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March 15, 2012: A Historic Day for Persons with Disabilities
Today marks the Beginning of a New Era of Accessibility for the United States. The 1991 ADA STANDARDS FOR ACCESSIBLE DESIGN went into effect on January 26, 1991. Since then the United States has progressed to become a mildly accessible country for Persons with Disabilities. On July 26, 2010, the Department of Justice adopted revisions to Title II and III of the Americans with Disailities Act.
As of today, March 15, 2012, all Title II and III entities are required to comply with the 2010 ADA STANDARDS FOR ACCESSIBLE DESIGN for barrier removal and program accessibility. Any new construction or alterations to existing facilities started on or after today causes the entity to be required to bring their facilities into compliance with the 2010 ADA Standards.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES? HOW HAVE OUR RIGHTS CHANGED?
Any Title II or Title III entity who was not in full compliance with the 1991 ADA Standards and all of the new requirements in the 2010 ADA Standards that were not mentioned or referred to in the 1991 ADA Standards before they opened for business today, March 15, 2012, are at risk for financial penalties and possible legal action, unless they can prove that it was not readily achievable.
Technically, all Title II and III entities have been required to comply with the 1991 ADA Standards since it went into effect in 1991, but many have not. Because of there lack of compliance many entities have been sued and/or fined. With the adoption of the new 2010 ADA Standards and the push for businesses to comply, many have been scrambling to bring their entities into compliance. During the period after the regulations were published in the Federal Register, between September 15, 2010 and March 15, 2012, covered entities were permitted to comply with either the 1991 ADA Standards or the 2010 ADA Standards for new construction or alteration of facilities and/or elements.
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY RIGHTS ARE BEING VIOLATED? WHAT ARE BUSINESSES REQUIRED TO DO?
At the bare minimum, in addition to the requirements laid out in the 1991 ADA STANDARDS FOR ACCESSIBLE DESIGN for entities, these are the new elements whose requirements were added to the 2010 ADA STANDARDS FOR ACCESSIBLE DESIGN and were not previously mentioned or referred to in the 1991 ADA:
- Amusement rides
- Recreational boating facilities
- Exercise machines and equipment
- Fishing piers and platforms
- Golf facilities
- Miniature golf facilities
- Play areas
- Saunas and steam rooms
- Swimming pools, wading pools, and spas
- Shooting facilities with firing positions
- Residential facilities and dwelling units
- Team or player seating
- Accessible route to bowling lanes
- Accessible route in court sports facilities
Businesses are required to comply with these requirements unless they can prove it is not readily achievable for them to do so. When barrier removal is ruled not to be readily achievable, alternatives must be provided in order to make the service or product available/accessible. For example, if a restaurant is not accessible by a wheelchair user, curbside service should be provided.
WHAT REVISIONS ARE MADE IN THE 2010 ADA?
Here is a list of some of the major changes found in the 2010 ADA:
- All elements are required to be accessible unless they are directly mentioned as excluded.
- The requirement for van accessible parking spaces has been increased from 1 in 8 to 1 in 6.
- All pools are required to have at least one source of entry for persons with mobility impairments that is fixed and can be operated independently by the person with a disability.
- Objects shall not protrude further than 4" into the circulation path that are between 27" and 80" above finish floor or ground
- Parking signs can be no less than 60" off the ground.
- The Reach Range Requirement has been reduced so that objects to be can not be placed lower than 15" or higher than 48".
- All toilets (water closets) in accessible stalls must be located in a 5' x 5' clear floor space.
- Anywhere counters are provided an accesible counter must be provided. If the reach over the counter is more than 10" the counter should be no higher than 34".
- Assembly seating requirements for wheelchair spaces have been increased for small facilities and reduced for larger ones. All forms of seating must connect to an accessible route.
- Wherever audio communication is given, visual communication is also required to be given.
- Tactile characters on signs shall be located 48 inches minimum above the finish floor or ground surface, measured from the baseline of the lowest tactile character and 60 inches maximum above the finish floor or ground surface, measured from the baseline of the highest tactile character.
- Reservations for accessible rooms at Lodging Facilities: Individuals with disabilities should be able to make reservations for accessible guest rooms during the same hours and in the same manner as individuals who do not need accessible rooms; the staff should be able to identify and describe accessible features of the place of lodging and guest rooms. This should be offered through its reservations system in enough detail to reasonably permit individuals with disabilities to assess independently whether a given place of lodging or guest room meets his/her accessibility needs; Accessible guest rooms must be held for use by individuals with disabilities
until all other guest rooms of that type have been rented and the accessible room requested is the only remaining room of that type;
WHY SHOULD BUSINESSES HAVE TO COMPLY WITH THE 2010 ADA?
In order to provide equal rights to persons with disabilities. The fight for full accessibility and inclusion for persons with disabilities is no different than any other civil right's movement. In order to enjoy a happy and fulfilling life, persons with disabilities need to be able to enjoy the things an abled person can. Unfortunately, much of the built environment makes it difficult if not impossible for a customer with a disability to access goods and services. The Mid-Atlentic ADA Center put it best by saying "...for people with disabilities to participate in the everyday activities in their communities, they need to have access to the goods and services provided by your business. Imagine looking forward to a night out with friends, but being unable to enter any of the restaurants in town. For that matter, imagine being unable to enter the grocery store, the beauty parlor, the bank, the dry cleaners or any of the other small businesses in your community." It is important for all to work together to make America accessible to everyone.
Photos Courtesy of: www.ada.gov