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  Access Today: Spring 2001 issue

Access Today, Spring 2001

Inside this issue:

Access Board Issues Final Rule for Play Areas

On October 18, 2000 the U.S. Access Board issued the Final Rule for Accessibility Guidelines for Play Areas under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The new accessibility guidelines address new construction and alterations of play areas under Title II and Title III of the ADA, among them-state and local park and recreation department playground sites, day care centers with playgrounds, and restaurants, malls, and amusement facilities with play areas.

The development of the Final Rule has been a multi-year process dating back to 1993 when the Access Board created a Recreation Access Advisory Committee to develop preliminary accessibility guidelines for recreation environments including sports facilities, places of amusement, play settings, golf, boating and fishing facilities, and developed outdoor recreation facilities. The Final Rule for Play Areas is the first of the recreation accessibility guidelines to be issued in form of final rule.

Getting into the Swing of the Final Rule...

  • Planners, facility owners, and groups such as parent-teacher organizations should make the Final Rule for Play Areas part of their desktop reference library. The Final Rule now supercedes all previous drafts and proposed rules. The Final Rule has significant changes from the draft recommendations released in 1994 and the widely publicized Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) published in 1998.
  • Recognize the Final Rule for Play Areas is a MINIMUM standard. A minimum standard in any case is, basically, the least you have to do in order to be accessible. Certainly adopting a practice of designing beyond the minimum, even incorporating a universal design approach, will give children more play opportunities. In addition, a universal design approach can ensure access for adults with disabilities providing supervision to children in play areas.

This is a photo of an accessible playground at Garfield Park in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Accessible playground at Garfield Park in Indianapolis, Indiana.
An additional number of ground level play components are required when elevated play components are provided. However the number of ground level play components has decreased from 50 percent to one third the number of elevated play components from the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) released in 1998 to the newly issued Final Rule.

The Regulatory Negotiation Committee was concerned that some children with disabilities would be unable to or would choose not to use transfer systems to access elevated play components and wanted to provide additional play opportunities at the ground level for those children. Facilities planning new playgrounds will no longer be able to simply choose an elevated composite structure. They will also have to plan for accessible ground level play components to ensure access to play for children of all abilities if they include elevated activities.

  • Access to elevated play components can be provided through transfer system or ramp. Ramps to elevated play components can provide access for a greater number of children with disabilities than transfer systems where children may not physically be able to transfer up the steps or sociologically may not want to bring attention to themselves transferring amongst their playmates. In the Final Rule, ramp access is not mandated unless the play structure has 20 or more elevated play components. Even then, ramp access is only required to provide access to 25% of those elevated components. The "trigger" number to require ramp access has changed from 12 in the 1994 Recreation Advisory Committee Recommendations to 20 in the Final Rule. Parents, teachers and advocates for the inclusion of children with disabilities recommend that where there is opportunity to provide a ramp to the elevated play components where the child can use his or her assistive device to approach it, to plan so, thus eliminating the need for the child to leave their assistive device as required by use of transfer systems.
  • The Final Rule requires that ground surfaces along accessible routes, clear floor or ground spaces, and maneuvering spaces within play areas meet the new ASTM F 1951 Standard Specification for Determination of Accessibility of Surface Systems Under and Around Playground Equipment. There has been an ongoing debate as to whether loose fill surfaces and specifically engineered wood fiber products are accessible. With this new requirement, playground planners should look for surfaces that meet the ASTM standard. Even so, it is important to remember that many surface manufacturers will show potential buyers that the surface meets the ASTM standard in laboratory testing. Application of the surface may be different at the play site from the laboratory. While the surface may meet the standard in the lab test, it may not meet the standard during day-to-day use at an actual playground site. The Final Rule incorporates an additional requirement where ground surfaces are to be inspected and maintained regularly to ensure compliance with ASTM F 1951. Thus, the loose fill product may be initially cheaper to install, however over the long-run it may actually cost more to maintain as suggested in the Access Board's regulatory assessment.

The last step in the rulemaking process will be for the U.S. Department of Justice to adopt these final accessibility guidelines as the enforceable standard in the ADA. The Final Rule and the summary of the new guidelines are available on the Access Board's web site at: www.access-board.gov.

NCA Partners to Study Surfaces for Beach Access

This is a photo of various temporary beach surfaces being tested at Daytona Beach.
Various temporary beach surfaces being tested at Daytona Beach.
The NCA and Action Disability Advocates, Inc. are partnering to conduct a study of beach accessibility relative to temporary surfaces for beach access.

