General Issues

Incorporating the Final Rule on Recreation Facilities into Future Revisions to ADAAG

A complete review of ADAAG has been underway for several years. ADAAG was first published on July 26, 1991. The Board is committed to ensuring that ADAAG continues to reflect technological developments and is improved in terms of usability. Efforts also include coordination with changes in national standards and model code organizations and reconciling differences between ADAAG and national consensus standards, where possible. The Board published a notice of proposed rulemaking on November 16, 1999 with proposed revisions to ADAAG. The Board plans to issue final changes to ADAAG in the near future.

The Board is issuing the final guidelines for recreation facilities prior to the publication of the final ADAAG revision. The Board then plans to incorporate these final guidelines into the final revisions to ADAAG. To effectively incorporate these guidelines into the new format, some minor formatting changes will be made. For instance, the revised ADAAG will include a new format and numbering system. This rule will need to be formatted to fit that system. Some of the provisions will also be modified slightly to avoid redundancy. No substantive changes to the text are planned. Once incorporated, the Board will develop a guide to assist users with the new ADAAG.

The incorporation of the final recreation guidelines into the revised ADAAG will enhance the usability of the accessibility guidelines for architects, designers, manufacturers, operators and others using ADAAG. For example, accessibility guidelines for accessible parking spaces, toilet rooms, amusement rides, swimming pools, and exercise facilities will be combined into one document. Other improvements in the format of ADAAG will reduce redundancy through the use of basic technical provisions known as "building blocks," which will provide consistent dimensions for clear spaces, turning spaces, and knee and toe clearances for elements. These basic technical provisions will apply unless otherwise modified in the section containing accessibility guidelines for recreation facilities. For example, handrail requirements for sloped entries into swimming pools modify the requirements otherwise required in the ramp provisions (ADAAG 4.8.5).

Multiple Chemical Sensitivities and Electromagnetic Sensitivities

Individuals with multiple chemical sensitivities and electromagnetic sensitivities submitted a substantial number of written comments and attended the public information meetings on the draft final rule. They reported that chemicals used in recreation facilities, such as chlorine used in swimming pools and spas, and pesticides and synthetic fertilizers used on golf courses, are barriers that deny them access to those facilities. They requested the Board to include provisions in the final rule to make recreation facilities accessible for them.

The Board recognizes that multiple chemical sensitivities and electromagnetic sensitivities may be considered disabilities under the ADA if they so severely impair the neurological, respiratory or other functions of an individual that it substantially limits one or more of the individual's major life activities. The Board plans to closely examine the needs of this population, and undertake activities that address accessibility issues for these individuals.

The Board plans to develop technical assistance materials on best practices for accommodating individuals with multiple chemical sensitivities and electromagnetic sensitivities. The Board also plans to sponsor a project on indoor environmental quality. In this project, the Board will bring together building owners, architects, building product manufacturers, model code and standard-setting organizations, individuals with multiple chemical sensitivities and electromagnetic sensitivities, and other individuals. This group will examine building design and construction issues that affect the indoor environment, and develop an action plan that can be used to reduce the level of chemicals and electromagnetic fields in the built environment.

Neither the proposed rule nor the draft final rule included provisions for multiple chemical sensitivities or electromagnetic sensitivities. The Board believes these issues require a thorough examination and public review before they are addressed through rulemaking. The Board does not address these issues in the final rule.

Existing Recreation Facilities

The Board received a significant number of comments related to the impact of these accessibility guidelines on existing facilities. Some commenters interpreted the proposed rule and the draft final rule to require all existing recreation facilities or elements of these facilities to be modified to meet the new accessibility guidelines. They expressed concern that the guidelines would have a significant economic impact on existing recreation facilities.

To clarify, ADAAG and the final accessibility guidelines for recreation facilities apply to newly designed or newly constructed buildings and facilities and to existing facilities when they are altered. ADAAG and the Department of Justice regulations address whether a change to a building or facility is considered an alteration. The publication of this final rule does not require that all existing facilities be modified to meet these guidelines. State and local governments who provide recreation facilities have a separate obligation under title II of the ADA to provide program accessibility which may require the removal of architectural barriers in existing facilities. See 28 CFR 35.150 (http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/reg2.html). Private entities who own, lease (or lease to), or operate recreation facilities have a separate obligation under title III of the ADA to remove architectural barriers in existing facilities where it is readily achievable (i.e., easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense). See 28 CFR 36.304 (http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/reg3a.html).

Federal tax credits and deductions are available to private entities for architectural barrier removal in existing facilities. Federal funds also are available through the Community Development Block Grant Program to remove architectural barriers in existing facilities. State and local governments may use Community Development Block Grant funds to remove architectural barriers in publicly and privately operated facilities. Entities requesting guidance on their obligations for existing facilities should contact the Department of Justice.

Equivalent Facilitation

Commenters addressing various sections of the recreation rule indicated the need for flexibility in designing and constructing accessible recreation facilities and elements. Commenters wanted to ensure that alternative designs would be permitted for providing accessibility with some of the unique elements and facilities addressed in this rule. Specific concerns were raised in comments related to accessible amusement rides and miniature golf courses.

The Board recognizes that many of the facilities and elements addressed in this rule are unique and supports the need for flexibility in making them accessible. Section 2.2 of ADAAG currently permits "departures from particular technical and scoping requirements of this guideline by the use of other designs and technologies . . . where the alternative designs and technologies used will provide substantially equivalent or greater access to and usability of the facility." This provision applies to all facilities and elements addressed by ADAAG, including recreation facilities.