By Janis Reyes, Assistant Chief Counsel
Did you know that Federal agencies have been required to make their websites accessible for people with disabilities since 1998? The Department of Justice (DOJ) is thinking about expanding these accessibility website requirements to small governmental jurisdictions like cities and counties, and is seeking public feedback on this initiative. Read More
By Janis Reyes, Assistant Chief Counsel
Last week, Economist Jonathan Porat and I visited the bustling University Mall Theatres in Fairfax, Virginia, to speak to owner Mark O’Meara about proposed Department of Justice (DOJ) rules that would require movie theaters to provide special accessibility equipment for guests with visual and hearing disabilities. We met O’Meara at the entrance of the three-screen theater on its popular “Two Dollar Tuesday,” where he sold discounted tickets and welcomed busloads of students and young families to his theater. The highest ticket price at this affordable theater is $4.
“Movie theater owners are all showmen,” said O’Meara. “We want to serve the audience.”
O’Meara has already voluntarily upgraded his two theaters to be able to show movies to disabled guests (he additionally owns another small theater, the Cinema Arts Theatre, which is also located in Fairfax). When he took out a loan of $600,000 to convert his theaters from analog to digital screens, he spent an extra $40,000 to purchase the equipment that the DOJ rules would require. However, under the proposed rules, he may have to purchase more of the devices.
During our visit to the theater, O’Meara allowed us to test the accessibility equipment at a showing of the animated movie “Rio 2.” First, we set up the closed captioning device, which costs around $500 each. The device, which attaches to the seat’s cup holder, allows deaf theatergoers to read the movie dialogue on a small individual screen in front of them. It was amazing how quickly my eyes grew accustomed to reading on this screen. We had previously tested closed captioning glasses (which cost approximately $1,000 each) at another theater. The glasses offered a better experience; however they are twice the price and more fragile.
We also tested the audio description equipment for blind guests, which are headphones that play audio describing what is happening in the scene on top of existing dialogue. Because we were watching a loud cartoon, it was harder to focus and understand what was going on in the movie using this technology.
DOJ released its proposed rules on August 1, 2014 which would amend the Americans with Disabilities Act to require movie theaters to have these technologies available at all movie showings. Digital theaters would have six months to purchase individual captioning devices for roughly two percent of their seating capacity and one audio description device per screen. DOJ is also seeking public comment on whether it should adopt a four-year compliance date for movie theaters with analog or film screens to adopt captioning and audio description requirements or whether it should defer rulemaking on analog theaters until a later date.
For O’Meara, these new rules would mean that he would have to purchase additional devices to meet the two percent requirement, at an estimated cost of $20,000. Under the rules, he would be required to have more than 30 individual captioning devices and nine audio descriptive devices for his two theaters.
Other small businesses may have to expend even more resources if they have not yet converted to digital or purchased additional hardware and individual equipment. O’Meara stated that these high device requirements (2 percent of seats) do not reflect the low demand he has seen for this equipment at his theaters and hopes that the agency will adjust these ratios.
DOJ is accepting comments on this rule until September 30, 2014. The Office of Advocacy is holding a Small Business Roundtable to gather feedback on this rule on Monday, September 15, 2014, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. EST at the Small Business Administration Headquarters, 409 Third Street SW, Washington, DC. A conference call line is also available. If you are interested in attending, contact Janis Reyes at Janis.Reyes@sba.gov. Further information on the proposed rule can be found on Advocacy’s web site.
Progress of the U.S.–Canada Effort to Streamline Regulatory Differences
On August 29, the Office of Management and Budget asked for comments on the U.S.–Canada Regulation Cooperation Council’s progress. Read More
The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) has extended the public comment period for proposed guidelines for passenger vessels. Comments are now due on January 24, 2014. Read More
One in six Americans suffers from a food borne illness every year, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In July, the FDA announced two proposed rules to ensure the safety of imported foods. Read More
EU Trade Restrictions and U.S. Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises
The United States International Trade Commission has announced that it is seeking information for a report that will identify trade-related barriers that U.S. small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) perceive as disproportionately affecting their exports to the European Union (as compared to large firms). The commission will be releasing its report on July 31, 2014. The notice appeared in the Federal Register on July 30.
Advocacy contact: Assistant Chief Counsel Sarah Bresolin Silver
Updating Home Health Regulations
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published its proposed rule on Medicare and Medicaid Programs; Home Health Prospective Payment System Rate Update for Calendar Year 2014, Home Health Quality Reporting Requirements, and Cost Allocation of Home Health Survey Expenses.
Background: This proposed rule would update the Home Health Prospective Payment System (HH PPS) rates effective January 1, 2014. This rule proposes “rebasing” rate adjustments for home health providers and also establishes some quality reporting requirements.
Key Issues: CMS certified no significant impact associated with reimbursement rate to home health providers. Stakeholders suggest that there will be a significant impact associated and that CMS underestimated the costs associated with the rule.
Deadline: Advocacy is encouraging interested parties to comment on the rule especially with regards to the cost impacts associated with rebasing adjustments for home health agencies. Comments due on August 26, 2013.
Advocacy contact: Assistant Chief Counsel Linwood Rayford
On July 1 the Department of the Interior published a notice announcing a proposed categorical exclusion from the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The exclusion would allow the Fish and Wildlife Service to add species to the list of injurious wildlife under the Lacey Act without preparing an Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement. Species listed under the Lacey Act are prohibited from being imported into the U.S. or transported across state lines. Comments are due by July 31, 2013.
The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (also known as the Access Board) has released for public comment proposed guidelines for passenger vessels. (The Access Board is an independent federal agency of devoted to accessibility for people with disabilities.) Developed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the guidelines provide design criteria for newly constructed or newly altered large vessels to ensure that they are accessible to people with disabilities. As proposed, the guidelines would apply to cruise ships and other vessels that carry over 150 passengers or at least 50 overnight passengers. They also cover ferries designed to carry 100 or more passengers and tenders allowed to carry 60 or more passengers. The Access Board is not proposing requirements for smaller vessels due to design challenges, space constraints, and other factors. It is also holding a hearing on the proposed guidelines on July 10, 2013, from 9:30 a.m. to moon at the Access Board Conference Room, 1331 F Street NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20004. Members of the public may participate in person, call-in testimony, or listen in to the hearing. Comments on the proposed guidelines are due September 12, 2013.
To learn more:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is inviting small businesses, governments, and not-for-profit organizations to participate as Small Entity Representatives (SERs) for a Small Business Advocacy Review (SBAR) Panel. This panel will focus on the agency’s review of its New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for municipal solid waste landfills. EPA seeks self-nominations directly from the small entities that may be subject to the rule requirements. Small private landfills are those with revenues of $35.5 million or less and small government-owned landfills serve populations of 50,000 people or less. Other representatives, such as trade associations that exclusively or at least primarily represent potentially regulated small entities, may also serve as SERs. Self-nominations are requested by July 5, 2013.
On June 7, 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed revisions to its Steam Electric Power Generating effluent guidelines and standards (40 CFR Part 423). The guidelines were first published in 1974, and amended in 1977, 1978, 1980 and 1982. The regulation covers wastewater discharges from power plants operating as utilities. The Steam Electric effluent guidelines and standards are incorporated into NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permits for plants that discharge into waters of the United States. This rulemaking will affect small independently owned utilities, small rural electric cooperative owned utilities, and small municipal owned utilities.
EPA will also conduct a public hearing on the proposed pretreatment standards on July 9, 2013, at 1 p.m. in the EPA East Building, Room 1153, 1201 Constitution Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C. EPA has announced an extension of the public comment period to September 20, 2013.
To submit comments:
To learn more: