Best Resources for Building an Inclusive Playground

Playcore

Building a community inclusive playground takes a lot of people, knowledge and funds. The idea often starts with a group of dedicated volunteers and their first step is research. They want to know what is already out there, how to raise money, how to select a site, all of that before they even get to how to make it inclusive.

There is a lot of information out there on the internet but, you need to know what to look for and to determine what resources are worth your time. Today, I am going to narrow your search down by sharing with you some of my favorite sites and resources. Bookmark this page, so that you can come back to this list over and over again.

Getting Started

The best Inclusive Design Guidetool kit available for how to build a playground comes from KaBOOM!. KaBOOM provides you information on everything from testing soil, to keeping kids busy during a community build to public relations.

The best resource for inclusive playgrounds is the Inclusive Play Design Guide. To be transparent, I was involved in the development of this guide. However, I have not found anything else as comprehensive. It is published by Playworld, a playground manufacturer, but it is completely manufacturer neutral.

FundraisingKorkat

The best fundraising site I have found is Korkat Playground. You can download for free a 29 page book of national and state grant ideas. On their blog, they keep you updated on different grant opportunities and they have links to ideas for di
fferent fundraisers. They keep their information up-to-date and it is easy to read.

Other playground manufacturers also have lists of grants, including Playworld, Landscape Structures, and PlayCore.  All of these require that you sign up for their email list and/or contact a local representative to get the materials.

If you are a school, PTO Today has many good resources to help you plan fundraisers.

Understanding ADA

The Americans ADAwith Disability Act regulations for playgrounds are complicated; however, if you are building a playground with any of major playground ma
nufacturers they will make sure that your equipment will be compliant.

My favorite resource for ADA is an infographic from the International Playground Equipment Manufacturers Association called the Checklist for Access.

 

To get the information directly from the source, visit the United States Access Board.

Surfacing

Surfacing is the biggest decision a group will make when building a playground and it isn’t an easy decision.  Here are the best places to go and learn about your options.

The International Playground Equipment Manufacturers Association has a document about surfacing that is easy to read and understand.

The National Center for Accessibility did a longitudinal research study on playground surfacing. Their final report is available to download. If you don’t want to read the entire study, the Access Board has used this research to put together, “Seven Things Every Playground Owner Should Know About the Accessibility of Their Playground Surfaces”,

SofSURFACES, a playground surfacing manufacturer, has many good articles about surfacing, just keep in mind that they are trying to sell you a product.

Getting Ideas from Existing Playgrounds

Looking at pictures is the best way to get interesting ideas for playgrounds and for pictures, Pinterest is a great resource.

Accessibleplaygrounds.net, which is my website, has a directory of close to a 1,000 playgrounds from around the world. We have tried to put at least one picture with each playground.  You can search for the ones nearest you to go and visit.

Other websites that have directories include, KaBOOM’s Map of Play,Playground Professionals, Calgary Playground Review, NJ Playgrounds,ParkGrades, and Playgrounds for Everyone.

 

Originally published on Playground Professionals March 2016.

ADA Approved and Other Accessible Product Myths for your Park

Choosing Products to Improve Access at Your Parks & Facilities

 

National Center on Accessibility
National Center on Accessibility, Indiana University-Bloomington

Choosing products for use in a park or recreation facility can sometimes be challenging and overwhelming with the overload of information from manufacturers and accessibility guidelines to consider.   This monograph introduces the major considerations for purchasing products to improve access for people with disabilities in recreation environments including:

  • Assessing the needs of your facility;
  • Identifying specifications;
  • Comparison shopping;
  • Getting feedback from other customers; and
  • Leveraging your purchasing power.

Before selecting a specific product, facility managers, program coordinators, maintenance staff, essentially all site personnel, should have a thorough understanding of the two types of access: physical access to the environment and program access benefitting the individual.

Read rest of the article from the National Center of Accessibility

National Center on Accessibility (August 2010). Choosing Products to Improve Access at Your Parks and Facilities.. Bloomington, IN: National Center on Accessibility, Indiana University-Bloomington.  Retrieved fromwww.ncaonline.org.

Playground industry’s leading safety certification organization develops check list for accessibility

 Playgrounds–Accessing Play

by Tom Norquist, chair of IPEMA’s Marketing committee

As the playground industry’s leading safety certification organization, the International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA) has been instrumental in advocating for safer community and school playgrounds. With its third-party independent testing program for equipment and surfacing products, IPEMA promotes proper planning, installation and maintenance as critical steps playground owners can take to help ensure a safer place for kids to play.

 

Alongside promoting safety certification, IPEMA has been a strong supporter of full access for all children and caregivers. IPEMA’s membership companies believe wholly in the benefits and value of play and encourage communities to adopt universal design practices that incorporate inclusive play opportunities for children and caregivers of all ability levels.

 

The first step—and legal requirement—to incorporating universal design, however, is providing access. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a wide-ranging civil rights law prohibiting, under certain circumstances, discrimination based on disability. Most public facilities, including public play spaces, must comply with ADA standards to ensure equal access for all.

 

Recently, the Department of Justice (DOJ) provided updated standards for ADA compliance. Because altering playgrounds can be a significant investment, the new standards took effect as part of a phased-in approach—beginning in September 2010, when playgrounds could choose to comply when building a new playground or altering an existing one. Beginning on March 15, 2012, however, any new construction or alterations to existing public playgrounds must be in compliance with the updated DOJ standards.

 

To help minimize confusion in the playground industry, IPEMA has developed the “Checklist for Access,” a user-friendly guide to help playground owners become familiar—and ultimately compliant with the standards.

 

A visual poster format (PDF) of the Checklist is available via the Voice of Play’s Web site or by contacting IPEMA directly at communications@ipema.org.

 

By creating the Checklist, IPEMA and the Voice of Play hope to help take the industry another step forward in providing play opportunities for all.

IPEMA’s Checklist

 

1. Public Playgrounds must have an accessible route to the play area preferably 60 inches wide, maximum running slope of 1:20 and maximum cross slope of 1:48. The route to the play area is an accessible route. Minimum width is 36 inches and the maximum slope is 1:12. Any running slope over 1:20 or 5 percent is treated as a ramp with handrails and landings. (See Chapter 4, Accessible Routes, DOJ ADA 2010)

 

2. Within the play area, the safety surfacing must comply with ASTM F 1292-99 or -04 Standard Specification for Impact Attenuation of Surface Systems Under and Around Playground Equipment when located within the use zone for proper impact attenuation. All accessible routes within the play area, clear floor or ground spaces at play components required to be accessible and turning spaces must comply with ASTM 1951-99 Standard Specification for Determination of Accessibility of Surface Systems Under and Around Play-ground Equipment.

