADA self-evaluations and corrective action/transition plans. Due to staffing changes, some departments no longer have an active ADA Liaison; planning is underway to reengage those departments to strengthen the ADA network across the county to push this critical work forward.  

Objective 2:  Continue to utilize disability equity consultant for review of internal county policies and practices. OESJ has been working with the social equity consulting firm, Epiphanies of Equity, who bring expertise in disability justice, anti-racism, and system level reconstruction. Epiphanies of Equity is reviewing King County policies and practices along with engaging community voices to develop recommendations to the County on better serving people with disabilities, especially those with intersecting racial identities.  

Objective 3: Fund two FTE ADA Coordinator positions. Two FTE ADA Coordinator positions were funded and filled in January 2022.  A third FTE for an ADA/Civil Rights Manager was filled in May 2022.  

Objective 4: Establish interbranch workgroup in collaboration with legislative and judicial branches. The pre-planning for an interbranch workgroup to collaborate on accessibility and disability equity practices is underway.  Analysis on how to factor disability equity and accessibility work into existing interbranch collaborations is being conducted.  

Objective 5: Reactivate Section 504/ADA Advisory Committee. The Section 504/ADA Advisory Committee (KCC 2.55.01) has been inactive for many years, and work is underway to reactivate it by refreshing the code and recruiting new members.  An internal Core Team has been meeting since August 2022 and is conducting an internal needs assessment and a community engagement plan. A planning workgroup of people with disabilities will develop community-based recommendations to reflect the needs and interests of King County community members with disabilities.  The goal is to issue a recommendations report in 2023, laying the groundwork to propose a code revision and more robust objectives for the ADA/504 Committee.  

Objective 6: Create & fund disability specialist FTE when funding for NACCHO grant ends. An ADA/Disability Specialist role was fully funded upon the completion of the NACCHO grant in June of 2022. This is one of the two FTE ADA Coordinator positions. 

Objective 7: Establish an affinity group for county employees with disabilities. The King County Disability Equity Network (KCDEN) is the newest affinity group, for employees with disabilities.  KCDEN held their official first meeting in January 2022 and meets monthly.  This provides a space for employees with disabilities to discuss their experiences and look at ways to guide the county to be more equitable to our internal and external disability community.  Special thanks to Karla Lynch and Lili Stansberry for their work in starting KCDEN and bravely co-chairing this new affinity group.  

The majority of these action items are being managed by the Office of Equity and Social Justice, ADA and Disability Equity Team.  Many of these items require deliberate and heavy co-creation with the disability community to ensure the need is being met.  This plan is just the beginning of a long-term commitment of King County to achieve ADA compliance and improve understanding and best practices around disability justice and equity.  Much work is still needed.  Plans and strategies are underway beyond the objectives in the Disability Equity Action Plan and are in direct response to feedback from the community.    Stay tuned for more updates on future planning and strategy to get closer to our True North- Making King County a welcoming community where everyone can thrive.  

Please contact the ADA/Disability Equity Team for more information: 

Jenni Mechem, ADA/Civil Rights Section Manager, jmechem@kingcounty.gov

Dorian Esper-Taylor, ADA/Disability Equity Specialist, despertaylor@kingcounty.gov

Taryn Farley, ADA/Disability Equity Specialist, tfarley@kingcounty.gov.