Guest Column - October 2011
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Miniature Golf

A Mandate for Miniature Golf ADA Compliance

By Arne Lundmark


Readily Achievable Barrier Removal

These statements from "Primer" help miniature golf owners understand the term "readily achievable":

The ADA requires that small businesses remove architectural barriers in existing facilities when it is "readily achievable" to do so. Readily achievable means "easily accomplishable without much difficulty or expense." This requirement is based on the size and resources of a business. So, businesses with more resources are expected to remove more barriers than businesses with fewer resources.

Determining what is readily achievable will vary from business to business and sometimes from one year to the next. Changing economic conditions can be taken into consideration in determining what is readily achievable. Economic downturns may force many public accommodations to postpone removing some barriers. The barrier removal obligation is a continuing one and it is expected that a business will move forward with its barrier removal efforts when it rebounds from such downturns.

This quote from the "Primer" should help clarify the issue: "The ADA strikes a careful balance between increasing access for people with disabilities and recognizing the financial constraints many small businesses face. Its flexible requirements allow businesses confronted with limited financial resources to improve accessibility without excessive expense."

Number of Golf Holes for Barrier Removal

According to the Access Board spokesperson, operators should review their existing courses and strive to make at least 50 percent of the holes accessible to the extent that it is "readily achievable." This is an ongoing obligation and is intended to be accomplished over time.

The rules for new courses state that "for at least 50 percent of holes on miniature golf courses shall comply with 1007.3.---"Where possible, providing access to all holes on a miniature golf course is recommended. If a course is designed with the minimum 50 percent accessible holes, designers or operators are encouraged to select holes which provide for an equivalent experience to the maximum extent possible."

In the long view, "readily achievable barrier" removal needs to start outside of the course and focus on how an individual with a disability would first get into the facility and eventually to the course. This is illustrated in the examples the DOJ uses for prioritizing "barrier removal."

Tax Credit & Deduction

The following information from the "Primer" may be helpful for owners and their accountants:

To assist small businesses to comply with the ADA, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Code includes a Disabled Access Credit (Section 44) for businesses with 30 or fewer full-time employees or with total revenues of $1 million or less in the previous tax year. Eligible expenses may include the cost of undertaking barrier removal and alterations to improve accessibility, providing sign-language interpreters, or making material available in accessible formats such as Braille, audiotape, or large print. Section 190 of the IRS Code provides a tax deduction for businesses of all sizes for costs incurred in removing architectural barriers in existing facilities or alterations. The maximum deduction is $15,000 per year.

The call for action is now, and I encourage all miniature golf owners to determine their priorities and develop a plan for removing barriers.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Arne Lundmark is founder and president of Michigan-based Adventure Golf Services, which has been in the business for more than 30 years and offers design, construction, installation and consulting services to national and international clients. Lundmark got his start as an owner-operator of miniature golf courses and family entertainment centers, including ski resorts. He also has served as chairman of the miniature golf committee for the International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions and is a past board member of that organization. For more information, visit www.adventureandfun.com.