 

3.  Within the play area, the accessible route must be at least 60 inches wide, with a maximum running slope of 1:16, a maximum cross slope of 1:48 and a minimum of 80 inches overhead clearance. For small play areas of less than 1,000 square feet in total size, the accessible route must be at least 44 inches wide, with a maximum running slope of 1:16, a maximum cross slope of 1:48 and a minimum of 80 inches overhead clearance.

 

4.  Composite play structures that include a transfer system as a means of access must meet the following criteria:

 

  • Transfer platform height must be between 11 and 18 inches with clear minimum width of 24 inches and depth of 14 inches
  • Transfer steps are maximum of 8 inches high and include handholds to aid movement.
  • Minimum 30-by-48-inch transfer space must be provided adjacent to the transfer platform. The 48-inch long minimum dimension of the transfer space shall be centered on and parallel to the 24-inch long minimum side of the transfer platform. The side of the transfer platform serving the transfer space shall be unobstructed.

 

 

 

5.  Composite play structures that include ramps that connect elevated play components as a means of access must meet the following criteria:

 

  • Elevated ramps must be at least 36 inches wide, maximum running slope of 1:12 and maximum length of 144 inches (12 feet) before providing a landing.
  • Elevated ramps must include handrails on both sides meeting hand-gripping criteria and with a height between 20 and 28 inches. Elevated ramps with handrails, barriers beyond the ramp edge and barriers not extending within 1 inch of the ramp surface must have edge curbing at least 2 inches high for the entire ramp length. No handrail extensions are required.
  • When elevated ramps change in direction, a 60-by-60-inch minimum level landing must be provided at both the top and the bottom of each run.

 

 

 

6.  Elevated ramps and accessible platforms attached at ramp levels shall have no openings on surface greater than ½ inch and vertical change in level less than ¼ inch or up to ½ inch with a 2:1 beveled edge.

 

7.  Wheelchair-accessible platforms require guardrails or barriers. Openings for access/egress play components shall be narrowed to 15 inches or less.

 

8.  Advisory Reach ranges for accessible manipulative and interactive sensory and communicative components must have reach range heights between 16 and 44 inches for 9-to-12-year-old, 18 to 40 inches for 5-to-8-year-old, and 20 and 36 inches for 3-to-4-year-old user age groups.

 

9.  Ground-level upper-body equipment intended for use by a person using a mobility device must be less than 54 inches above protective surfacing.

 

10.  Ground-level play tables and components for users over 5 years old must have a minimum vertical knee clearance of at least 24 inches high, a minimum depth of at least 17 inches deep and a minimum width of at least 30 inches. The maximum top of playing surface shall not exceed 31 inches.

 

11.  Composite play structures must have elevated accessible routes by ramp and/or transfer systems to connect at least 50 percent of the elevated play components. Large composite play structures with more than 20 elevated play components must have at least 25 percent of the elevated play components connected by elevated ramps.

 

12.  Play areas must have the minimum number of accessible play components and types on the accessible routes per the following criteria: Remember it is one of each type at ground level and 50 percent elevated that must be accessible. The trigger to use the table is for Additional Number and Types. Where elevated play components are provided, ground-level play components shall be provided in accordance with Table 240.2.1.2 and shall comply with 1008.4. EXCEPTION: If at least 50 percent of the elevated play components are connected by a ramp and at least three of the elevated play components connected by the ramp are different types of play components, the play area shall not be required to comply with 240.2.1.2.


ADA Checklist for Readily Achievable Barrier Removal

The Institute for Human Centered Design has development a check list for readily achievable barrier removal for existing buildings.  They will be coming out with a checklist that deals specifically with recreational areas in January.  This checklist is still worthwhile in getting and adding to your resources as it deals with:

  • Parking
  • Entrance Route
  • Curb Cuts
  • Ramps leading to your building or space
  • Dining Surfaces
  • Restrooms
  • Drinking Fountains

The checklist takes all the legal jargon in ADA and makes it easy to understand.  You will be able to make good decisions when upgrading or developing a new playground if you are familiar with the material in the checklists.

This checklist was produced by the New England ADA Center, a project of the Institute for Human Centered Design and a member of the ADA National Network. This checklist was developed under a grant from the Department of Education, NIDRR grant number H133A060092-09A. However the contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.

Questions or comments on the checklist contact the New England ADA Center at 617-695-0085 voice/tty or ADAinfo@NewEnglandADA.org

For the full set of checklists, including the checklists for recreation facilities (coming in January 2012) visit www.ADAchecklist.org

ADA Compliance: What’s the Big Deal About March 15, 2012?

Provided by National Center on Accessibility, Access Today; October 2011

When the U.S. Department of Justice adopted the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, there set into motion much information and MISinformation regarding compliance with the new standards.  At NCA, we see a lot of marketing literature for “accessible” products and services.  .  Recently there has been an influx of marketing to the parks and recreation field with misleading assertions about compliance with the new standards. Here is but one example aimed at aquatic facilities:

“Dear [Director]…Are you aware that as of March 15, 2011 the Department of Justice has adopted revised ADA Standards that effect Swimming pools, wading pools and Spas? The Department of Justice can impose fines of up to $110,000.00 and force you to comply if complaints are made, you may also be sued by individuals. Why take that chance, allow us the opportunity to bring you into compliance.” Read more>

There’s an app for that! Apps for Accessibility.

Thanks to the National Center on Accessibility, Let Kids Play can share with you some new apps to help with accessibility.  The following is informational only.  Mention of any products herein does not constitute an endorsement or promotion by the National Center on Accessibility. accessibeplayground.net or Let Kids Play.

With the growing use of smart phones, “There’s an App for that!” seems to become part of our popular vernacular.  At NCA, we are always looking for new tools, yes, even new apps, to help us do our job even better.  Tired of carrying around the new ADA-ABA accessibility standards?  Greg Morrissey came up with his own solution by putting the accessibility standards into an easy-to-use app for iPhone.  The app retails in the iTunes store for $1.99, search ADA / ABA Accessibility Guidelines.

