Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Advocacy Update: Promoting a Higher Standard: NRPA Calls for a New Level of Non-Discrimination for Persons with Disabilities

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Advocacy Update: Promoting a Higher Standard: NRPA Calls for a New Level of Non-Discrimination for Persons with Disabilities

Article excerpt


The Department of Justice issued a long-awaited notice of proposed rulemaking this summer regarding non-discrimination on the basis of disability in state and local government services. The new regulations will make the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act enforceable for park and recreation facilities, including play areas, golf courses, swimming pools, boating areas, powered mobility devices, stadiums, and other recreational and non-recreational facilities and services operated by local and state governments.

The proposal is based in part on guidelines issued by the U.S. Access Board, the federal agency charged with defining the minimum accessibility standards for persons with disabilities. The Access Board released guidelines for play areas in 2000 and guidelines for swimming pools, golf courses, recreation centers, and certain other recreational facilities in 2002.

NRPA has a long history of involvement in accessibility guidelines. Our members have provided expert analysis and comments on proposed guidelines and regulations, testified at public hearings, and made detailed written comments on proposed guidelines and notices of proposed rulemaking. NRPA has vigorously promoted informed public comment through listening sessions and through written and oral testimony from our members.

For this proposed rule on non-discrimination, a broadly based task force composed of NRPA members from branches, sections, and regions was convened under the auspices of the Public Policy Committee. NRPA's official comments along with all other comments may be viewed on the NRPA Web site, along with additional information about the rule and a listing of the members of the NRPA Task Force.

Highlights of NRPA's comments are as follows:

1. NRPA supports the concept of "safe harbor," but not as expressed in this proposed rule. NRPA opposes the proposal to grant safe harbor to Title II entities based on the 1991 Access Board Guidelines (ADAAG) or Uniform Accessibility Standards (UFAS) because there were no standards of any kind for play areas and recreational facilities before the Access Board guidelines. NRPA supports safe harbor for agencies that acted in good faith from a trigger date of May 1, 2001, following the publication of the 2000 Access Board guidelines for play areas.

2. NRPA supports single-rider golf cars being available at public golf courses, and the making of all tees and greens accessible. The notice of proposed rulemaking fails to address the issue of providing single-rider golf cars. NRPA supports accessible golf cars at every public course even if only through a sharing arrangement, and NRPA calls on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to include single rider cars in the rule. Additionally, NRPA questions the methodology for calculating the impact of regulatory action on golf courses. The Justice Department asserts that every tee box and green would need to be regraded to provide an accessible pedestrian route; NRPA disagrees.

3. The notice proposes to allow the substitution of ground-level accessible play components for elevated, accessible components, but the formula by which they calculate how many would be required would actually require more accessible structures than the present guidelines call for, and therefore would constitute an undue burden.

This was a highly complex rule proposal, more than 60 pages long, that covered a broad swath of recreation facilities. …

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