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)
Subpart D—New Construction and Alterations (Section-by-Section Analysis)
Subpart D establishes the title I requirements applicable to new construction and alterations. The Department has amended this subpart to adopt the 2004 ADAAG, set forth the effective dates for implementation of the 2010 Standards, and make related revisions as described below.
Section 36.403 Alterations: Path of Travel (Section-by-Section Analysis)
In the NPRM, the Department proposed one change to Sec. 36.403 on alterations and path of travel by adding a path of travel safe harbor. Proposed Sec. 36.403(a)(1) stated that if a private entity has constructed or altered required elements of a path of travel in accordance with the 1991 Standards, the private entity is not required to retrofit such elements to reflect incremental changes in the 2010 Standards solely because of an alteration to a primary function area served by that path of travel.
A substantial number of commenters objected to the Department's creation of a safe harbor for alterations to required elements of a path of travel that comply with the current 1991 Standards. These commenters argued that if a public accommodation already is in the process of altering its facility, there should be a legal requirement that individuals with disabilities are entitled to increased accessibility provided by the 2004 ADAAG for path of travel work. These commenters also stated that they did not believe there was a statutory basis for "grandfathering'' facilities that comply with the 1991 Standards. Another commenter argued that the updates incorporated into the 2004 ADAAG provide very substantial improvements for access, and that since there already is a 20 percent cost limit on the amount that can be expended on path of travel alterations, there is no need for a further limitation.
Some commenters supported the safe harbor as lessening the economic costs of implementing the 2004 ADAAG for existing facilities. One commenter also stated that without the safe harbor, entities that already have complied with the 1991 Standards will have to make and pay for compliance twice, as compared to those entities that made no effort to comply in the first place. Another commenter asked that the safe harbor be revised to include pre-ADA facilities that have been made compliant with the 1991 Standards to the extent "readily achievable'' or, in the case of alterations, " to the maximum extent feasible,'' but that are not in full compliance with the 1991 Standards.
The final rule retains the safe harbor for required elements of a path of travel to altered primary function areas for private entities that already have complied with the 1991 Standards with respect to those required elements. As discussed with respect to Sec. 36.304, the Department believes that this safe harbor strikes an appropriate balance between ensuring that individuals with disabilities are provided access to buildings and facilities and mitigating potential financial burdens on existing places of public accommodation that are undertaking alterations subject to the 2010 Standards. This safe harbor is not a blanket exemption for facilities. If a private entity undertakes an alteration to a primary function area, only the required elements of a path of travel to that area that already comply with the 1991 Standards are subject to the safe harbor. If a private entity undertakes an alteration to a primary function area and the required elements of a path of travel to the altered area do not comply with the 1991 Standards, then the private entity must bring those elements into compliance with the 2010 Standards.
Section 36.405 Alterations: Historic Preservation (Section-by-Section Analysis)
In the 1991 rule, the Department provided guidance on making alterations to buildings or facilities that are eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places under the National Historic Preservation Act or that are designated as historic under State or local law. That provision referenced the 1991 Standards. Because those cross-references to the 1991 Standards are no longer applicable, it is necessary in this final rule to provide new regulatory text. No substantive change in the Department's approach in this area is intended by this revision.
Section 36.406 Standards for New Construction and Alterations (Section-by-Section Analysis)
Applicable standards. Section 306 of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. 12186, directs the Attorney General to issue regulations to implement title III that are consistent with the guidelines published by the Access Board. As described in greater detail elsewhere in this Appendix, the Department is a statutory member of the Access Board and was involved significantly in the development of the 2004 ADAAG. Nonetheless, the Department has reviewed the standards and has determined that additional regulatory provisions are necessary to clarify how the Department will apply the 2010 Standards to places of lodging, social service center establishments, housing at a place of education, assembly areas, and medical care facilities. Those provisions are contained in Sec. 36.406(c)-(g). Each of these provisions is discussed below.
