Access Today: December 2011

Season’s Greetings from the National Center on Accessibility

During this holiday season more than ever, our thoughts turn gratefully to those who make inclusion of people with disabilities in parks, recreation and tourism possible.  Your commitment and continued work are vital to improving the health and wellness of people with disabilities throughout the United States and abroad. In this spirit we say, simply but sincerely, Thank You. Season’s greetings and best wishes this holiday and throughout the new year.          -the NCA Staff

 

Registration Open for NCA 2012 Training Courses

The National Center on Accessibility will host two open registration training courses in the first half of 2012 plus collaborate on a variety of other regional and national events.  Register now to get $75 off the registration fee to either the Lake Mead or Denver courses.

Access to Parks and Outdoor Recreation Areas will be held at Lake Mead National Recreation Area, outside of Las Vegas, in April.  This 3 ½ -day training course will provide an overview of the new accessibility standards while emphasizing a universal design approach for new construction and alterations to existing facilities.

Accessibility Management in Parks, Recreation and Tourism will be held in Denver in July.  This is the most popular NCA open registration course, designed to give accessibility coordinators in parks and recreation a broad perspective and foundation for implementing an accessibility management program.  The course has been expanded to 4 ½ days for 2012.

 

NCA Partners with Network for 2012 National ADA Symposium

We are excited to announce that the National Center on Accessibility has partnered with the Great Plains and Great Lakes ADA Centers to coordinate a recreation track for the 2012 National ADA Symposium.  The national conference will be held May 30 – June 1 in Indianapolis.  NCA will coordinate nine sessions for the recreation track ranging from interpretive exhibits to playgrounds. “We are really looking forward to this opportunity to be a part of the 2012 ADA Symposium,” says NCA Executive Director, Dr. Sherril York.  “NCA is coming up on its 20th anniversary and we see this as a great event to contribute to the professional knowledge base of what is new and emerging in accessibility for parks, recreation and tourism.”

 

ADA Compliance: March 15, 2012 is a Starting Line, not a Deadline

As we get closer to the March 15, 2012 compliance date for the 2010 ADA Standards, the National Center on Accessibility staff continues to field questions from practitioners.  Many questions are rooted in misinformation.  As reported in our October article, What’s the Big Deal About March 15, 2012? there has been an influx of product advertisements warning facility operators to come into ADA compliance by March 15.  The date has been falsely advertised in a sense as a “deadline” with statements to the effect that your facility must be retrofitted by this date or you run the risk of ADA litigation.

March 15, 2012 is not a deadline.  If anything, the March 15, 2012 date should be viewed as a starting line.  This is the date designated by DOJ as the compliance date where all entities covered by Title II and Title III must begin using the new (2010) accessibility standards. From March 15 forward, all new construction and alterations to existing facilities should begin utilizing the new standards.  From this point back to when the new regulations were issued in September 2010, entities had an interim choice to use either the new standards or the existing ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG).  Beginning March 15, the interim choice to still use ADAAG has been eliminated and the 2010 ADA Standards will become the new accessibility standards of the land.

Yet, many myths to the new ADA regulations still exist, including the misperception that all existing facilities must be “fixed” (made accessible) and transition plans must be completed by March 15, 2012.  Reality is that facility “fixes” and transition plans for Title II entities were required to be completed 17-20 years ago.  Title II of the regulations, applicable to state and local government, actually required that structural changes in facilities necessary to achieve program access be completed by January 26, 1995 – 17 years ago (Section 35.150(c).  Yes, structural changes necessary to achieve program access under Title II of the ADA were required to be completed 17 years ago, or as expeditiously as possible.  Additionally, where structural changes where necessary to achieve program access, public entities with more than 50 employees were required to complete transition plans by July 26, 1992.  Yes, transition plans by state and local governments should have been completed 20 years ago.  Those transition plans were required to be on file to the public for three years or until such time that all structural changes had been made.

Stress from agencies and practitioners appear to be occurring for many reasons from high-pressured sales calls for “accessible” products to budget constraints in lean economic times.  Some agencies may have conducted a transition plan 20 years ago only to put it on the shelf, while others are discovering no current plan for barrier removal exists.

So what can a public entity do to prepare for March 15, 2012?

1. View the March 15, 2012 date as a starting line.  Make this the date your agency re-commits to structural changes in facilities to achieve program access and full inclusion of people with disabilities.  Make this the date to commit to using the new 2010 ADA Standards and, whenever possible, go beyond the minimum standards using the principles of universal design.