Will smart phone applications become the new wayfinding means to improve access?  Digital design and development studio Winfield & Co. has launched their latest app: myNav: Central Park. This handheld digital wayfinding app provides users with an innovative way to navigate the complex network of pathways, destinations, and green space. myNav provides precise, location specific routing and directions for a discrete system of pathways on a rich detailed map.  myNav is also available through iTunes for $1.99.

Interested in demonstrating the visual impact of color blindness during staff training?  The app developed by Movisol shows a series of images to determine if the user has a problem viewing a specific color based on the composition and color combination. Color Blindness Test has a free lite version and a full version for $1.99.

Do you have a favorite accessibility app?  Share it  here and with nca@indiana.edu

U.S. Access Board releases for public comment proposed guidelines for accessible public rights-of-way

On July 26th the U.S. Access Board released for public comment proposed guidelines for accessible public rights-of-way. The guidelines provide design criteria for public streets and sidewalks, including pedestrian access routes, street crossings, curb ramps and blended transitions, on-street parking, street furniture, and other elements. The specifications comprehensively address access that accommodates all types of disabilities, including mobility and vision impairments, while taking into account conditions and constraints that may impact compliance, such as space limitations and terrain, as indicated in an overview (see below) of the rule.

“The Board’s proposed guidelines are the first of their kind in detailing how public streets and sidewalks can be designed and built to serve all pedestrians, including those with disabilities,” notes Nancy Starnes, Chair of the Access Board. “A tremendous amount of work, research, outreach, and input from stakeholders and other interested groups have gone into the making of this proposal, and the Board welcomes and looks forward to additional feedback from the public in making the guidelines final.”

The guidelines, once finalized and implemented as standards, will apply to newly constructed or altered portions of public rights-of-way covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). They will also apply to public rights-of-way built or altered with funding from the Federal government under the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) and the Rehabilitation Act. Existing pedestrian networks not undergoing alteration will not be required to meet these requirements. The rights-of-way guidelines complement, and in some areas reference, the Board’s ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines for buildings and facilities.

The new proposal incorporates public comment the Board received on earlier drafts of the guidelines. While developing these guidelines, the Board has conducted an active outreach and training program to provide needed guidance on the subject in the interim. Under this program, the Board has provided training across the country to various audiences and has met with state and local transportation and public works departments on a regular basis to share information and best practices. In addition, the Board has developed resources, including design guides and checklists, and has sponsored research on detectable warnings, accessible pedestrian signals, and traffic roundabouts.

According to Scott Windley, a Board accessibility specialist involved in this rulemaking, “the training and consultation the Board has provided over the years yielded a two-way flow of information that has been very helpful and instructive in crafting guidelines that are equally responsive to both access needs and to design realities.”

The Board will conduct a public webinar to review the proposal on August 9. The proposed guidelines can be accessed, and comments to them submitted or viewed, through the Federal government’s rulemaking portal at www.regulations.gov. Instructions for submitting comments are included in the proposal. The deadline for comments is November 23, 2011. The Board will hold public hearings on the guidelines in Dallas on September 12 and in Washington, D.C. on November 9.

Further information on this rulemaking is available on the rights-of-way homepage or by contacting Scott Windley at row@access-board.gov, (202) 272-0025 (v), or (202) 272-0028 (TTY).

Proposed Guidelines for Public Rights-of-Way: An Overview    PDF Version

This overview highlights provisions in the Access Board’s proposed guidelines for accessible public rights-of-way and also includes answers to common questions. The Board’s published proposal discusses in greater detail provisions of the rule.

Scope of the Guidelines
The Access Board’s proposed guidelines address access to newly constructed and altered public streets and sidewalks covered by the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and, in the case of those federally funded, the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) or the Rehabilitation Act. In alterations, these requirements would apply within, not beyond, the planned scope of a project. The guidelines do not apply to existing public rights-of-ways except those portions that are altered. Program access mandates of the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act may require access improvements to existing pedestrian networks, but these obligations are regulated by other agencies, such as the Department of Transportation and the Department of Justice, not the Access Board.

Accessibility Addressed
Many provisions are designed to ensure that public rights-of-ways contain a continuous accessible route that accommodates all pedestrians, including those who use mobility aids. These requirements also benefit many other users, including those traveling with strollers. The guidelines also address access for people who are blind or who have low vision and include requirements to mediate potential hazards along public streets and sidewalks. These include provisions that cover tactile warnings at transitions to streets, accessible pedestrian signals, signalization at traffic roundabouts, and objects that protrude into circulation paths.

Recognized Constraints and Exceptions
The guidelines take into account conditions typical of roadway geometry and common constraints unique to public rights-of-way in order to facilitate compliance and minimize impacts. For example, the grade of accessible pedestrian routes is permitted to follow those of adjacent streets. In alteration projects, departures are allowed where existing constraints, such as terrain, space limitations, drainage requirements, and historic features, make compliance impracticable. The guidelines also exempt from coverage utility vaults and tunnels and other spaces used only by service personnel.

Relationship to Other Guidelines and Requirements
The Board’s ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines address access to buildings and facilities located on sites. Standards based on these guidelines apply within the boundary of covered sites as defined by property lines and public rights-of-ways. In covering public rights-of-ways, the new guidelines essentially pick up where these guidelines leave off. The proposed rights-of-way guidelines reference requirements in the ADA and ABA guidelines for certain elements, such as toilet facilities and escalators.

The guidelines also refer to requirements in the most recent edition (2009) of the Federal Highway Administration’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) for Streets and Highways to ensure consistency and to avoid redundancy. Specifically, the guidelines invoke MUTCD definitions and technical criteria for temporary alternate pedestrian routes and pedestrian signals and push buttons.

What the Guidelines Cover
The guidelines cover pedestrian features in new or altered public right-of-ways, including sidewalks and other pedestrian ways, street crossings, medians and traffic islands, overpasses, underpasses and bridges. On-street parking, transit stops, toilet facilities, signs, and street furniture are also addressed. The guidelines apply to permanent as well as temporary facilities, such as temporary routes around work zones and portable toilets. Provisions in the guidelines address:

  • Pedestrian Access Routes (including sidewalks, street crossings, curb ramps/ blended transitions)
  • Detectable Warning Surfaces
  • Pedestrian Signals
  • Roundabouts
  • On-Street Parking and Passenger Loading Zones
  • Transit Stops and Shelters
  • Street Furniture and Other Elements

Pedestrian Access Routes
A continuous accessible pedestrian route at least 4 feet wide is specified along pedestrian networks. Most provisions apply only within this portion of public rights-of-way, although some requirements, such as those limiting hazards posed by protruding objects, apply to all areas of circulation. Specifications for the grade and cross slope of pedestrian access routes take into account factors such as terrain and drainage requirements. Specifications are provided or referenced for route components, including curb ramps, blended transitions such as depressed corners and raised street crossings, ramps, elevators, and handrails.

