Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Access Board has developed guidelines for recreation facilities that were previously made available for public comment. Presented here are highlights of the final version, which includes changes made as a result of the Board’s review of public comments. The Board also made these guidelines applicable under the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA), which requires access to certain federally funded facilities.
The guidelines for recreation facilities add a new chapter (15) to the Board’s ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG), which cover access to the built environment in new construction and alterations. The guidelines also supplement or amend existing sections in ADAAG. For example, definitions are included for terms used in the new guidelines, such as “amusement ride” and “area of sports activity,” which supplement ADAAG’s definition section. Added requirements and exceptions clarify the application of certain ADAAG requirements, including those for accessible routes and player seating areas in sports facilities. New provisions also supplement criteria for accessible dressing, fitting, and locker rooms, including the minimum number of lockers required to be accessible. The guidelines also add provisions to ADAAG covering benches, saunas and steam rooms.
The guidelines address access to amusement rides for persons with disabilities, including those who use wheelchairs. Specifications require provision of either a wheelchair space on the ride or a ride seat or device designed for transfer to the ride. The guidelines also address access at loading and unloading areas and provide specific criteria for wheelchair spaces, ride seats designed for transfer, and transfer devices. Certain exceptions are provided for rides that are: set up temporarily, such as at a traveling carnival, designed primarily for children, controlled or operated by the rider, or not equipped with seats.
Boating facilities, such as piers and docks provided at marinas to serve recreational vessels, are covered by the guidelines. The dynamic interface between land and water presents unique and significant challenges in providing access to floating facilities. Criteria for gangways connecting floating facilities take these constraints into account. The guidelines apply ADAAG requirements for accessible routes and ramps, but provide exceptions to criteria for maximum rise and slope, handrail extensions, and level landings.The key challenge to slope is the considerable vertical changes that gangways must span at times. The guidelines generally require an accessible slope for gangways (1:12 maximum), but provide an exception so that gangways do not have to be longer than 80 feet. The guidelines also address the minimum number of accessible boat slips required to be accessible. This number is based on a table according to the total amount of boat slips provided at a facility.
This section addresses railings and edge protection on fishing piers and platforms. Railings, guardrails, and handrails are not required by the guidelines. However, where they are provided, a portion (at least 25%) cannot be more than 34 inches high so that the railings do not obstruct fishing for people using wheelchairs. An exception permits the use of a guard complying with the International Building Code where required by other authorities. Lowered railings are required to be dispersed throughout a fishing facility. Edge protection at least 2 inches high is also addressed to prevent the wheels of mobility aids from slipping over the edge.
The guidelines recognize that access to golf courses is typically achieved through the use of golf cars. Golf car passages are permitted in lieu of accessible routes throughout golf courses. To comply, courses must be designed so that golf cars can access teeing grounds and putting greens. Modified accessible routes are required to serve practice putting greens and driving ranges since they often are not located within the boundary of a course. Technical specifications are provided for golf car passages, accessible routes, teeing grounds, putting greens, and weather shelters.
The guidelines address miniature golf courses and require at least half of the holes to be served by an accessible route. Specifications for accessible routes take into account design conventions for miniature golf courses, such as carpeted surfaces and curbs. All level areas of an accessible hole where a ball may come to rest must be within the reach of golf clubs (36 inches) from accessible routes.
The Board previously issued guidelines for play areas in October 2000 in a separate rulemaking. The play area guidelines comprise a subsection of the new chapter on recreation facilities. They cover the number of play components required to be accessible, accessible surfacing in play areas, ramp access and transfer system access to elevated structures, and access to soft contained play structures. The guidelines address play areas provided at schools, parks, child care facilities (except those based in the operator’s home, which are exempt), and other facilities.
Provisions for exercise equipment, bowling lanes, and shooting facilities are included in the guidelines. The guidelines do not affect the design of exercise equipment and machines, but instead require one of each type to be on an accessible route and to provide transfer space for persons using wheelchairs. Access is also required to a portion (at least 5%) of bowling lanes and shooting facilities.
The guidelines address access to swimming pools, wading pools, and spas. Specifications are provided for various means of providing pool access, including pool lifts, sloped entries, transfer walls, transfer systems, and stairs. Access to swimming pools can be achieved by sloped entries or pool lifts. For larger pools (those with 300 or more linear feet of pool wall), a secondary means of access is required. Stairs, transfer systems, or transfer walls can be used instead of lifts or sloped entries for this secondary means of access. Specific provisions are also provided for wading pools, spas, as well as wave action pools and other types of pools where user access is limited to one area.
|Permitted Means of Pool Access|
|Pool Type||sloped entry||lift||transfer walls||transfer systems||stairs|
|Swimming (less than 300 linear feet of pool wall)||X||X|
|Swimming (300 or more linear feet of pool wall) - 2 means of entry required||X*||X*||X||X||X|
|Wave action, leisure river, and other pools where user entry is limited to 1 area||X||X||X|
* Primary means must be by sloped entry or lift; secondary means can be any of the permitted types.
How the guidelines were developed
ADAAG and amendments to it, like most Federal regulations, are developed through a public notice and comment process. Public notice and the opportunity to comment is provided through publication in the Federal Register. In July 1999, the Board published the guidelines in proposed form and made them available for public comment for six months. During the comment period, the Board held public hearings on the proposed guidelines in Dallas and Boston. The Board received approximately 300 comments on the proposed guidelines. Comments were submitted by operators of amusement parks, recreation and sporting associations, disability groups, designers, and others. In an effort to provide the public with an additional opportunity for input on the rule before it was finalized, the Board published a summary of changes it intended to make to the guidelines based on its review of comments. The Board held public meetings in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco on the planned revisions. The Board finalized the guidelines based on the additional input it received from commenters.
Are these amendments enforceable at this time?
Not under the ADA. The ADA design standards are developed in a two step process. They are first published by the Access Board as a minimum guideline for the Department of Justice (DOJ). DOJ is responsible for adopting enforceable standards that are consistent with the Board’s minimum guidelines. Currently, these final guidelines are not yet part of DOJ’s enforceable standard. However, people may wish to consult the guidelines in the interim since the current enforceable standard does not specifically address the types of recreation facilities covered. (The absence of specific provisions in the current standards does not mean that recreation facilities or play areas are exempt from the provision of access; rather, it means that these facilities and areas are not held to a specific level of access under the current standard). Updated standards issued under the ABA for federally funded facilities do include provisions based on the guidelines for recreation facilities.