2. Re-visit your agency transition plan.  Much has happened in the last 20 years.  Staff has changed.  Facilities have changed.  Some barriers may have been removed, while others may have been constructed.  Use this time to update your transition plan, identify structural and communication barriers to programs and develop an aggressive timeline for barrier removal.

3. Evaluate your accessibility management program.  Do you have an accessibility coordinator and accessibility team?  What accomplishments have been made?  What challenges still exist?  Are people with disabilities included in the planning process?  What are they saying about your agency efforts thus far?

4. Lastly, be wary of pressure from sales reps and consultants.  Realistically, an effective transition plan is not going to be developed in the next 75 days.  An effective plan takes time to develop.  Deficiencies must be identified.  Corrective actions must be agreed upon.  Citizen input should be sought.  Lead staff should be assigned and funding will have to be secured.  This will take time, but it must be done for any accessibility management program to be effective.  Moreover, it is required of all Title II entities with 50 or more employees and it will serve as the documentation to demonstrate a good faith effort in the event an ADA complaint is filed.

Over the last 20 years at NCA, we have come to learn accessibility management is a marathon, not a sprint.  Do not be overwhelmed with March 15, 2012 as a deadline.  Instead see it as the starting line to utilize the most up to date regulations, which for the first time in the ADA history, include specific provisions for recreation facilities.  If you have more questions, please contact one of our NCA accessibility specialists for technical assistance at (812) 856-4422 (voice) or (812) 856-4421 (tty).

 

Update on the Status of Rulemaking

The US Access Board has postponed final review and approval of the text to accompany the rule for Outdoor Developed Areas.  In the midst of several rules for accessibility standards, content review of the Outdoor Developed Areas rulemaking is tentatively scheduled for its March meeting.  The text of the final rule for outdoor constructed features, camping and picnic facilities, trails and beaches awaits a final vote by the Access Board before it can be sent to the Office of Management and Budget and subsequently issued as a final rule under the Architectural Barriers Act.  Stay tuned to this rulemaking.  When it is finally issued, it will serve as the first and most current accessibility guidelines addressing outdoor recreation environments on federal lands.

In addition to rulemaking on Outdoor Developed Areas, the U.S. Access Board has issued a second Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) to update the accessibility standards for information technology covered by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 255 of the Telecommunication Act.  See the Access Board web site to read a copy of the ANPRM and draft revisions.

The Access Board has also extended the period of public comment for rulemaking on the development of accessibility standards for public rights of way to February 2, 2012.

New ADA Checklists Released

New ADA Checklists for Readily Achievable Barrier Removal have been released through the ADA National Network and the New England ADA Center.  The new checklists cite the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design and are geared for use in existing facilities.  The checklists are formatted according to the US Department of Justice’s four priorities recommended for existing facilities: approach and entrance; access to goods and services; toilet rooms; and other spaces like drinking fountains, public telephones and fire alarms.  Checklists for recreation facilities are scheduled to be released in January.  www.adachecklist.org

 

IPEMA Issues Position Statement on Use of EWF

While first year research findings by the National Center on Accessibility reveal accessibility concerns of various playground surfaces, the International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA) has issued a position statement on the use of engineered wood fiber (EWF).  The position statement, dated October 2011, addresses installation and maintenance recommendations IPEMA believes is necessary for EWF to comply with the ADA requirements.  The 2-page guidance document gives step-by-step installation instructions.  Preliminary findings from the NCA longitudinal study of playground surfaces has found playgrounds owners and contractors commonly lack information and knowledge of critical steps in the installation process.  Namely, the IPEMA document recommends EWF to be installed in 6-8 inch layers, raked, leveled, wetted and mechanically compacted.

Playground owners readying for installation and replenishment of EWF should become familiar with the document.  In addition, owners should request specific installation and maintenance instructions from the surface supplier to assure the product warranty can be upheld.  IPEMA Position Statement on Installation/Maintenance of EWF to Meet ADA Requirements (PDF) >

 

RESNA Standards Committee on Cognitive Technologies to Meet

The Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North American (RESNA) Standards Committee on Cognitive Technologies (CT) will hold its next meeting January 27 in Orlando.  The CT committee has been developed with the purpose of adopting standards to advance design and product information for people with various levels of cognitive ability and function.  For more information, contact Harmony Hilderbrand at (775) 783-8823 or harmony@beneficialdesigns.com.