Section 36.406(a) adopts the 2004 ADAAG as part of the 2010 Standards and establishes the compliance date and triggering events for the application of those standards to both new construction and alterations. Appendix B of this final rule (Analysis and Commentary on the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design) provides a description of the major changes in the 2010 Standards (as compared to the 1991 ADAAG) and a discussion of the public comments that the Department received on specific sections of the 2004 ADAAG. A number of commenters asked the Department to revise certain provisions in the 2004 ADAAG in a manner that would reduce either the required scoping or specific technical accessibility requirements. As previously stated, the ADA requires the Department to adopt standards consistent with the guidelines adopted by the Access Board. The Department will not adopt any standards that provide less accessibility than is provided under the guidelines contained in the 2004 ADAAG because the guidelines adopted by the Access Board are " minimum guidelines.'' 42 U.S.C. 12186(c).
In the NPRM, the Department specifically proposed amending Sec. 36.406(a) by dividing it into two sections. Proposed Sec. 36.406(a)(1) specified that new construction and alterations subject to this part shall comply with the 1991 Standards if physical construction of the property commences less than six months after the effective date of the rule. Proposed Sec. 36.406(a)(2) specified that new construction and alterations subject to this part shall comply with the proposed standards if physical construction of the property commences six months or more after the effective date of the rule. The Department also proposed deleting the advisory information now published in a table at Sec. 36.406(b).
Compliance date. When the ADA was enacted, the compliance dates for various provisions were delayed in order to provide time for covered entities to become familiar with their new obligations. Titles II and III of the ADA generally became effective on January 26, 1992, six months after the regulations were published. See 42 U.S.C. 12131 note; 42 U.S.C. 12181 note. New construction under title II and alterations under either title II or title III had to comply with the design standards on that date. See 42 U.S.C. 12131 note; 42 U.S.C. 12183(a)(2). For new construction under title III, the requirements applied to facilities designed and constructed for first occupancy after January 26, 1993--18 months after the 1991 Standards were published by the Department. See 42 U.S.C. 12183(a)(1).
The Department received numerous comments on the issue of effective date, many of them similar to those received in response to the ANPRM. A substantial number of commenters advocated a minimum of 18 months from publication of the final rule to the effective date for application of the standards to new construction, consistent with the time period used for implementation of the 1991 Standards. Many of these commenters argued that the 18-month period was necessary to minimize the likelihood of having to redesign projects already in the design and permitting stages at the time that the final rule is published. According to these commenters, large projects take several years from design to occupancy, and can be subject to delays from obtaining zoning, site approval, third-party design approval (i.e., architectural review), and governmental permits. To the extent the new standards necessitate changes in any previous submissions or permits already issued, businesses might have to expend significant funds and incur delays due to redesign and resubmission.
Some commenters also expressed concern that a six-month period would be hard to implement given that many renovations are planned around retail selling periods, holidays, and other seasonal concerns. For example, hotels plan renovations during their slow periods, retail establishments avoid renovations during the major holiday selling periods, and businesses in certain parts of the country cannot do any major construction during parts of the winter.
Some commenters argued that chain establishments need additional time to redesign their "master facility'' designs for replication at multiple locations, taking into account both the new standards and applicable State and local accessibility requirements.
Other commenters argued for extending the effective date from six months to a minimum of 12 months for many of the same reasons, and one commenter argued that there should be a tolling of the effective date for those businesses that are in the midst of the permitting process if the necessary permits are delayed due to legal challenges or other circumstances outside the business's control.
Several commenters took issue with the Department's characterization of the 2004 ADAAG and the 1991 Standards as two similar rules. These commenters argued that many provisions in the 2004 ADAAG represent a "substantial and significant'' departure from the 1991 Standards and that it will take a great deal of time and money to identify all the changes and implement them. In particular, they were concerned that small businesses lacked the internal resources to respond quickly to the new changes and that they would have to hire outside experts to assist them. One commenter expressed concern that regardless of familiarity with the 2004 ADAAG, since the 2004 ADAAG standards are organized in an entirely different manner from the 1991 Standards, and contain, in the commenter's view, extensive changes, it will make the shift from the old to the new standards quite complicated.