Nine different matted surfaces that can assist people of impaired mobility to move to the water across a beach will be tested in Daytona Beach, Florida through May 2001. Study participants will include those with mobility and/or developmental disabilities using a variety of mobility assistive devices. People who utilize canes, walkers, scooters, crutches or manual or powered wheelchairs will be invited to participate in the study. The focus of the study is on the perceptions of the surface characteristics, such as the person's stability, ease of movement, their impressions of their safety and how the surface looks in terms of visual appeal.

The study will follow all applicable provisions for beach accessibility as defined in the Final Report of the US Access Board's Regulatory Negotiation Committee. Data will be collected on the installation of each surface. Logs will also be kept on the maintenance needs and durability of the surfaces over the course of the five-month study.

Findings on the study will be available through NCA once the project is complete.

NCA Partners with Illinois DNR

The National Center on Accessibility is partnering with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to conduct an accessibility assessment of outdoor recreation areas at Wildlife Prairie State Park. Description of the project will be posted to the NCA website.

NCA Appoints Two Accessibility Specialists

The National Center on Accessibility has appointed two new accessibility specialists. The accessibility specialists will provide technical assistance to requests for information on access to parks, recreation and tourism that come into NCA. In addition, they will identify new products for accessibility in parks, develop resource materials, and present educational sessions in NCA training programs.

Susan Ostby is an 1998 graduate of Indiana University with a BS in Recreation, concentration in Natural Resource Management. Susan did her internship with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources at Patoka Lake Reservoir with the interpretive programs.

Amy Patrick is a 1999 graduate of Indiana University with a BS in Recreation and concentration in therapeutic recreation. She has previously worked as a Recreation Therapist at the Lighthouse for the Blind in Houston.

Please join NCA in welcoming Susan and Amy. Feel free to contact them in the future for technical assistance at (812) 856-4422 (voice) or (812) 856-4421 (TTY).

NCA Accepts Final RFP

The NCA has accepted a "request for Proposal" (RFP) for a study: "Visitor Expectations and Perceptions of Program and Physical Accessibility in Outdoor Developed Areas."

The purpose of the study will be to identify the perceptions of people with disabilities relative to programmatic and physical accessibility of outdoor developed areas in parks.

The study will provide guidance for park managers relative to the accessibility of their park. Results of the study will be published by NCA upon completion.

Supreme Court Hears PGA Tour Vs. Casey Martin

What has been a win-win for golfer Casey Martin in his quest to use a cart while participating in the PGA Tour now has Martin and disability advocates holding their breath awaiting a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court. The nation's high court agreed to the PGA Tour's request to hear the case January 17, 2001.

In earlier decisions, both the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon and the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Martin who requested the use of a golf cart as an ADA modification in PGA tournament play. The PGA Tour first argued that it was not covered under Title III (Public Accommodations) of the Americans with Disabilities Act and second, that walking was an integral part of golf tournament play where the use of the golf cart would fundamentally alter the nature of the event. The case is the first recreation-related case under the Americans with Disabilities Act to be heard by the high court.

In December, the National Center on Accessibility signed on to the brief amici curiae (friend of the court brief) submitted by the National Association of Protection and Advocacy Systems. The questions before the Supreme Court include whether Title III of the ADA regulates standards established for competitors in athletic competitions held a places of public accommodations; and, if so, whether Title III requires professional sports organizations to grant selective waivers of their substantive rules of athletic competition in order to accommodate disabled competitors. A far reaching decision by the Supreme Court could further define key principles of the ADA including "public accommodation," "reasonable modification," and "fundamental alteration."

The Supreme Court is expected to make a decision on the case before the end of this year's session in June.

NCA Completes Accessible Picnic Element Research

This is a photo of two friends chatting at a picnic table with an extended top which provides accessibility.
Picnic table with extended top which provides accessibility.
The National Center on Accessibility recently completed research on the "Functional Aspects of Accessible Picnic Elements." The findings from the research are aimed at assisting facility managers and park planners in the acquisition of picnic elements including tables, grills, and fire rings. The research was conducted by the University of Minnesota for NCA at parks throughout the Minneapolis area. The purpose of this study was to ascertain the perceptions of persons with and without disabilities regarding the design and function of certain accessible picnic elements. The complete report is available from NCA.

One hundred and four (104) interviews were conducted from May 21, 2000 to September 9, 2000. Individuals were interviewed who used wheeled mobility devices (wheelchairs or scooters), and also individuals who did not use wheeled mobility devices. The questions and results of this study generated a number of recommendations regarding the design and function of certain accessible picnic elements. These include:

What about the accessible elements (picnic table/fire ring/cooking grill) is useful and well designed?

