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OM 14-22 Bourbonniere v. Newport City Council – Violation Found

The narrow issue presented to this Department can be defined as whether the City's video conferencing accommodation complies with R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-46-13. Rhode Island General Laws § 42-46-13(c) recognizes that the OMA "does not require the public body to make each of its existing facilities accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities so long as all meetings required to be open to the public pursuant to [the OMA] are held in accessible facilities." (Emphasis added). The OMA also provides guidance on how a public body can comply with the accessibility requirement. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-46-13(d). While R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-46-13(d) does not appear to be an exhaustive list of alternative accommodations, it is notable that video or tele-conferencing are not included, and that all alternatives listed within R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-46-13(d) would permit a person with a disability to physically attend a public meeting. Moreover, the State Building Code standards referenced within R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-46-13(b) further support our conclusion that the video conferencing alternative fails to comply with the OMA.

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