Feature Article - January 2011
Find a printable version here

Are You Accessible?

Tips From the Pros on Compliance With New ADA Standards

By Margaret Ahrweiler

Segways and Horses?

The new regulations expand the definition of mobility devices and service animals, as disabled patrons have sought assistance from things other than wheelchairs and dogs. Segways and other "power driven mobility devices" such as scooters must be allowed unless the facility shows the vehicle would alter its programs or create a hazard.

Similarly, miniature horses may be allowed as alternatives to dogs, and the standards expand the circumstances in which service animals may be required. Service animals also can assist people during a seizure or help with a host of mental, sensory or psychiatric disabilities.

Safe Harbor?

When it comes to pool regulations—and other areas of the new regulations—many recreation professionals also are confused about the "safe harbor" clause. Caden reported he's been fielding a number of questions about this provision. The safe harbor clause gave cash-strapped facilities that were compliant under the old rules the loophole of waiting until they made overall alterations to their facility to comply.

Safe harbor does not apply to pools, Caden has been advising, because the regulations specifically state: "Elements in the 2010 Standards not eligible for Safe Harbor are identified as follows: - (j) Swimming Pools, Wading Pools and Spas. Play areas and golf facilities also are exempt from the safe harbor clause. Further, safe harbor only applies on a program-by-program basis. Planners who think their facilities may enjoy safe harbor status should seek professional advice, Caden counseled.

Recreation professionals also are finding that when it comes to applying these rules and planning facility work, the best defense is a good offense. Some districts and facilities have embraced universal design principles or simply applied ADA's principles well before the new regulations took effect.

At the Apex Park and Recreation District in Jefferson County, Colo., planners applied ADA guidelines to all recreation areas long before they were mandated simply to meet demand and fulfill the district's mission, said Mike Miles, Apex's executive director. "For the most part, we meet the new standards already. We're on top of the game and good to go."

Apex has incorporated universal design principles into its facilities whenever possible, Miles said, and ensured everything from fitness areas to its ice arenas were accessible from the time its 168,500-square-foot Apex Center opened in 2000, including a lap pool with a ramp.