Magazine article Parks & Recreation

ADA Regulations Require Detailed Self-Evaluation of Accessibility

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

ADA Regulations Require Detailed Self-Evaluation of Accessibility

Article excerpt

The Tyler decision described herein was brought to my attention by John McGovern, an attorney and executive director of the Northern Suburban Special Recreation Association in Northfield, Illinois. Since his organization's inception, Mr. McGovern has kept NRPA abreast of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and its applicability to public park and recreation agencies. Most notably, Mr. McGovern is the author of an ADA compliance manual published by NRPA.

During the 1994 Congress for Recreation and Parks in Minneapolis, John and I had a brief discussion regarding recent developments in the ADA. We both agreed that it was important to keep the parks and recreation field apprised of federal court decisions which discuss the legal responsibilities of public entities under the ADA. As a follow-up to our conversation, McGovern provided me with his written analysis of the Tyler opinion. As characterized by McGovern, the Tyler decision recognized that public entities, as the beneficiaries of federal funding, have been subject to accessibility requirements under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Accordingly, McGovern found that Tyler holds that "ADA self evaluations need only address issues not adequately addressed under 504." More importantly, however, McGovern noted as follows that public entities "cannot rely solely on old section 504 plans."

Tyler makes it clear that the old approach under 504 may be inadequate. The court questions the adequacy of 1984 access documents and transition plans, noting that much has changed since then, both in the sense of new programs and new means of accommodation.

Accordingly, using the following presentation of the Tyler decision as a gauge, public park and recreation agencies must be able to produce for public inspection a sufficiently detailed self-evaluation of programs, facilities, and services which satisfies ADA regulatory requirements.

I'll Take Manhattan

In the case of Tyler v. City of Manhattan, 849 F.Supp. 1429 (Dist. Kansas 1994), plaintiff Lewis "Toby" Tyler brought suit against the defendant City of Manhattan, Kansas, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. Sec 12101 et seq. In his complaint, Tyler alleged, in part, that the City had violated the ADA "by failing to complete an acceptable self-evaluation" as required by federal regulations for the implementation of the ADA.

As a result of a gunshot wound to the head, Tyler was partially paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. Accordingly, the City conceded that Tyler was a "qualified individual with a disability" as defined by Title II of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. Sec 12131(2). Further, the City did not dispute that it was "public entity" for purposes of Title II of the ADA which included any local government employing more than 50 persons.

In this particular instance, the City had "appointed a committee ('ADA Committee') to facilitate compliance with the ADA and to identify priorities," including "a self-evaluation for the purpose of complying with ADA's implementing regulations." The federal district court described the City's ADA self-evaluation process as follows:

The ADA Committee's membership included City employees and persons with disabilities. In preparing the ADA self-evaluation, the City and its ADA Committee reviewed and relied upon the 1984 self-evaluation prepared by the City for the purpose of complying with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The self-evaluation prepared for the purpose of complying with the ADA and its implementing regulations consisted of the following:

1. A one-page document listing the programs and services originally evaluated in 1984 as part of the transition plan required by section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The document also states that programs, activities, or services that could be made accessible to the handicapped by non-structural means were deemed to be accessible.

2. A one-page document captioned "ADA Services and Programs Policy," which essentially states the City's policy prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability, and provides that the policy applies to all City-funded services,programs, and activities. …

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