28 CFR Part 36 Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability by Public Accommodations and in Commercial Facilities (2010 ADA Title III Regulations with amendments issued through Dec. 2016)
Section 36.406(d) Social Service Center Establishments (Section-by-Section Analysis)
In the NPRM, the Department proposed a new Sec. 36.406(d) requiring group homes, halfway houses, shelters, or similar social service center establishments that provide temporary sleeping accommodations or residential dwelling units to comply with the provisions of the 2004 ADAAG that apply to residential facilities, including, but not limited to, the provisions in sections 233 and 809.
The NPRM explained that this proposal was based on two important changes in the 2004 ADAAG. First, for the first time, residential dwelling units are explicitly covered in the 2004 ADAAG in section 233. Second, the 2004 ADAAG eliminates the language contained in the 1991 Standards addressing scoping and technical requirements for homeless shelters, group homes, and similar social service center establishments. Currently, such establishments are covered in section 9.5 of the transient lodging section of the 1991 Standards. The deletion of section 9.5 creates an ambiguity of coverage that must be addressed.
The NPRM explained the Department's belief that transferring coverage of social service center establishments from the transient lodging standards to the residential facilities standards would alleviate conflicting requirements for social service providers. The Department believes that a substantial percentage of social service providers are recipients of Federal financial assistance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also provides financial assistance for the operation of shelters through the Administration for Children and Families programs. As such, they are covered both by the ADA and section 504. UFAS is currently the design standard for new construction and alterations for entities subject to section 504. The two design standards for accessibility--the 1991 Standards and UFAS--have confronted many social service providers with separate, and sometimes conflicting, requirements for design and construction of facilities. To resolve these conflicts, the residential facilities standards in the 2004 ADAAG have been coordinated with the section 504 requirements. The transient lodging standards, however, are not similarly coordinated. The deletion of section 9.5 of the 1991 Standards from the 2004 ADAAG presented two options: (1) Require coverage under the transient lodging standards, and subject such facilities to separate, conflicting requirements for design and construction; or (2) require coverage under the residential facilities standards, which would harmonizes the regulatory requirements under the ADA and section 504. The Department chose the option that harmonizes the regulatory requirements: coverage under the residential facilities standards.
In the NPRM, the Department expressed concern that the residential facilities standards do not include a requirement for clear floor space next to beds similar to the requirement in the transient lodging standards; as a result, the Department proposed adding a provision that would require certain social service center establishments that provide sleeping rooms with more than 25 beds to ensure that a minimum of 5 percent of the beds have clear floor space in accordance with section 806.2.3 of the 2004 ADAAG.
The Department requested information from providers who operate homeless shelters, transient group homes, halfway houses, and other social service center establishments, and from the clients of these facilities who would be affected by this proposed change. In the NPRM, the Department asked to what extent conflicts between the ADA and section 504 have affected these facilities and what the effect would be of applying the residential dwelling unit requirements to these facilities, rather than the requirements for transient lodging guest rooms.
Many of the commenters supported applying the residential facilities requirements to social service center establishments stating that even though the residential facilities requirements are less demanding, in some instances, the existence of one clear standard will result in an overall increased level of accessibility by eliminating the confusion and inaction that are sometimes caused by the current existence of multiple requirements. One commenter stated that the residential facilities guidelines were more appropriate because individuals housed in social service center establishments typically stay for a prolonged period of time, and guests of a transient lodging facility typically are not housed to participate in a program or receive services.
One commenter opposed to the proposed section argued for the application of the transient lodging standards to all social service center establishments except those that were "intended as a person's place of abode,'' referencing the Department's question related to the definition of place of lodging in the title III NPRM. A second commenter stated that the use of transient lodging guidelines would lead to greater accessibility.
The Department continues to be concerned about alleviating the challenges for social service providers that are also subject to section 504 and that would likely be subject to conflicting requirements if the transient lodging standard were applied. Thus, the Department has retained the requirement that social service center establishments comply with the residential dwelling standards. The Department did not receive comments regarding adding a requirement for bathing options, such as a roll-in shower, in social service center establishments operated by public accommodations. The Department did, however, receive comments in support of adding such a requirement regarding public entities under title II. The Department believes that social service center establishments that provide emergency shelter to large transient populations should be able to provide bathing facilities that are accessible to persons with mobility disabilities who need roll-in showers. Because of the transient nature of the population of these large shelters, it will not be feasible to modify bathing facilities in a timely manner when faced with a need to provide a roll-in shower with a seat when requested by an overnight visitor. As a result, the Department has added a requirement that social service center establishments with sleeping accommodations for more than 50 individuals must provide at least one roll-in shower with a seat that complies with the relevant provisions of section 608 of the 2010 Standards. Transfer-type showers are not permitted in lieu of a roll-in shower with a seat, and the exceptions in sections 608.3 and 608.4 for residential dwelling units are not permitted. When separate shower facilities are provided for men and for women, at least one roll-in shower must be provided for each group. This supplemental requirement to the residential facilities standards is in addition to the supplemental requirement that was proposed in the NPRM for clear floor space in sleeping rooms with more than 25 beds.
The Department also notes that while dwelling units at some social service center establishments are also subject to FHAct design and construction requirements that require certain features of adaptable and accessible design, FHAct units do not provide the same level of accessibility that is required for residential facilities under the 2010 Standards. The FHAct requirements, where also applicable, should not be considered a substitute for the 2010 Standards. Rather, the 2010 Standards must be followed in addition to the FHAct requirements.
The Department also notes that while in the NPRM the Department used the term "social service establishment,'' the final rule uses the term " social service center establishment.'' The Department has made this editorial change so that the final rule is consistent with the terminology used in the ADA. See 42 U.S.C. 12181(7)(K).