Chapter 2: Methodology

2.1 Overview

The benefits of the final guidelines are discussed in the next chapter. The costs are discussed in the remaining chapters. A separate chapter is devoted to amusement rides; boating facilities; fishing piers and platforms; golf courses; miniature golf courses; exercise equipment, bowling lanes, and shooting facilities; and swimming pools, wading pools, and spas. In each cost chapter, we estimated the number of existing facilities and new facilities constructed annually, and the percentage operated by small entities. We summarized the final guidelines and discussed the alternatives considered. We identified requirements that have cost impacts for new construction and alterations, estimated unit costs per facility, and calculated total annual compliance costs for the industry. The miscellaneous amendments to ADAAG are discussed in the last chapter.

2.2 Benefit - Cost Analysis

A benefit - cost analysis is typically an incremental analysis that compares a regulatory action with a baseline of “no regulatory action.”27 The benefits of the final guidelines are the fulfillment of civil rights experienced by individuals with disabilities, and the potential health benefits individuals with disabilities can realize by participating in recreational activities. These benefits cannot be monetized or quantified in units that can be compared for each alternative.28 It is also difficult to assess the baseline of what would occur in the absence of regulatory action. Regulatory action is needed because ADAAG does not currently provide sufficient guidance on how to make certain unique features of recreation facilities accessible. Entities covered by the ADA have a statutory obligation to make newly constructed and altered facilities accessible and many are using the draft final guidelines as “best practices” until the final guidelines are issued. This is particularly true for State and local government programs that are also covered by section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in federally assisted programs. Section 504 regulations requiring program accessibility have been in effect for 25 years. State and local government programs receiving Federal financial assistance are required to have section 504 coordinators and written plans for achieving program accessibility, which help promote compliance. Many private entities have discovered through the ADA the benefits of marketing their goods and services to individuals with disabilities and are using the draft final guidelines as “best practices.” Of course, there are entities who will wait for the final guidelines to be issued and adopted as enforceable standards by the Department of Justice. It is beyond the Access Board’s resources to survey the industries covered by the ADA to measure their current levels of compliance. However, where information is available on current levels of compliance, it is used in the assessment.

2.3 Number of Facilities

The U.S. Census Bureau conducts an Economic Census of economic activity in the United States every five years. We compared data in the1992 and 1997 Economic Census, and used the average annual rate of growth for each industry to project the number of existing and newly constructed facilities.29 The are several limitations to using the Economic Census data. The 1992 Economic Census used the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) Manual and the 1997 Economic Census used the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) to organize data on the economy. Because of differences between how the SIC and NAICS classify industries, it is not always possible to compare data from the 1992 and 1997 Economic Census. The ADA covers public and private entities. The Economic Census provides data on private entities only. The Economic Census classifies private entities by the one kind of activity that accounted for the major portion of their receipts and may undercount the number of private entities that operate more than one recreational facility at the same location or that operate a recreation facility as an ancillary activity to a principal business.

2.4 Small Entities

The Small Business Administration adjusted the standards for defining small private entities that operate recreation facilities from a maximum of $5 million to $6 million in annual receipts, effective February 22, 2002.30 The 1997 Economic Census reports the number of private entities with annual receipts under $5 million, and the number with annual receipts between $5 million and $10 million. For private entities with annual receipts between $5 million and $10 million, we assumed 20 percent had a maximum of $6 million in annual sales. We estimated the percentage of small private entities that operated each type of recreation facility in 1997 and assumed the percentage is the same in 2002. Some recreation facilities are seasonal. The 1997 Economic Census only provides data on annual receipts for facilities that operate the entire year. We assumed the percentage of small private entities in each industry that operate on a seasonal basis is the same as the percentage that operates for the entire year.

Counties, municipalities, towns, and special districts are considered small governmental jurisdictions if they have a population of less than 50,000.31 The number of these public entities that are small governmental jurisdictions is shown in Table 2.1. Where public entities operate recreation facilities, we assumed the percentage that are small governmental jurisdictions is the same as in Table 2.1.

