President Obama Announces Amended ADA Regulations and New Proposals

To commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), President Barack Obama announced Monday the publication of the final rule  that amends the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) regulation implementing Title III of the ADA.  These regulations set standards for making buildings accessible for people with disabilities and applies to private entities such as public accommodations and commercial facilities. 

Here are the highlights of these regulations:

New Standards– DOJ has updated the 1991 ADA Standards for Accessible Design. The 2010 Standards are requirements for new construction and alterations.

Adoption of New Design Standards– Title III requires that new standards are established for recreational facilities, including swimming pools, playgrounds, golf courses, amusement rides, recreational boating facilities, exercise machines and equipment, miniature golf courses and fishing piers.

Element by Element Safe Harbor– Title III requires existing facilities to remove barriers that conflict with these standards when such modifications are “readily achievable.” Readily achievable means easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense.  DOJ is adopting a “safe harbor” under which existing building elements that already comply with the 1991 ADA Standards for Accessible Design would not be required to be brought into compliance with the 2010 Standards until the elements are altered.

Ticketing and Reservations– DOJ has added provisions regarding the sale of tickets for accessible seating and for making accessible reservations at places of lodging. 

Effective Date– The rule will become effective six months after publication in the Federal Register. Eighteen months after publication, compliance with the 2010 Standards will be required for new construction and alterations. In the period between the effective date and the compliance date, covered entities may choose between the 1991 Standards and the 2010 Standards. Covered entities that should have complied with the 1991 Standards during any new construction or alteration of facilities or elements, but have not done so by 18 months after the date of publication of the final rule, must comply with the 2010 Standards.

DOJ has also issued four new ADA proposals addressing ADA accessibility of websites, movie theatres, equipment and furniture and 911 centers.  For more information, please visit Advocacy’s regulatory alerts.

Janis C. Reyes, Assistant Chief Counsel, Labor and Immigration

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