Board to Release Draft of Final Guidelines for Federal Outdoor Sites
The Board is finalizing the guidelines based on public comments it received in response to a proposed version published in 2007. The final version will include revisions made to clarify various provisions and exceptions. Conditions that necessitate departures are recognized, including situations where meeting certain provisions would compromise natural features, require prohibited construction methods or materials, or be infeasible due to terrain.
The Board is releasing a draft of the final guidelines to allow interested parties the opportunity to comment on the revised format. As initially proposed, the guidelines were organized as a stand-alone document. The Board has restructured the final version for integration into the Board's existing guidelines for facilities covered by the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA), which were issued jointly with guidelines updated under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA and ABA guidelines cover a variety of elements and spaces that are often part of outdoor developed areas, including parking, restrooms, drinking fountains, and recreation facilities. Integrating the criteria for outdoor sites into the existing guidelines will be beneficial for many users by bringing all relevant information together in one source. However, to preserve some of the benefits of a stand-alone document, the Board plans to prepare a companion guide on the final rule in cooperation with Federal land management agencies.
The draft final guidelines will be available for review for 60 days and will be posted on the Board's website at www.access-board.gov/outdoor/. For further information, contact Bill Botten at the Board at email@example.com, (202) 272-0014 (v), or (202) 272-0082 (TTY). The Board intends to develop similar guidelines for outdoor developed areas controlled by non-Federal entities at a future date.
U.S. Signs U.N. Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities
According to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, the Convention "urges equal protection and equal benefits under the law for all citizens, rejects discrimination in all its forms, and calls for the full participation and inclusion in society of all persons with disabilities." The treaty establishes global legal standards on disability rights and a framework for international cooperation. Countries that ratify the Convention are required to implement laws, policies, and other measures to ensure equality and ban discrimination based on disability. A survey cited by the U.N. indicates that two thirds of countries do not currently have disability rights laws in place. The Convention specifically calls for the identification and removal of barriers to ensure access to the built environment, outdoor facilities, transportation, the workplace, public services, and information and communication technologies.
"The Convention promotes equality for people with disabilities across the globe," noted Access Board Member Nancy Starnes who was present at a signing ceremony at the U.S. Mission to the U.N. "It also encourages cooperation and information sharing among nations to help make accessibility a worldwide reality."
President Obama intends to promptly submit the treaty to the Senate for ratification, according to Ambassador Rice. The Administration also announced the creation of a senior State Department post on disability rights. The person named to this position will serve as a lead diplomat on disability policy, develop a comprehensive strategy to promote disability rights internationally, and coordinate a process for ratifying the Convention among Federal agencies. Further information on the treaty is available on the U.N.'s website at www.un.org/disabilities.
New Research Examines Effects of Cross Slope on Wheelchair Travel
In the Board's preliminary project, researchers found that while studies show that cross slopes make wheelchair travel more difficult, there was little consensus on methods or protocols for measuring these effects. Further, they determined that the measures used in most studies, such as energy consumption and perceived effort, cannot fully assess the complex effects of cross slope. Few studies were found that investigated wheelchair propulsion in outdoor environments over a range of surfaces. Results from the project survey confirmed that terrain features interact in complex ways and that the effects are more pronounced among certain populations. Findings suggest that older adults, women, and people with progressive conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, or upper extremity impairment are most likely to experience difficulty negotiating cross slopes. This can be further aggravated by wheelchair design, such as configurations enhancing rearward stability.
Based on the results of the Board study, the project team developed a protocol to measure the effects of cross slope using a cross sectional group of test subjects. Testing is currently underway on a range of cross slopes, running slopes, and surface conditions, including those that are smooth, irregular, and slippery. Devices developed by HERL to measure work, energy, distance-per-stroke, and pushrim forces are being used to capture data. Results of this research, including the preliminary study, will be posted on the Board's website once published. For further information, contact Lois Thibault, the Board's Research Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
GAO Finds Limited Gains in Polling Place Access
The study indicates that the number of potential barriers per location was down. Most access issues pertained to parking areas or the path from parking to building entrances. The greatest degree of improvement occurred at entrances; between 2000 and 2008, the number of polling places with accessible entrances increased from 41% to 75%. Virtually all polling places were found to have at least one accessible voting machine, as required by the Help America Vote Act of 2002. However, while these systems were considered accessible to voters with sensory impairments, 29% were found to be inaccessible to voters who use wheelchairs due to their location or configuration. Further, almost a quarter of accessible voting systems did not offer the same degree of privacy as other systems at the polling place. The report, "Voters with Disabilities: More Polling Places Had No Potential Impediments than in 2000, but Challenges Remain," is available on GAO's website at www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-685. The released findings are part of a broader GAO study on voting access to be released in late September.
The Election Assistance Commission, which was established to implement the reforms of the Help America Vote Act, provides resources on voting accessibility on its website at www.eac.gov/voter/accessibility. In addition, the Department of Justice, which enforces access requirements for polling places under the ADA as well as the Help America Vote Act, offers an accessibility checklist for polling places at www.ada.gov/votingck.htm.
Charles Washington Named Board's Information Technology Specialist
Web-Based Screen Reader in Development
Disability.gov Launches Revamped Website
National Council on Disability to Host National Summit on Disability Policy
Access Currents is a free newsletter issued by the Access Board every other month by mail and e-mail. Send questions or comments to email@example.com or call (800) 872-2253 ext. 0026 (voice) or (800) 993-2822 (TTY). Mailing address: 1331 F Street, N.W., Suite 1000; Washington, D.C. 20004-1111.