Table 2.1 - Small Governmental Jurisdictions

Government Number Population Less Than 50,000
County 3,043 2,204 (72%)
Municipal 19,372 18,803 (97%)
Township 16,629 16,509 (99%)
Special District - Parks & Recreation 1,253 No data

U.S. Census Bureau, 1997 Census of Governments

2.5 Assumptions

Where no data was available, we interviewed professionals in the affected industries and made assumptions based on the interviews. The assumptions are disclosed in the assessment. Some of the assumptions cannot be validated and may not reflect the real world. For example, to calculate the total cost for boating facilities to comply with the requirements for gangways that connect to accessible boating slips, we assumed that: (a) the maximum vertical level change from land to the pier would be less than 2.5 feet at 20 percent of the facilities; (b) the maximum vertical level change from land to the pier would be between 2.5 feet and 10 feet at 40 percent of the facilities; and (c) the maximum vertical level change from land to the pier would be more than 10 feet at 40 percent of the facilities. The assumptions may result in under or overestimating the impacts of the final guidelines.

2.6 New Construction

The cost chapters focus on the impacts of the final guidelines on new construction. We assumed newly designed and constructed recreation facilities comply with the applicable scoping and technical requirements currently in ADAAG such as providing an accessible route to the facility. There are two types of recreation facilities where we modified this assumption. In amusement parks, an accessible route may not currently be provided to the load and unload areas of new platform type amusement rides with stepped entrances. In boating facilities, where a gangway is part of an accessible route to a floating pier, new gangways may not currently comply with the maximum slope and rise requirements for ramps depending on the water level.

Designing facilities to be accessible from the beginning generally has minimal impact on the total construction costs of a new facility. Most of the scoping and technical requirements in ADAAG do not add features or space to facilities, but rather require that features commonly provided meet certain specifications so individuals with disabilities are included. Most designs are produced today with the assistance of computers. Designers can simply incorporate ADAAG into their computer assisted design (CAD) programs. In assessing the costs of the final guidelines, we focused on requirements that add features to or have space impacts on recreation facilities. When estimating unit costs per facility, we obtained estimates from more than one source.

2.7 Alterations

The cost chapters also examine the impact of the final guidelines on alterations to existing facilities. ADAAG requires that when an existing element or space is altered, it must comply with the applicable scoping and technical requirements for new construction.32 Where compliance with the new construction requirements would require removing or altering a load bearing member that is an essential part of the structural frame, or where existing physical or site constraints prohibit the modification or addition of elements or spaces, there is an exception for technical infeasibility.33 The final guidelines include additional exceptions that limit the impact on alterations to existing facilities.

An accessible route is not required to be provided to an altered element or space unless the alteration is to a primary function area and the cost of providing an accessible route is not disproportionate to the cost of the overall alterations.34 A primary function is a major activity for which the facility is intended, and does not include entrances and circulation paths.35 The cost of providing an accessible route to an altered primary function area is deemed disproportionate when the cost exceeds 20 percent of the cost of the overall alterations.36 If alterations are done in stages, the total costs of alterations within a three year period are considered in determining whether the cost is disproportionate.37

2.8 Professional Review

We requested professionals in the affected industries to review the assessment. The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions reviewed the information in Chapter 4 - Amusement Rides. The California Department of Boating and Waterways, Oregon Marine Board, Revitalize Our Waterways/Clean Harbor Action, and a private marine consultant reviewed the information in Chapter 5 - Boating Facilities. The National Park Service reviewed the information in Chapter 6 - Fishing Piers and Platforms. The American Society of Golf Course Architects reviewed the information in Chapter 7 - Golf Courses. The Miniature Golf Association United States reviewed the information in Chapter 8 - Miniature Golf Courses. The International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association reviewed the information in Chapter 9 - Exercise Equipment, Bowling Lanes, and Shooting Facilities. We incorporated information provided by these organizations in the assessment.