Pedestrian Signals
The guidelines do not require intersections to be signalized for pedestrians, except at certain roundabouts and channelized turn lanes. Instead, they generally apply MUTCD requirements only where pedestrian signals are provided. Pedestrian signals and push buttons meeting MUTCD criteria integrate discreet locator tones and vibro-tactile indicators of walk/ don’t walk cycles. Unlike earlier technologies, current products create very little noise because the low-volume tone, often a ticking sound, is used to indicate the location of vibro-tactile signals and push buttons, not to broadcast walk cycles. The guidelines also specify signal phase timing based on a maximum traveling speed of 3.5 feet per second.

Detectable Warning Surfaces
Detectable warnings, a distinct tactile surface of truncated domes, are specified to alert pedestrians with vision impairments of transitions to vehicle ways and of open drop-offs at transit platforms. The guidelines propose requiring these warnings at curb ramps and blended transitions which remove tactile cues otherwise provided by curb faces. The Board also proposes requiring them at certain pedestrian refuge islands above a specified width, at-grade pedestrian-only rail crossings, and transit stop boarding platforms or areas. Requirements for detectable warnings on curb ramps were previously included in the Board’s guidelines for buildings and facilities but were removed in the last update in deference to this rulemaking. Detectable warnings on curb ramps and blended transitions are especially important along public sidewalks where hazards posed by vehicle traffic are greater.

Roundabouts
Circular intersections or “roundabouts,” by their continuous traffic flow and non-linear pedestrian routes, are often difficult for people with vision impairments to safely navigate. The guidelines include requirements for pedestrian activated signals at roundabouts with multi-lane crossings and multi-lane channelized turn lanes. The guidelines also call for tactile barriers or warnings along portions of sidewalks flush against the curb where pedestrian crossing is not intended.

On-Street Parking and Passenger Loading Zones
Where marked or metered on-street parking is provided, the guidelines specify the minimum number that must be accessible based on the total number provided on a block perimeter. In general, at least 4% of spaces must be accessible (scoping lowers to 2% for amounts between 101 and 200 spaces). Adjoining access aisles must serve spaces, but in the case of parallel parking, only where the sidewalks are wide enough (14 feet minimum) to accommodate them. Perpendicular and angled spaces, parking meters and pay stations, and passenger loading zones (other than transit stops) are covered as well. Accessible passenger loading zones are required for every 100 feet of continuous loading zone space provided.

Transit Stops and Shelters
Provisions for transit stops address boarding and alighting areas, including their size and grade, boarding platforms, andprovided shelters. These requirements require sufficient space so that people with disabilities, including those who used wheeled mobility aids, can board or disembark from transit vehicles and have equal access to shelters.

Street Furniture and Other Elements
The guidelines cover street furniture and other elements that serve public rights-of-way, including drinking fountains, toilet facilities, and benches. Some elements are addressed through references to the relevant sections in the ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines. Components such as ramps, stairways, and escalators are also addressed, as are signs, protruding objects, and operable parts.

Answers to Common Questions

Will existing streets and sidewalks have to be modified to meet the new guidelines?

No. The guidelines apply only to those portions of public rights-of-way that are newly constructed or altered. They do not apply to existing public rights-of-way outside of planned alterations. Jurisdictions can voluntarily consult the guidelines in undertaking access improvements at existing streets and sidewalks.

Will these guidelines significantly impact the design of streets and sidewalks?

Accessibility in general often has minimal impacts when properly integrated into planning and design. However, constraints and conditions unique to public rights-of-ways can pose significant challenges, which is why the Board is developing these guidelines separately from its guidelines for buildings and facilities. As proposed, the guidelines accommodate typical roadway geometry, such as specifying grades and cross slopes for pedestrian access routes based on the established street grade. Projects involving existing streets and sidewalks may be further constrained by limited space and right-of-way availability, underlying terrain, underground structures, drainage, and other factors. The guidelines allow departures in alterations where existing physical constraints make compliance impracticable. These and other allowances will greatly mediate the impacts of the guidelines.

Won’t requirements for accessible pedestrian signals cause noise pollution?

No. Current pedestrian signal devices, which have become the norm, feature discreet tones or ticks that indicate the location of nearby push buttons and tactile signals that silently vibrate to indicate walk cycles. The locator tone is not used to broadcast walk cycles. To be effective, the locator signal is designed to be audible only within the vicinity of the signal or push button. Earlier technologies that used louder chirps and tones to indicate walk cycles are no longer in use and are not required by the guidelines.

Why are requirements for detectable warnings, which were removed from the Board’s facility guidelines, included in this rule?

The Board considers detectable warnings on curb ramps and blended transitions important in the public rights-of-way realm where hazards to people with vision impairments posed by vehicle traffic are greater. At facilities located on sites, such hazards are often reduced by lower traffic speeds, traffic calming measures, and pedestrian right-of-way. Detectable warnings re-establish a tactile boundary between pedestrian and vehicular ways that is taken away by the removal of curb faces at ramps and blended transitions. The proposed guidelines, like the Board’s facility guidelines, also require detectable warnings along unprotected drop-offs at boarding platforms in transit stations.

What are the next steps in finalizing these requirements?

The Access Board will proceed to finalize the guidelines based on the public comments received on this proposal. Once finalized, the guidelines, though usable, will not actually be mandatory until implemented as enforceable standards by other agencies such as the Department of Transportation and the Department of Justice.

What should be applied to public rights-of-way under design at this time or in the near future?

Design guides and manuals on accessible public rights-of-ways and information gathered in the course of this rulemaking are available on the Board’s website as interim resources until these guidelines are completed. In addition, the Board regularly provides technical assistance and training on this subject upon request. For further information, contact the Access Board at ta@access-board.gov(technical assistance), training@access-board.gov (training), (800) 872-2253 (v), or (800) 993-2822 (TTY).