  • Table designs that provide space for more than one wheelchair and/or the wheelchair space(s) are situated for social interaction.
  • Enough leg space/knee clearance for sitting close to the table, or nothing blocking a wheelchair user's legs if they choose to transfer from their wheelchair to the bench.
  • Paved surfaces (e.g. concrete, asphalt) under grills provides greater ease in maneuvering while using the cooking grill than loose gravel or uneven grass.
  • Stair step adjustment of cooking grill was perceived to be easier to manipulate for those wheelchair users with limited arm strength.

What would have to change about the site elements to make them more useable?

  • More information about location of accessible picnic sites. More curb cuts in various locations by popular attractions.
  • More attention paid by managers to the issue of accessible tables being moved to inaccessible locations in a park.
  • Provide adjustable grill surfaces that can be more easily moved up and down by a person with a disability.

The complete executive summary is available on the NCA website at www.ncaonline.org. The complete report is available through NCA for $15.

NCA News on-line

NCA News is an informational electronic news service of the National Center on Accessibility. Information includes research findings, technical assistance, training course announcements, and articles specific to access to park, recreation and tourism. The listserv postings are delivered via email. Archives of postings can be accessed through the NCA website. To subscribe to NCA's new listserv, visit the NCA website at www ncaonline.org and follow the links to NCA News.

Section 508 Final Rule to Impact Federal Agencies Using Electronic and Information Technologies

This is a photo of a kiosk at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.  The kiosk is prototype following the accessibility criteria of Section 508 and using EZ Access techniques developed by Trace Research and Development Center.

Ray Bloomer and Dave Park look over the "Disability Rights Movement" interactive kiosk on display at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. The Kiosk is a prototype following the accessibility criteria of Section 508 and using EZ Access techniques developed by Trace Research and Development Center. For more information on the EZ Access interface for kiosks, visit www.trace.wics.edu
Federal agencies using software, interactive information kiosks, and web sites, now have further guidance to provide access to information according to the newly released Section 508 standards. On December 21, 2000, the U.S. Access Board issued final standards for Electronic and Information Technologies under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. The final standards apply to all electronic and information technologies developed, procured, maintained or used by the federal government. Federal agencies must ensure that this technology is accessible to employees and members of the public with disabilities to the extent it does not pose an "undue burden."

The new standards apply to software applications and operating systems; web-based information or applications; telecommunications functions; video or multi-media products; self contained, closed products such as information kiosks and transaction machines, and computers. Also covered is compatibility with adaptive equipment that people with disabilities commonly use for information and communication access.

The standards are based on recommendations from an advisory committee the Board established for this purpose. The Electronic and Information Technology Access Advisory Committee was composed of 27 members representing industry, various disability organizations, and other groups with an interest in the issues to be addressed.

The final standards, which will become part of the Federal procurement regulations, will help Federal agencies determine whether or not a technology product or system is accessible. The law also sets up an administrative complaint process which becomes effective 6 months from publication of the Board's standards.

The Access Board and the General Services Administration (GSA) are directed to provide technical assistance to individuals and Federal agencies concerning the requirements of Section 508. The Federal Information Technology Accessibility Initiative (FITAI) is an interagency effort, coordinated by GSA, to offer technical assistance, and to provide an informal means of cooperation and sharing of information on implementation of Section 508.The Access Board is currently developing technical assistance materials on the new standards. Visit www.section508.gov for more information.

Source: Access Board Press Release

Retrofitting for Accessibility

Join the National Center on Accessibility in Gatlinburg, Tennessee for the training course "Retrofitting for Accessibility" September 24-28th, This training course is designed for maintenance professionals, facility managers, site accessibility coordinators, and planners. The course curriculum identifies the barriers encountered by people with disabilities in both indoor and outdoor recreation environments while focusing on practical solutions to optimize access in recreation facilities. Training sessions include application of accessibility standards under the Americans with Disabilities Act, an introduction to the newly proposed accessibility guidelines for outdoor developed areas and recreation facilities, and methods to maintain facilities while ensuring access for people with disabilities. This four-day training program includes interactive discussions and field visit(s) facilitating new understanding and skill development for participants to apply upon return to their facilities. Professionals involved in the retrofit review and approval process will benefit from the course.

A prerequisite Disability Awareness Seminar is scheduled for the first day of the training program. The seminar will introduce course participants to information about people with disabilities, characteristics, attitudes, physical and programmatic issues, and legislation. The Disability Awareness Seminar is required of all participants who have not previously attended an NCA course within the past three years.



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National Center on Accessibility
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2001-03, The Trustees of Indiana University