Friday, June 06, 2008

New Federal ADA Regs Previewed

On June 4, 2008, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a News Release entitled "Department of Justice Proposes New Rules to Implement the Americans with Disabilities Act", regarding its solicitation of comments "on proposed amendments to its regulations implementing Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)."

This important announcement -- referencing
the first proposed updates since 1991 of ADA Regulations for Title II, and since 1994 of ADA Regulations for Title III -- was cross-referenced on the "Hot Topics" list of the Disability Info website.

This notice of proposed rulemaking is the second step in a three-step process. On September 30, 2004, DOJ had issued an advance notice regarding its intention to update its ADA standards based on new guidelines previously issued by the United States Access Board on July 23, 2004.

Under the ADA, design requirements for new or altered facilities are first established by the Access Board as a baseline for DOJ’s use in setting or updating the enforceable standards that must be followed.
See: Department of Justice Issues Advance Notice on Update of its ADA Standards (10/05/04); and Proposal to Issue Revised ADA Design Standards (05/16/05, Rev 12/29/05).

Then, on June 3, 2008, DOJ posted, on the ADA website, its "Advance Text -- Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) -- Proposal to Revise ADA Regulations under Title II and Title III":

On Friday, May 30, 2008, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey signed proposed regulations to revise the Department’s ADA regulations, including its ADA Standards for Accessible Design.

The Department is providing advance text of the two proposals pending their publication in the Federal Register.

The advance text consists of a notice of proposed rulemaking to amend the ADA regulation for State and local governments, a notice of proposed rulemaking to amend the ADA regulation for public accommodations and commercial facilities, a Regulatory Impact Analysis, and two supporting appendices.
  • Appendices to Titles III and III:
  • Regulatory Impact Analysis:

DOJ's recent News Release provided an overview of the proposed new regulations, soon to be offered officially for public comment:
The proposed regulations will, for the first time, establish specific requirements for the design of accessible public facilities such as courtrooms and an array of recreation facilities including playgrounds, swimming pools, amusement parks, and golf courses, making it easier for individuals with disabilities to travel, enjoy sports and leisure activities, play, and otherwise participate in society.

ADA is a landmark law that protects the civil rights of the more than 50 million persons, including 5 million children ages 3 to 14, with disabilities, and was intended to provide individuals "equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency."

ADA bans disability-based discrimination by state and local governments and by public accommodations. Public accommodations are defined as private businesses that are generally open to the public, such as hotels, restaurants, retail stores, theaters, and health care facilities. Additionally, the ADA aims to prevent discrimination as it applies to the design and construction of commercial facilities such as office buildings, factories and warehouses.

The proposed amendments are intended to implement revised guidelines published by the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board), and to adopt changes necessary to address issues that have arisen since the publication of the original regulations in 1991.

The amendments, which represent more than 10 years of collaborative efforts with disability groups, the design and construction industry, state and local government entities, and building code organizations, also are intended to provide greater consistency between the
ADA Standards and other federal and state accessibility requirements. * * *
These proposed new standards will benefit elderly folks who access public facilities in these design areas, among others:
  • captioning of emergency announcements in large stadiums;
  • identification of accessible hotel room features, and require guaranteed reservations of such rooms to the same extent as the entity guarantees reservations for others;
  • availability of accessible seating in public venues, such as theaters and sports stadiums, for purchase by people with disabilities; and
  • the availability of auxiliary aids, such as video interpreting services, to ensure that people who are deaf or have limited hearing can receive and convey vital information in medical and other settings.
For further background about the ADA in general, and its enforcement by the DOJ, see: ADA Regulations and Technical Assistance Materials, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.