Tips From the Pros on Compliance With New ADA Standards

Tips From the Pros on Compliance With New ADA Standards By Margaret Ahrweiler

Reprinted with permission from Recreation Magazine

If You Build It, They Will Come

While that adage applies to baseball fields in the middle of Iowa, it now also applies to playing fields—and every other form of recreational facilities across the United States for disabled users.

The 2010 ADA standards—formally known as Revisions to Title II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act—were announced in July 2010 and take effect March 15, 2011, with compliance required by March 15, 2012. They require that recreational facilities, not covered in the original 1991 Americans With Disabilities Act, be accessible to disabled users. All new construction must conform to the standards.

Among the areas they cover:

  • Recreational boating facilities
  • Exercise machines and equipment
  • Fishing piers and platforms
  • Golf facilities
  • Miniature golf facilities
  • Play areas
  • Swimming pools, wading pools and spas
  • Shooting facilities with firing positions
  • Event seating
  • Service animals
  • Means of transportation for disabled people.

What does this mean for your facility? The short answer is that, short of natural areas and trails, every recreational facility must meet the same standards as other public and commercial spaces. The long answer is that the dense guidelines, filled with technical provisions and specifications, still leave room for questions and may have some recreational facilities scrambling to comply.

And while a new set of federal mandates that bring a new round of renovations can leave some site managers grumbling, many recreation professionals are counseling that facilities put a positive spin on the work they must do. Making their facilities accessible will open their businesses to a whole new client base, increasing traffic, exposure and positive word-of-mouth.

Advance planning pays off (as it does for most things) when it comes to the new rules, said John McGovern, president of Recreation Accessibility Consultants, based in Hoffman Estates, Ill. He counseled that, if they haven’t already done so, recreation districts and facilities should take an accessibility inventory and create a response plan.

“Usually, park and rec departments without solid policies in place about accessibility will incur a much bigger hit,” he said, to bring themselves up to the new guidelines.

None of the new standards should come as a surprise, McGovern added, since they adopt, word for word, the recommendations published by the U.S. Access Board in 2004. Districts in a leadership position, along with those active with special recreation programs, have been using those recommendations as guidelines for renovation and new construction work for the last six years, he added.

Recreation facilities need to start planning immediately, agreed Rob Sperl, director of planning for the Wheaton Park District in Wheaton, Ill., a Chicago suburb of about 55,000. Wheaton may be in better shape than most districts, he said, because it began preparing for more stringent accessibility standards in 2004, when it took a formal accessibility survey with its special recreation partner, the Western DuPage Special Recreation Association, said Sperl. Wheaton also has been working with McGovern on an accessibility inventory and made a priority list, he said.

While many recreation professionals would rather not spend the extra time and money upgrading their accessibility, the process will pay off as facility usage increases, counseled Dr. Sherril York, director of the National Center on Accessibility at Indiana University. Millions of disabled users have plenty of discretionary income to spend, as long as they can access the places to spend it, she said.

Demographics of the disabled can be startling: 54.4 million Americans reported some level of disability in 2005, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, with 35 million severely disabled. More specifically:

  • 11 million people over the age of 6 needed personal assistance with everyday activities.
  • 3.3 million age 15 or older used a wheelchair.
  • 10.2 million used a cane, crutches or walker.
  • 7.8 million had trouble seeing words in formats like this magazine, and 1.8 million could not see at all.
  • 7.8 million had difficulty hearing conversations; this did not include people who used hearing aids.

What’s more, these numbers don’t include senior citizens who, despite diminished mobility, refuse to count themselves as disabled—a number sure to rise with the aging baby boomers.

“The disabled constitute a significant portion of our population,” said John Caden, director of pool lifts for an aquatic supply company and an industry expert on accessibility regulations. Caden suggests looking at accessibility laws differently to appreciate what they’re trying to do. “I like to tell people, ‘What if you said that this law—or the barriers unfortunately in place—applies to women?’ You’d never bar someone from using a facility because they’re female,” he noted. “You have to consider disabled people the same way.”

While most recreation professionals think of physical barriers for users in wheelchairs, York reminded that planners need to consider people with other impairments, such as visual.

“We always find it interesting that we can go to places that will have brochures in multiple languages—won’t have Braille and large print but will have something in Portuguese. They’re trying to meet demand, but they’re not meeting their legal requirements,” she said. “Chances are, you’re going to have more disabled users than Portuguese users.”

Pool Accessibility

When it comes to the laundry list of areas covered under the new rules, providing access to pools has topped the list of concerns for many facilities. Pools with more than 300 linear feet of wall must include two means of access, one of which must be a lift or a sloped entry. Pools less than 300 linear feet only need one means of access—but it must be a lift or sloped entry. Practically speaking, this means any commercial pool in the country—270,000 by some estimates, said Caden—needs a lift or a sloped entry.

PHOTO COURTESY OF S.R. SMITH

Fortunately, this area can provide the easiest fix, and, despite grumbling over costs, shouldn’t force closure of even the smallest facilities. Pool lift systems have been available for years. Smaller lifts cost as little as $4,000 to install, Caden said. Ramps, on the other hand, require more space, along with an architect and contractor, and can cost $20,000 to $30,000.

Some confusion still exists about wading pools and zero-depth entry pools with the 2010 guidelines, Caden added. The guidelines require a 1 to 12 ratio slope for graded entries, while many commercial zero-depth pools, including those in Florida, use a 1 to 10 grade. It’s also unclear where and when railings must be installed.

Many districts, including the Wheaton Park District, are avoiding that quandary altogether by installing lifts at the deep end of the zero-depth pools.

Districts with multiple facilities also can apply a program accessibility test to ensure that aquatics programs are accessible, without having to upgrade every facility, said Mike Benard, Wheaton’s executive director. Wheaton Park District operates two aquatic facilities, Rice Pool & Water Park and Northside Family Aquatic Center. Rice, built in 1989, features a zero-depth entry, while Northside, built in 1958 and renovated in 1995, features a more traditional design of an L-shaped pool with lap lanes and a diving well. The district offers lessons and other programming at both sites, but offers full accessibility for that programming only at Rice, Benard said. They chose to make Rice fully accessible because it is larger, with up to 200,000 visitors each summer compared with Northside’s peak of 80,000, he said.

Not every section of an aquatic facility must be accessible, either. Existing waterslides do not have to meet ADA requirements, York noted, but said that new construction should have accessibility built into the design.

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.

