1. Executive Summary

Legal Authority and Purpose

We are required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act to issue guidelines for the accessibility standards adopted by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for the design, construction, and alteration of facilities (other than certain transportation facilities) by entities subject to the ADA.2 We are also required by the Rehabilitation Act to issue guidelines for the accessibility standards adopted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the design, construction, and alteration of residential facilities by entities subject to the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA).3 Our current guidelines, the ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines, were issued in 2004.4 This final rule amends the ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines to specifically address emergency transportable housing units provided to disaster survivors by entities subject to the ADA or ABA. Compliance is not required by entities subject to the ADA until DOJ updates its accessibility standards to be consistent with the final rule. Compliance is not required by entities subject to the ABA until HUD updates its accessibility standards to be consistent with the final rule.

Summary of Major Provisions

The final rule applies to entities subject to the ADA or ABA that provide emergency transportable housing units to disaster survivors. Emergency transportable housing units are prefabricated so they can be deployed rapidly in response to disasters. They are transported on a single transport vehicle over roadways, which results in size and space limitations. They provide temporary housing for persons whose homes have been destroyed or damaged by a disaster until they find suitable permanent housing.

Where group sites are developed for emergency transportable housing units, the final rule requires at least 10 percent of the unit pads at each group site to be designed and constructed to accept the installation of units with mobility features for disaster survivors who have mobility disabilities, and at least 5 percent of the total number of units installed at each group site to provide mobility features. Where emergency transportable housing units are installed on private sites provided by the occupant of the unit, existing commercial sites, or military installations, the final rule requires entities to provide units with mobility features as determined by a needs assessment conducted by the entity providing the units.

The final rule requires emergency transportable housing units with mobility features to comply with the technical requirements for residential dwelling units with mobility features. The final rule adds new technical requirements for floor surfaces, bedrooms, and weather alert systems in emergency transportable housing units with mobility features. The final rule also requires a water spray unit at kitchen sinks and a seat in roll-in type and transfer type shower compartments in emergency transportable housing units with mobility features. The final rule does not permit the use of platform lifts at the primary entrance to emergency transportable housing units with mobility features. The final rule revises existing exceptions and adds new exceptions relating to operable parts, ramps, grab bars, clear floor space at lavatories and kitchen sinks, and kitchen work surfaces in emergency transportable housing units with mobility features.

The final rule requires entities to provide emergency transportable housing units with communication features for disaster survivors who are deaf or have a hearing loss as determined by a needs assessment conducted by the entity providing the emergency transportable housing units, regardless of the type of site where the units are installed. The final rule requires emergency transportable housing units with communication features to provide combination smoke alarms and visible notification appliances complying with NFPA 72 National Fire Alarm Code. Where weather alert systems are provided in emergency transportable housing units, the final rule requires weather alert systems in units with communication features to provide audible and visible output.

Summary of Costs and Benefits

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is the only entity we have identified that has recently provided emergency transportable housing units to disaster survivors. FEMA is subject to the ABA. We estimated the additional costs for FEMA to provide emergency transportable housing units that comply with the final rule compared to units complying with the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS). UFAS is the accessibility standard adopted by HUD for residential facilities covered by the ABA. We estimated the additional costs under three scenarios. The scenarios do not represent actual costs that FEMA will incur each year since the number of UFAS compliant units deployed by FEMA varies from year to year. The first scenario is based on the average number of UFAS compliant units deployed per year by FEMA in response to major disasters and emergencies declared by the President during the period from calendar year 2008 to 2013, which were 165 UFAS compliant units. Under the first scenario, we estimated the additional costs to range from $28,425 to $104,775. The second scenario is based on FEMA’s current baseline target inventory of 298 UFAS compliant units. Under the second scenario, we estimated the additional costs to range from $51,480 to $189,230. The third scenario is based on the approximately 145,000 emergency transportable housing units that FEMA deployed in response Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Under the third scenario, we estimated the additional costs to range from $2.5 million to $18.4 million depending on whether 10, 15, or 20 percent of the units are UFAS compliant. The additional costs estimated under the second and third scenarios may be incurred over more than one year.

The final rule would benefit disaster survivors with disabilities who need temporary housing. The benefits are difficult to quantify, but include important national values recognized in Executive Order 13563 such as equity, human dignity, and fairness.