Feature Article - November 2012
Find a printable version here

Changes Are Coming to ADA

New Regulation Standards Expected for Campgrounds, Parks & Beaches

By Rick Dandes

Avoiding Trouble

"I think the most common mistakes folks make," said Bleckner, of the NRPA, "is not overcoming the idea that something that always has been done one way, needs to be done another way. Or looking at an inclusion program and not seeing how an individual with physical disabilities can participate because that would affect the experience of others. Generally speaking, that is very seldom actually true."

There are other mistakes: If you don't do your inventory correctly, you subject yourself to lawsuits; and if you don't make adaptations when you are asked you are subjecting yourself, your department and community to lawsuits. It's just not acceptable to make ADA mistakes today.

If you want to avoid ADA regulation errors, make sure your planners, designers, contractors and even maintenance staff thoroughly understand the accessibility standards or the rationale as to why the standard exists.

For example, Skulski said, "We have conducted accessibility assessments of entire park districts where the grab bars in each accessible toilet stall were mounted an inch too high. The contractor or maintenance staff had mounted the centerline of the hardware at 36 inches above the floor. The accessibility standard actually requires the top of the gripping surface is no higher than 36 inches. Thus, what was well intended on the part of the installer rendered all of the toilet stalls noncompliant with the accessibility standards."

McGovern offered a laundry list of things to watch for. They include a quick glance at that big green space called a park. "Are you putting something in it, like a sports field, gazebo, war memorial or fishing area?" he asked. There must be an accessible route from parking or sidewalk to the new amenity. Grass is not, and never has been, an accessible surface.

Don't follow IBC, McGovern advised, "unless it is IBC 2012. The 2010 Standards for Accessible Design are not superseded by International Building Code (IBC) but instead these two should be harmonized."

Assume that recreation programs will be of interest to people with disabilities. That means creating an inclusion process, where people with disabilities are invited to register and participate alongside people without disabilities, and where the parks and recreation agency staffs up to provide qualified supports.

Locker rooms must have four things: 5 percent of lockers must be designated as accessible; locker "innards," such as shelves and hooks, cannot be higher than 48 inches above the floor; locker hardware must not require tight pinching, twisting or grasping; and accessible lockers must be served by an accessible bench that is 17 to 19 inches off, minimum 42 inches long, between 20 and 24 inches deep, and affixed to a wall or have a back.

"There is not yet a requirement to have accessible fitness equipment designed so people with impaired vision or mobility issues can use the equipment," McGovern said. "But, why wait? When buying or leasing, make at least 10 percent of the pieces have swivel seats, removable seats, large display LED panels and other features. Every manufacturer has these. It is up to you to ask for it."

McGovern asked that park and recreation officials also think about this: Assume that people with disabilities want to go everywhere that people without disabilities go.

There is not yet a final federal design standard for picnic tables. But, for two decades at least, there have been several designs that allow a person in a wheelchair to join his or her friends at a picnic table. So, why wait? Making your own? Buying tables? Make 20 percent be of an accessible design. This is better service to your community.

Your pool probably fails at least one of the new 2010 Standards requirements. If so, unless you are willing to tear up the pool floor, go buy a swimming pool lift. The water access requirements of the 2010 Standards (see sections 242 and 1009) are effective today for new pools, and become effective Jan. 31, 2013, for existing pools.