Background

The Americans with Disabilities Act recognizes and protects the civil rights of people with disabilities.1 Titles II and III of the ADA require, among other things, that newly constructed and altered State and local government facilities, places of public accommodation, and commercial facilities be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. Recreation facilities are among the types of facilities covered by titles II and III of the ADA.

The ADA designates the Access Board as the agency responsible for developing minimum accessibility guidelines to ensure that new construction and alterations of facilities covered by titles II and III of the ADA are readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.2 The Access Board initially issued the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) in 1991.3 Current ADAAG contains general scoping and technical provisions (ADAAG 1 to 4) that apply to all types of facilities, and special application sections (ADAAG 5 to 12) that include additional scoping and technical provisions for certain types of facilities.4 As discussed in more detail below, this final rule will amend section 4, and create a new section 15 (Recreation Facilities).

The Department of Justice is responsible for issuing regulations to implement titles II and III of the ADA. The regulations issued by the Department of Justice must include accessibility standards for newly constructed and altered facilities covered by titles II and III of the ADA. The standards must be consistent with the minimum accessibility guidelines issued by the Access Board. The Department of Justice has adopted ADAAG as the Standard for Accessible Design for title III of the ADA.5

This final rule amends ADAAG by adding a new special application section for amusement rides, boating facilities, fishing piers and platforms, golf courses, miniature golf, sports facilities, and swimming pools and spas. This rulemaking has had a long history. In 1993, the Access Board established an advisory committee of 27 members to make recommendations on guidelines for recreation facilities. The Recreation Access Advisory Committee met from July 1993 to May 1994 and submitted a report to the Board, "Recommendations for Accessibility Guidelines: Recreational Facilities and Outdoor Developed Areas". After receiving the committee’s report, the Board published it as an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (59 FR 48542, September 21, 1994). Over 600 comments were received on the report and questions asked in the advance notice. To obtain additional information for this rulemaking, the Board also sponsored research on access to swimming pools in 1995; held informational meetings and conducted site visits on access to miniature golf facilities in September 1996; and held informational meetings and conducted site visits on accessible amusement rides in December 1999 and March and April 2000.

A notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) was published in the Federal Register on July 9, 1999. (64 FR 37326, July 9, 1999). The comment period was originally scheduled to close on November 8, 1999, but was extended until December 8, 1999 to allow more time for the public to submit comments. These comments were submitted electronically, in writing, and as oral testimony received during two public hearings held in Dallas, TX (August 26, 1999) and Boston, MA (November 17, 1999). Over 200 people attended these hearings and approximately 54 people provided testimony. The Board received approximately 300 comments during the public comment period.

The Access Board created an ad hoc committee of Board members to review the comments received on the proposed rule. The ad hoc committee discussed significant issues associated with the comments and made recommendations to the full Board for the final rule. In an effort to provide the public with more opportunities for input into the provisions for the final rule, on July 21, 2000 the Board published a summary of the ad hoc committee’s recommendations and put the summary in the rulemaking docket for public review (65 FR 4533, July 21, 2000). The comment period on the summary closed on September 19, 2000. Approximately 70 comments were received during the public comment period. Afterwards, the Board held informational meetings on the summary in Washington, DC (August 21-22, 2000) and San Francisco, CA (September 6-7, 2000).