Top Five Things You Should Know About the DOJ’s 2010 ADA Standards

Rocky Mountain ADA Center Advises Businesses on ADA Compliance Requirements Effective March 15
 
March 7, 2012 - PRLog -- With only a week to go before businesses are required to implement the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) revised regulations for fulfilling the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), there is wide-spread confusion and concern regarding some of the new standards. The Rocky Mountain ADA Center, which provides information on the ADA to individuals and organizations in Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming, has compiled a list of the top five questions that local businesses are asking about the new regulations.  

The revised rules, which include the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design (2010 Standards), were adopted by the DOJ on September 15, 2010, and went into effect on March 15, 2011. Beginning on March 15 of this year, all state and local government entities and privately owned places of accommodation such as restaurants, hotels, hospitals, stores, factories and warehouses are required to comply with the new regulations.

“There has been a lot of misinformation and confusion out there; March 15, 2012 is not a deadline; if anything, it should be viewed as a starting point to building an accessible future for the more than 54 million Americans with disabilities,” said Jana Burke, the director of the Rocky Mountain ADA Center. “March 15, 2012 has been designated by the DOJ as the compliance date where all government and business must begin using the 2010 ADA Standards when doing new construction or making alterations to existing facilities – making them the new accessibility standards of the land.”

Despite this, Burke says myths regarding the compliance date persist. The top five questions the Rocky Mountain ADA Center has received from businesses in the region include:  

1.   Is March 15, 2012 a deadline or starting point for existing facilities?
The reality is that existing facilities should already be in compliance with the 1991 Standards. If they are, a safe harbor provision is applied on an element-by-element basis to these existing facilities and does not require them to be brought into compliance with the 2010 Standards until those elements are scheduled for alteration. If an existing facility is not in compliance, it needs to make March 15, 2012 the date to commit to using the 2010 Standards to make its facility fully accessible for people with disabilities.

2.   Are regulations for the recreation industry new?
Yes. For the first time since the passage of the ADA more than 20 years ago, there are now accessibility standards specific to the unique features of recreation facilities. All new construction of recreation facilities must begin using the new standards. Because there weren’t any requirements of recreation facilities included in the 1991 Standards, they are not subject to safe harbor, meaning existing business facilities must remove architectural barriers to meet compliance when it is readily achievable to do so, or in other words, easily accomplished without much difficulty or expense.  Recreation facilities outlined in the 2010 Standards include swimming pools, amusement parks, play areas, exercise machines, miniature golf facilities, recreational boating facilities and bowling alleys.

3.   Do I need to have pool lifts by March 15, 2012?
For the first time, the 2010 Standards set minimum requirements for making swimming pools, wading pools, and spas (pools) accessible. Newly constructed and altered pools must meet these requirements. Public entities and public accommodations also have obligations with respect to existing pools. State and local governments must make recreational programs and services, including swimming pool programs, accessible to people with disabilities. Public accommodations must bring existing pools into compliance with the 2010 Standards to the extent that it is readily achievable to do so. Pool lifts and sloped entries are common means for creating access to existing pools.

4.   What are readily achievable barrier removals?
The ADA requires that private businesses remove architectural barriers in existing facilities when it is readily achievable to do so, meaning that it can be easily accomplished  without much difficulty or expense. Readily achievable barrier removal may include providing an accessible route from a parking lot to the business's entrance, installing ramps, making curb cuts in sidewalks and entrances, widening doors, installing accessible door hardware, installing grab bars in toilet stalls, rearranging toilet partitions to increase maneuvering space, insulating lavatory pipes under sinks to prevent burns, or creating designated accessible parking spaces. When removing barriers, businesses are required to comply with the 2010 Standards to the extent possible.

5.   Which accessibility features take priority?
All businesses should do the best they can with what they have to achieve a level of usability that balances user needs, the constraints of existing conditions and available resources. To help balance accessibility needs with costs, the DOJ recommends following this accessibility priority list:
#1:   Take measures to provide access so people can get in to your business.
#2:   Take measures to provide access so that people are able to use the space where goods and services are provided.
#3:   Take measures to make restrooms accessible.
#4:   Take any other measures necessary to make your business’s goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations accessible to people with disabilities.

The new regulations are complex and must be carefully reviewed prior to undertaking any significant design, renovation or construction. A failure to comply could lead to substantial expense in the form of avoidable rebuilds, or lawsuits and civil penalties to the business.

The Rocky Mountain ADA Center is a valuable resource for architects, contractors, local government representatives, small business owners, and others as they navigate through the revised Standards. Additional information on the 2010 Standards is available from the Rocky Mountain ADA Center at www.adainformation.org/buildingprofessionals.

About the Rocky Mountain ADA Center
The Rocky Mountain ADA Center is operated by Meeting the Challenge, Inc. and provides information, training and informal guidance to individuals and organizations with rights and responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Center is one of 10 regional centers funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, a division of the U.S. Department of Education, and serves a six-state region including Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. For more information, visit www.adainformation.org.

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The DBTAC Rocky Mountain ADA Center is operated by Meeting the Challenge, Inc. and provides information and technical assistance to individuals and organizations with rights and responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
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