Accessibility Plus

What’s more, with a little thought and creativity, planners can provide access to all kinds of facilities, Miles added, not just playgrounds, pools and playing fields, when considering the 2010 standards.

Similarly, Apex hosted the USA Cup Sled Hockey in 2005. While the event took place long before the 2010 guidelines, districts can still learn Apex’s experience, Goldwater said. (In sled hockey, disabled players who might normally use wheelchairs use specially designed sleds to play competitive ice hockey.)At Apex Center, even the climbing wall accommodates disabled users, said Terry Goldwater, the center’s manager. At the request of a special recreation group, Apex found special climbing harnesses to accommodate severely disabled users. While wheelchair-bound patrons couldn’t necessarily use the wall like other patrons, they got to experience the thrill of ascent as belayers guided them to the top of the wall.

“The ice rinks were already pretty accessible, but we did have to adapt the player boxes and penalty boxes, which normally had a step,” Goldwater said. “The tournament was an outstanding success, with players coming all the way from Europe, and it really showed how it pays off to accommodate disabled user’s needs.”

Since then, the center even has hosted disabled groups who take their wheelchairs out on the ice with aides, she added.

Apex also met accessibility standards for its fitness rooms and equipment well before the new rules took effect. Miles reassured recreation professionals that meeting the new standards for fitness equipment constitutes one of the easiest areas to comply without spending any money. Facilities now need to allow a 30-by-48-inch turning space for fitness machines. Typically, this can be accomplished by ensuring one treadmill, exercise bike or elliptical at the end of a row of machines provides enough space, he said. Similarly, one set of weight benches and racks needs additional space.

Field Accessibility

While fitness centers are a relatively easy fix, meeting the 2010 standards for the flat surfaces of another busy area—playing fields—can prove more challenging. Making playing fields accessible for spectators gets tricky when it comes to traversing long distances between parking lots and the events.

A handicapped parking space doesn’t help visitors if they can’t get from that lot to the field, noted Indiana’s York. Again, thinking beyond wheelchairs can help facility managers appreciate the importance of access, she added. Without an accessible route, grandparents may not be able to attend a child’s soccer game, or an injured player cannot get to the bench of his team’s football game.

Addressing this problem doesn’t have to mean paving over large chunks of playing field to create access paths. On game days in Wheaton’s large parks, roving golf carts take spectators with mobility problems to and from playing fields.

The new standards also address seating in arenas, stadiums and other facilities more specifically than in the past. While the number of seats required has been reduced, spectator seating cannot isolate disabled patrons from the rest of their group. Disabled access seats must provide a space for family and friends to sit as well.

“We all have social groups we want to enjoy—friends, family, fellow fans. We wouldn’t want to be isolated from them and neither do disabled people,” York said. “You have to remember that disabled people have discretionary income, and they’re going to spend it elsewhere if your facilities aren’t up to par.”

Making Cost-Effective ChangesWith an economy wracked by recession, paying for the required changes remains a top concern of recreation professionals, but accessibility experts suggest looking at upgrades as a long-term investment to attract more patrons. As a civil rights law, ADA does not come with funds for implementation, said York, but she suggested facilities seek community foundations among other sources of grant money.

Wheaton’s Benard suggested that smaller districts develop partnerships to pool their resources to seek grants, even sharing the cost of a grant writer to “bird dog” possibilities. Consultants’ fees can more than pay for themselves through money-saving accessibility ideas, he added, noting Wheaton’s success with McGovern’s firm. Community groups also can help with fundraising and improvements. Wheaton’s first fully accessible playground, completed at Northside Park in 1984, was sponsored by the Rotary Club.

Another silver lining: The historic recession and resulting nosedive of the construction industry means facilities will see aggressively low bidding on renovations and accessibility upgrades. But managers need to act quickly, said Wheaton’s Sperl “This is 13 months from now,” he warned. “Very few agencies can figure out a program and execute in that time.”

Juggling the books can also make room in tight budgets. Shifting the renovations from the capital improvements to the operations column can help free money, Caden suggested, and the $4,000 to $10,000 spent on pool lifts, for example, can be recouped quickly through greater customer traffic.

“You get people complaining that they have to conform to the new standards because they never get any disabled people coming into their facility, but they haven’t considered why they don’t get that population,” he said.

By marketing their facilities as user-friendly, facility managers can build traffic to not only cover costs but expand their client base. “You don’t need to call it handicapped-accessible,” he added. ” ‘User friendly’ means you can accommodate a wide spectrum of customers.” An additional 100 customers spending $40 will pay for a basic lift.

Tax credits of up to $5,000 also are available for small businesses such as motels, Caden added, as long as they employ less than 30 full-time staff and post sales of less than $1 million. Cash-strapped recreation facilities also can look into obtaining equipment like pool lifts under a lease program.

York also reminded recreation professionals that the law doesn’t require every Title II entity to be accessible to achieve program success. Priority is given to access for facilities that support programs and activities that promote the most integrated setting for people with disabilities. In Wheaton, its Rathje Park preschool, housed in an old brick foursquare home, is not handicapped accessible, but does not have to be renovated because the district offers an identical program at its fully accessible Community Center building. Historic buildings also fall outside the new requirements.

Accessibility Outside

The new requirements also pay more attention to outdoor areas, most significantly in marine areas. Docks and boat ramps must now be accessible, with attention given to sight lines. A dock with a heavy railing that blocks a wheelchair-bound patron’s view does not comply. The Access Board and Department of Justice sites both show common-sense designs to accommodate physically disabled users.

Play areas must become more accessible under the new rules as well. Play areas at parks, schools, child care facilities and shopping centers must offer accessible ground and elevated play components, accessible routes, ramps and transfer systems, and accessible ground surfaces.Boat docks serving everything from humble kayaks to luxury ocean yachts must meet the new standards. Again, many facilities planned in the past few years used the new guidelines before they became law. The Chicago Park District’s new 31st Street Harbor, which began construction last year, featured a fishing pier and boat slips along Lake Michigan in its earliest designs. Similarly, Wheaton planners incorporated the new rules when they began renovating their Northside Park lagoon in 2009, so that five of the 10 canoe docks are accessible, and fishing areas have gaps and lower rails for disabled users.

The recreation community may see continuing debate on ground surfaces, which were not specified by the new regulations—only “regular maintenance” is mandated. While there is clearly significant cost difference between engineered wood fiber (EWF) and unitary surfaces, said Wheaton’s Benard, his district is turning to unitary surfaces to ensure they comply with ADA. What’s more, they can avoid the maintenance and refilling that EWF requires, reducing overall costs.

