What are the ADA Changes, and How Will they Impact People with Disabilities?
There has been a lot of buzz lately regarding the upcoming changes to the ADA with regard to access for people with disabilities. If you aren't familiar with what is going on, I'd like to get you up to speed on the highlights so that you can be well informed as you travel throughout the United States.
There are several industries affected by the change, which were established in 2010 and go into effect on March 15, 2012. These include amusement parks, recreational facilities, hotels, shopping malls, stadiums, judicial courts, and correctional institutions. Of course, there are always caveats to these rules, and in some cases, the rules are just down right difficult to interpret.
If a property had complied with previously issued ADA rulings from 1991, they are exempt, unless they renovate the facility. This is called the "Safe Harbor" rule. However, if a property renovates, they fall under the new 2010 rules. Of course, any new facilities must comply with the new regulations.
We will try to break things down so that you know what they mean for you! Here are the ABC's of the 2010 Standards effective March 15, 2012!
Amusement Parks -- Newly designed or constructed amusement rides must be accessible and provide an accessible route to the ride. However, rides designed for children, are controlled by the rider (like bumper cars), and rides without seats do not have to be accessible. They still have to provide a clear route, but they do not have to have spaces for wheelchairs or transfer provisions.
Boating Facilities - Gangways must be accessible, and at least 5% of the boarding piers must be accessible.
Detention and Correctional Facilities -- Prisons must have at least one accessible holding cell, housing cell, visitor area, and medical facilities. Of course, we hope no one ever has to make use of these accommodations!
Fishing Piers - Newly designed or constructed piers must have accessible routes and at least 25% of the guardrails must be no higher than 34 inches. There must also be room for a wheelchair to turn around.
Golf Facilities - Newly designed or constructed golf courses must have accessible routes. Accessible routes must be available to get a golf cart, drop off bags, and other activities that occur outside of the golf course. At least one teeing ground must be accessible per hole. Golf carts must be able to fit in emergency shelters. A percentage of practice areas must be accessible.
Gyms and Workout Facilities - There must be clear floor space for at least one of each type of equipment so that a person with a disability has an accessible route.
Hotels and Other Lodging - Hotels are required to have up to 10% of all guest rooms provide mobility accessibility and communication devices. These rooms need to be the same types of rooms that the hotel provides other guests, including classes of guest rooms, number of beds, types of amenities and choices.
Also, hotels, campgrounds, and other types of lodging must have reservation policies that allow guests to reserve an accessible guest room the same way that any other guest can. This includes reservations by phone, in person, by internet, or by using an agent or third party. The lodging provider will be required to identify accessible features in guest rooms (e.g. guest room door widths, availability of roll-in showers, communication features, etc.) and other hotel or resort amenities in "sufficient detail" so that an individual with a disability can make an independent assessment whether the hotel meets his or her accessibility needs. However, the "sufficient detail" guidance is vague, so you may still not find valuable information such as bed heights, bar placement, types of beds, etc.
Additionally, the hotel can no longer just take an accessible room request. It must be a confirmed reservation so that you know you will have an accessible room when you arrive. Thank goodness!!!
Judicial Facilities - Courtrooms must be accessible, including jury boxes, witness stands, and jury deliberation areas. Judge's benches and work areas must be accessible.
Miniature Golf -- At least half of all the holes must be accessible, consecutive, and be on an accessible route.
Play Areas -- All play areas designed for children over the age of two must have accessible routes, ramps, surfaces, play components, and transfer systems.
Residential Housing Units - Housing units that are subject to section 504 of the Department of Housing and Urban Development must have at least 5% of the housing units accessible to people with mobility challenges. At least 2% must be accessible to people with communications related disabilities.
For the first time, the rule includes design requirements for residential dwelling units built by or on behalf of public entities with the intent that the finished units will be sold to individual owners.
Saunas and Steam Rooms -- Rooms must be accessible, have turning space, doors that do not swing into the clear floor space, and, where provided, an accessible bench.
Stadiums Design and Ticket Access -- Changes must be made to stadiums to provide appropriate sightlines and companion seating. They have even addressed issues regarding accessible seating that gets blocked by people who are standing in front of the section. However, the number of seating in large facilities has been reduced. Where the old standards for seating capacity greater than 500 included 1 accessible seat for every 100, that has been reduced to 1 seat for every 150. Seating over 5,000 must have one accessible seat for every 200.
Lawn seating must be connected to an accessible route.
Tickets for accessible seating must be sold to those who require the seating first, and ticket providers must put policies in place to prevent fraudulent purchases of accessible seating. People with disabilities must be able to buy multiple accessible tickets. Also, the stadium must accommodate a person with a disability who purchased an inaccessible seat on the secondary market if there is an unsold accessible seat for that event.
Swimming Pools and Spas - Swimming pools must have accessible entries and exits. These could include pool lifts, pool stairs, transfer walls, or sloped entry. Wading pools must have a sloped entry, and spas must have a transfer system. Pools such as wave pools, lazy rivers, or sand bottom pools are exempt.
Many design elements are being changed, as well.
- Items placed on accessible routes can be no more than 48 inches high and no lower than 15 inches low.
- Single User Toilets must provide clearance for both a forward and side approach to the toilet.
- Additional design considerations regarding stage access, accessible routes into and within buildings, and parking structure accessibility are addressed.
Lastly, some of the definitions previously within the ADA have been revised. We have provided a few of the significant changes.
Service Animals. The rule defines "service animal" as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. The rule states that other animals, whether wild or domestic, do not qualify as service animals. Dogs that are not trained to perform tasks that mitigate the effects of a disability, including dogs that are used purely for emotional support, are not service animals. The final rule also clarifies that individuals with mental disabilities who use service animals that are trained to perform a specific task are protected by the ADA. The rule permits the use of trained miniature horses as alternatives to dogs, subject to certain limitations. To allow flexibility in situations where using a horse would not be appropriate, the final rule does not include miniature horses in the definition of "service animal." 1
Wheelchairs and Other Power-Driven Mobility Devices. The rule adopts a two-tiered approach to mobility devices, drawing distinctions between wheelchairs and "other power-driven mobility devices." "Other power-driven mobility devices" include a range of devices not designed for individuals with mobility impairments, such as the Segway® PT, but which are often used by individuals with disabilities as their mobility device of choice. Wheelchairs (and other devices designed for use by people with mobility impairments) must be permitted in all areas open to pedestrian use. "Other power-driven mobility devices" must be permitted to be used unless the covered entity can demonstrate that the class of devices cannot be operated in accordance with legitimate safety requirements. The rule also lists factors to consider in making this determination. This approach accommodates both the legitimate business interests in the safe operation of a facility and the growing use of nontraditional mobilitity devices, such as the Segway® PT by returning veterans with disabilities and other individuals with disabilities who are using these devices as their mobility aid of choice.1
Effective Communication. The rule includes video remote interpreting (VRI) services as a kind of auxiliary aid that may be used to provide effective communication. VRI is an interpreting service that uses video conference technology over dedicated lines or wireless technology offering a high-speed, wide-bandwidth video connection that delivers high-quality video images. To ensure that VRI is effective, the Department has established performance standards for VRI and requires training for users of the technology and other individuals involved with its use so that they may quickly and efficiently set up and operate the VRI system. 1
Of course these are the highlights; you can get much more detail on the ADA website at www.ada.gov. I truly hope that these changes can make a difference and make life a bit easier for everyone!
1 -- http://www.ada.gov/regs2010/factsheets/title2_factsheet.html