Spring 2012 Newsletter: What's New
Introducing the “New and Improved” Mid-Atlantic ADA Center!
TransCen, Inc., as many of you know, has been awarded a five-year grant to continue to operate the Mid-Atlantic ADA Center. The Center, together with its partners and affiliates, will continue to provide key services, including information dissemination, technical assistance, and training throughout the region.
Many of our “tried and true” services will remain unchanged; our toll-free technical assistance line (1-800-949-4232) will be staffed by knowledgeable information specialists who can respond to your ADA questions and help you analyze your own situations, and our experienced trainers will deliver high-quality programs on a wide range of ADA topics.
Some of our activities will be enhanced and expanded through greater and more effective use of technology, including the launch of our new "Hospitality and Disability" web site, dedicated to providing information to the lodging and restaurant industries. Our newsletter and other materials will be published directly online (if you need print or other accessible formats, contact us and we will be happy to accommodate you!). We will also be offering more training programs via webinars, enabling greater and more cost effective participation for more individuals.
Our collaborations with local, state, and national organizations will continue to develop ADA learning and implementation strategies. We will continue to work with local affiliates in each state in our region, as well as the District of Columbia, to enhance the “geographic accessibility” of our services, and seek to expand “hands-on” training opportunities throughout the region. Contact your state’s affiliate (listed within this newsletter) to find out more about activities in your area.
Additionally, our work with the ADA National Network, the Mid-Atlantic Assistive Technology (AT) Consortium (comprised of the six AT projects in the region), the University of Maryland, the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA), the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA), and the new ADA National Knowledge Translation (KT) Center will continue to support research, materials development and dissemination, training, and technical assistance on the ADA.
Highlights of some activities we are looking forward to include:
- The ADA National Network’s Online Learning programs, including the audio-conference and webinar series on a variety of ADA topics
- The ADA Update in Baltimore, September 13-14, offering sessions on the latest developments in accessible design, employment, and more
- Development of the “Pass It On” initiative, which will involve the Mid-Atlantic AT Consortium and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to improve emergency planning and response for individuals with disabilities who use assistive technology devices and durable medical equipment
- Research on the provision of reasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities in the hospitality industry
We also look forward to hearing from you about how we can continue to improve our programs and services to meet your needs for ADA information and training!
ADA and Transportation: New Regulations and Guidance from DOT
The Department of Transportation (DOT) recently issued new rules under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to address the definition of “wheelchair,” calculation of missed trips and denials in paratransit systems, level-entry boarding at new or altered rail station platforms, and other matters.
Wheelchairs and Other Mobility Devices: Operational Issues
The new rules will change the way many transit operators view mobility devices, including wheelchairs and scooters. The definition of “wheelchair” has been updated from “three- or four-wheeled devices” to “three- or more wheeled devices” to ensure that passengers using devices with more than four wheels will not be denied services.
Additionally, the term “common wheelchair” has been removed from the language in the rule, so that operators will be required to carry passengers using wheelchairs that may exceed the traditional “envelope” of size and weight, as long as the operator’s vehicles and equipment can accommodate them.
The original rule defined a common wheelchair as one that weighed no more than 600 pounds when occupied and measured no more than 30 inches by 48 inches in size. The criteria were developed to provide a basis for designing and building vehicles and lifts, but the language of the rule connected the concept to operational issues, and passengers using devices that exceeded these dimensions were denied boarding even where vehicles and equipment had the capacity to carry them.
The new rule does not require that vehicles and equipment be designed, built, or modified to accommodate larger devices, and such devices can still be excluded where carrying them would be inconsistent with legitimate safety requirements.
DOT did not include the kind of regulatory language that the Department of Justice (DOJ) recently used to address Segways and other powered devices which are not designed as mobility aids for people with disabilities, but which some people use as such. DOT does take a similar view, however, and cautions transportation providers that they should allow such devices on vehicles unless it can be demonstrated that it would be infeasible or contrary to legitimate safety requirements.
Rail Systems: Moving Past the “One-Car-Per-Train” Rule
DOT’s rules also address boarding capacity at new or altered commuter, intercity and high-speed rail station platforms. Such stations must ensure that people with disabilities can get on and off any accessible car which is available to other passengers.
There are a number of methods that can be employed where track adjacent to the platform is shared with existing freight operations (which typically use cars of larger dimensions). Methods to facilitate passenger boarding include car-borne lifts, station-based lifts, or mini-high platforms (with the train making multiple stops if needed to allow passengers to use different cars). However, where no track is shared with freight, full-length level-entry boarding capacity is required.
Several commenters objected to DOT’s proposed rule based on the ADA’s original language, which allowed railroads to initially meet vehicle standards by providing one accessible car per train; some commenters argued that limiting service availability to one car was implied. DOT explained that the initial “one-car-per-train” rule was an “interim equipment requirement” (it had to be met by 1995), and it was coupled with a requirement that all new cars be accessible. A great number of rail cars are now accessible because of this requirement, but if passengers cannot board them, the ADA’s goal of integration is thwarted.
Paratransit: What’s a “Trip”?
DOT’s rule also codifies its long-standing position in relation to counting trip denials and missed trips for the purpose of determining compliance with the requirement that public transit operators provide complementary paratransit to individuals with disabilities who cannot use the fixed route. When a trip denial (a trip the provider is unable to schedule for an eligible rider) or a missed trip (a trip that is scheduled but for which the vehicle never arrives or arrives outside the allowable time frame) causes the rider to miss related “legs” of a journey, each leg must be counted as a missed or denied trip.
DOT: Some Things Remain the Same
DOT also reminds covered entities that its rules differ in some respects from DOJ’s recently revised rules. One noteworthy distinction is in the definition of a “service animal;” DOJ changed its definition significantly, but DOT has not. Entities subject to DOT’s regulations should not revise their policies according to DOJ’s rules.
The Department of Transportation posts its ADA regulations, other materials, and contact information online.
2010 ADA Standards for Design & New ADA Regulations for Hotel Reservation Policies Took Effect March 15th!
The Department of Justice (DOJ) issued newly revised ADA regulations which began taking effect in March, 2011 and impacted entities covered by Title II and Title III.
March 15, 2012 marked the compliance date for provisions governing hotel reservation policies and for the 2010 ADA Standards for new construction, alterations, program accessibility, and barrier removal. On or after March 15th, all newly constructed or altered facilities must comply with the requirements in the 2010 Standards. If elements in existing facilities already comply with the 1991 Standards and are not being altered, entities are not required to make changes to those elements to bring them into compliance with the 2010 Standards.
Further information on the regulations and the new Standards is available by visiting DOJ’s page on “Revised ADA Regulations Implementing Title II and Title III” .
Important Notice regarding Pools and the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design
The Justice Department announced an extension for existing swimming pools to comply with the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design. Existing pools must comply with the standards by January 31, 2013.
Requirements for existing swimming pools have been delayed to address misunderstandings regarding compliance. The Department also plans to release an additional technical assistance document in the near future to assist pool owners and operators. More information on pool requirements can be found in the Department's publication "Accessible Pools: Means of Entry and Exit" .