“You may pay less but you’re more likely to run afoul of ADA rules,” he said. Many districts find it hard to keep up with the constant fill required under swings and slides, and the regular fill addition needed to counteract compression. He also recommended the use of grants to offset the higher installation costs of unitary surfaces.

One outdoor area was left out of the new regulations, however: trails and outdoor developed areas. Those guidelines are still in draft form, said Indiana’s York, and are not enforceable standards. Instead, they’re considered “best practice,” she said, and ultimately will be adopted for inclusion in ADA standards as an addition to its Chapter 10 on Recreational Facilities.

Buyer Beware?

When purchasing anything from accessible docks to picnic tables to exercise equipment, York offered a caveat: When seeking accessible equipment, buyers need to beware that products labeled accessible may not necessarily fit the bill. “Saying something is accessible doesn’t necessarily make it so,” she said. What’s more, buyers should think twice about buying two separate versions of the same product—accessible and non-accessible—and instead consider using just one product that incorporates universal design, to streamline purchasing and replacement.

Recreation professionals also should consider using their purchasing clout to spur manufacturers to create products that are more accessible, York suggested. “Buyers can influence the market and shouldn’t be afraid to ask for products that address accessibility,” she said. At a recent trade show, one manufacturer produced fitness equipment for outdoors that didn’t meet accessibility standards, while its competitors’ products did. Guess whose products sold more?

Finally, she cautioned that meeting the 2010 accessibility standards means more than just buying the right equipment. Planners need to consider layout and access points, she added, noting countless examples of benches that block pathways or exits from restrooms that leave no room to maneuver once a person exits the space.

While the new standards are bound to set countless rounds of planning, renovation, debate, haggling and litigation, they will ultimately expand access to recreational facilities. And since every facility, be it private, public or commercial, shares the same goal—to attract more users—the new rules will benefit operators in the long run.

To put the costs and efforts behind meeting the new regulations in perspective, several professionals suggested comparing it with the money invested in “greening” recreation facilities through sustainable design.

“There’s not a single recreation district in this country that is going to be sued because they’re not ‘green’ enough,” said McGovern.

Grumbling foot-draggers should also note the new standards are a rarity in the federal government, a popular bipartisan effort. The changes began in George W. Bush’s administration and were finalized under Barack Obama’s.

Finally, York put the changes in historical perspective: “With the first set of standards in 1991, ultimately barrier removal was accomplished without a whole lot of fuss and expense. You look at thresholds that might keep people out—those are the easiest kinds of barriers to remove.”

What’s more, the general population came to appreciate the changes: When curb cuts came to city sidewalks, York related, the population group that celebrated them most was delivery people.

Ultimately, able-bodied people will celebrate the new changes just as well.

Questions Every Facility Must Ask

Are you ready? Recreation facility managers and planners might think they’re complying with the new standards, but they might be missing key parts of the plan—and not even asking the right questions. Recreation Accessibility Consultants suggests the following checklist:

  • Does your staff know what questions to ask someone who enters a building or a park riding a Segway or similar device?
  • Does your staff know what questions are prohibited from asking that same person?
  • Does your staff know what questions to ask someone who enters a park or facility with a service animal?
  • Does your staff know what to look for in regard to the work of the service animal, and how to evaluate whether the service animal poses a threat or hygiene risk?
  • Do you have an automated phone answering system and is it ready to comply with the new Title II for callers who are deaf or hard of hearing?
  • Does your staff at performance or art venues know the new ticketing requirements in Title II?

Shared Use Path Accessibility Guidelines–Make your thoughts heard

The following information is forwarded as a service of the National Center on Accessibility.  www.ncaonline.org

Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking by the U.S. Access Board

Shared Use Path Accessibility Guidelines

The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) has issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) to develop accessibility guidelines for shared use paths. Shared use paths are designed for both transportation and recreation purposes and are used by pedestrians, bicyclists, skaters, equestrians, and other users. The guidelines will include technical provisions for making newly constructed and altered shared use paths covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 (ABA) accessible to persons with disabilities.

As always, the National Center on Accessibility highly encourages people who use shared use paths and entities that manage shared use paths to submit comments to the U.S. Access Board. The ANPRM has been published and is open for public comment through June 27, 2011.

Through this ANPRM, the Access Board seeks input on the proposed guidelines and asks several questions:

http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2011/pdf/2011-7156.pdf

http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2011/2011-7156.htm

Question 1. Does the draft definition of “shared use path” sufficiently distinguish these paths from trails and sidewalks? If not, please provide any recommendations that would strengthen this distinction.

Question 2. What technical provisions, if any, should apply where separate unpaved paths are provided for equestrian use?

Question 3. Are there conditions where a 5 percent maximum grade cannot be achieved on a newly constructed shared use path? If so, the Board is interested in a description of the specific conditions that might prevent compliance.

Question 4. Should the Board provide guidance on how to address steeper segments of shared use paths when they cannot be avoided? For example, would providing space for bicyclists or wheelchair users to move off of the shared use path in order to avoid conflict with other traffic be helpful?

Question 5. What would be considered a sufficient separation between a shared use path and a roadway, or outside border of a roadway, where it may not be necessary for the shared use path to follow the grade of the roadway?

Question 6. Are there conditions where cross slope steeper than 2 percent is necessary in new construction?

Question 7. Is there a need to provide additional warnings or information to bicyclists regarding potential conflicts with other shared use paths users, including pedestrians with disabilities?

Question 8. What technical provisions should apply where the shared use path overlaps a trail or sidewalk?

Question 9. Are different technical provisions needed when applying the draft technical provisions for shared use paths that “connect” shared use paths together or with other pedestrian routes (e.g., sidewalks, trails, accessible routes)? If so, please provide any additional information or recommendations.

Question 10. Should the accessibility guidelines for shared use paths be included in the same document as the accessibility guidelines for pedestrian facilities in the public right-of-way?

Question 11. Are there other issues that need to be addressed by the accessibility guidelines for shared use paths? If so, please provide specific information on any additional areas that should be addressed in the guidelines.

Tips From the Pros on Compliance With New ADA Standards

This article was orginally printed in Recreation Management Magazine and written by Margaret Ahrweiler and is being reprinted with permission.

