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Mount Vernon to become more welcoming for the disabled

After a hearing-impaired visitor complained to the Justice Department about the lack of services for the disabled at Mount Vernon, the group that maintains George Washington's home agreed to make it more handicapped accessible.

The Mansion House Farm at George Washington's Mount Vernon, is seen in this file photo. The Mount Vernon Ladies Association, which owns, maintains, and operates the mansion and grounds, agreed to undertake a series of changes to make the tour experience more accessible for visitors in wheelchairs, as well as those who are sight or hearing impaired.

Newscom/File

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Officials at Mount Vernon, President George Washington's homestead, have agreed to make $400,000 in alterations to bring the national landmark into full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In a settlement announced Wednesday, the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, which owns, maintains, and operates the mansion and grounds, agreed to undertake a series of changes to make the tour experience more accessible for visitors in wheelchairs, as well as those who are sight or hearing impaired.

Among the required changes will be construction of a hardened surface walkway, a shallower entry ramp to the mansion, and removal of some objects that protrude from walls that might pose a hazard to blind visitors. In addition, all centerpiece films in the main theaters will include closed captioning.

Megan Dunn, associate vice president for human resources and chief ADA compliance officer at Mount Vernon, said the process was hard work but the organization was happy to comply.

“We really want to make Mount Vernon more accessible and a better experience for our disabled visitors,” she said.

Dunn said the issue of ADA compliance arose after a hearing-impaired visitor filed a complaint with the Justice Department that films shown at Mount Vernon were not closed captioned. A Justice Department compliance team arrived and produced a list of potential improvements.

“They were very supportive and understanding in terms of preserving the integrity of the historic area – the mansion in particular,” Dunn said. “The mansion itself has never been, and we hope will never have to be, altered in any fashion.”

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