While that adage applies to baseball fields in the middle of Iowa, it now also applies to playing fields—and every other form of recreational facilities across the United States for disabled users.

The 2010 ADA standards—formally known as Revisions to Title II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act—were announced in July 2010 and take effect March 15, 2011, with compliance required by March 15, 2012. They require that recreational facilities, not covered in the original 1991 Americans With Disabilities Act, be accessible to disabled users. All new construction must conform to the standards.

PHOTO COURTESY OF WHEATON PARK DISTRICT

Among the areas they cover:

  • Amusement rides
  • Recreational boating facilities
  • Exercise machines and equipment
  • Fishing piers and platforms
  • Golf facilities
  • Miniature golf facilities
  • Play areas
  • Swimming pools, wading pools and spas
  • Shooting facilities with firing positions
  • Event seating
  • Service animals
  • Means of transportation for disabled people.

What does this mean for your facility? The short answer is that, short of natural areas and trails, every recreational facility must meet the same standards as other public and commercial spaces. The long answer is that the dense guidelines, filled with technical provisions and specifications, still leave room for questions and may have some recreational facilities scrambling to comply.

And while a new set of federal mandates that bring a new round of renovations can leave some site managers grumbling, many recreation professionals are counseling that facilities put a positive spin on the work they must do. Making their facilities accessible will open their businesses to a whole new client base, increasing traffic, exposure and positive word-of-mouth.

Advance planning pays off (as it does for most things) when it comes to the new rules, said John McGovern, president of Recreation Accessibility Consultants, based in Hoffman Estates, Ill. He counseled that, if they haven’t already done so, recreation districts and facilities should take an accessibility inventory and create a response plan.

“Usually, park and rec departments without solid policies in place about accessibility will incur a much bigger hit,” he said, to bring themselves up to the new guidelines.

None of the new standards should come as a surprise, McGovern added, since they adopt, word for word, the recommendations published by the U.S. Access Board in 2004. Districts in a leadership position, along with those active with special recreation programs, have been using those recommendations as guidelines for renovation and new construction work for the last six years, he added.

Recreation facilities need to start planning immediately, agreed Rob Sperl, director of planning for the Wheaton Park District in Wheaton, Ill., a Chicago suburb of about 55,000. Wheaton may be in better shape than most districts, he said, because it began preparing for more stringent accessibility standards in 2004, when it took a formal accessibility survey with its special recreation partner, the Western DuPage Special Recreation Association, said Sperl. Wheaton also has been working with McGovern on an accessibility inventory and made a priority list, he said.

While many recreation professionals would rather not spend the extra time and money upgrading their accessibility, the process will pay off as facility usage increases, counseled Dr. Sherril York, director of the National Center on Accessibility at Indiana University. Millions of disabled users have plenty of discretionary income to spend, as long as they can access the places to spend it, she said.

Demographics of the disabled can be startling: 54.4 million Americans reported some level of disability in 2005, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, with 35 million severely disabled. More specifically:

  • 11 million people over the age of 6 needed personal assistance with everyday activities.
  • 3.3 million age 15 or older used a wheelchair.
  • 10.2 million used a cane, crutches or walker.
  • 7.8 million had trouble seeing words in formats like this magazine, and 1.8 million could not see at all.
  • 7.8 million had difficulty hearing conversations; this did not include people who used hearing aids.

What’s more, these numbers don’t include senior citizens who, despite diminished mobility, refuse to count themselves as disabled—a number sure to rise with the aging baby boomers.

“The disabled constitute a significant portion of our population,” said John Caden, director of pool lifts for an aquatic supply company and an industry expert on accessibility regulations. Caden suggests looking at accessibility laws differently to appreciate what they’re trying to do. “I like to tell people, ‘What if you said that this law—or the barriers unfortunately in place—applies to women?’ You’d never bar someone from using a facility because they’re female,” he noted. “You have to consider disabled people the same way.”

While most recreation professionals think of physical barriers for users in wheelchairs, York reminded that planners need to consider people with other impairments, such as visual.

“We always find it interesting that we can go to places that will have brochures in multiple languages—won’t have Braille and large print but will have something in Portuguese. They’re trying to meet demand, but they’re not meeting their legal requirements,” she said. “Chances are, you’re going to have more disabled users than Portuguese users.”

Pool Accessibility

When it comes to the laundry list of areas covered under the new rules, providing access to pools has topped the list of concerns for many facilities. Pools with more than 300 linear feet of wall must include two means of access, one of which must be a lift or a sloped entry. Pools less than 300 linear feet only need one means of access—but it must be a lift or sloped entry. Practically speaking, this means any commercial pool in the country—270,000 by some estimates, said Caden—needs a lift or a sloped entry.

PHOTO COURTESY OF S.R. SMITH

Fortunately, this area can provide the easiest fix, and, despite grumbling over costs, shouldn’t force closure of even the smallest facilities. Pool lift systems have been available for years. Smaller lifts cost as little as $4,000 to install, Caden said. Ramps, on the other hand, require more space, along with an architect and contractor, and can cost $20,000 to $30,000.

Some confusion still exists about wading pools and zero-depth entry pools with the 2010 guidelines, Caden added. The guidelines require a 1 to 12 ratio slope for graded entries, while many commercial zero-depth pools, including those in Florida, use a 1 to 10 grade. It’s also unclear where and when railings must be installed.

Many districts, including the Wheaton Park District, are avoiding that quandary altogether by installing lifts at the deep end of the zero-depth pools.

Districts with multiple facilities also can apply a program accessibility test to ensure that aquatics programs are accessible, without having to upgrade every facility, said Mike Benard, Wheaton’s executive director. Wheaton Park District operates two aquatic facilities, Rice Pool & Water Park and Northside Family Aquatic Center. Rice, built in 1989, features a zero-depth entry, while Northside, built in 1958 and renovated in 1995, features a more traditional design of an L-shaped pool with lap lanes and a diving well. The district offers lessons and other programming at both sites, but offers full accessibility for that programming only at Rice, Benard said. They chose to make Rice fully accessible because it is larger, with up to 200,000 visitors each summer compared with Northside’s peak of 80,000, he said.

Not every section of an aquatic facility must be accessible, either. Existing waterslides do not have to meet ADA requirements, York noted, but said that new construction should have accessibility built into the design.

Keep reading… Article continues with the issue of Safe Harbor, Segways & Horses, Field Accessibility, Outdoor Areas, and much more!