Several commenters also took issue with the Department's proffered rationale that by adopting a six-month effective date, the Department was following the precedent of other Federal agencies that have adopted the 2004 ADAAG for facilities whose accessibility they regulate. These commenters argued that the Department's title III regulation applies to a much broader range and number of facilities and programs than the other Federal agencies (i.e., Department of Transportation and the General Services Administration) and that those agencies regulate accessibility primarily in either governmental facilities or facilities operated by quasi-governmental authorities.
Several commenters representing the travel, vacation, and golf industries argued that the Department should adopt a two-year effective date for new construction. In addition to many of the arguments made by commenters in support of an 18-month effective date, these commenters also argued that a two-year time frame would allow States with DOJ-certified building codes to have the time to amend their codes to meet the 2004 ADAAG so that design professionals can work from compatible codes and standards.
Several commenters recommended treating alterations differently than new construction, arguing for a one-year effective date for alterations. Another commenter representing building officials argued that a minimum of a six-month phase-in for alterations was sufficient, since a very large percentage of alteration projects "are of a scale that they should be able to accommodate the phase-in.''
In contrast, many commenters argued that the proposed six-month effective date should be retained in the final rule.
The Department has been persuaded by concerns raised by some of the commenters that the six month compliance date proposed in the NPRM for application of the 2010 Standards may be too short for certain projects that are already in the midst of the design and permitting process. The Department has determined that for new construction and alterations, compliance with the 2010 Standards will not be required until 18 months from the date the final rule is published. This is consistent with the amount of time given when the 1991 regulation was published. Since many State and local building codes contain provisions that are consistent with 2004 ADAAG, the Department has decided that public accommodations that choose to comply with the 2010 Standards as defined in Sec. 36.104 before the compliance date will still be considered in compliance with the ADA. However, public accommodations that choose to comply with the 2010 Standards in lieu of the 1991 Standards prior to the compliance date described in this rule must choose one or the other standard, and may not rely on some of the requirements contained in one standard and some of the requirements contained in the other standard.
Triggering event. In the NPRM, the Department proposed using the start of physical construction as the triggering event for applying the proposed standards to new construction under title III. This triggering event parallels that for the alterations provisions (i.e., the date on which construction begins), and would apply clearly across all types of covered public accommodations. The Department also proposed that for prefabricated elements, such as modular buildings and amusement park rides and attractions, or installed equipment, such as ATMs, the start of construction means the date on which the site preparation begins. Site preparation includes providing an accessible route to the element.
The Department's NPRM sought public comment on how to define the start of construction and the practicality of applying commencement of construction as a triggering event. The Department also requested input on whether the proposed definition of the start of construction was sufficiently clear and inclusive of different types of facilities. The Department also sought input about facilities subject to title III for which commencement of construction would be ambiguous or problematic.
The Department received numerous comments recommending that the Department adopt a two-pronged approach to defining the triggering event. In those cases where permits are required, the Department should use "date of permit application'' as the effective date triggering event, and if no permit is required, the Department should use "start of construction.'' A number of these commenters argued that the date of permit application is appropriate because the applicant would have to consider the applicable State and Federal accessibility standards in order to submit the designs usually required with the application. Moreover, the date of permit application is a typical triggering event in other code contexts, such as when jurisdictions introduce an updated building code. Some commenters expressed concern that using the date of " start of construction'' was problematic because the date can be affected by factors that are outside the control of the owner. For example, an owner can plan construction to start before the new standards take effect and therefore use the 1991 Standards in the design. If permits are not issued in a timely manner, then the construction could be delayed until after the effective date, and then the project would have to be redesigned. This problem would be avoided if the permit application date was the triggering event. Two commenters expressed concern that the term "start of construction'' is ambiguous, because it is unclear whether start of construction means the razing of structures on the site to make way for a new facility or means site preparation, such as regrading or laying the foundation.
One commenter recommended using the "signing date of a construction contract,'' and an additional commenter recommended that the new standards apply only to "buildings permitted after the effective date of the regulations.''
One commenter stated that for facilities that fall outside the building permit requirements (ATMs, prefabricated saunas, small sheds), the triggering event should be the date of installation, rather than the date the space for the facility is constructed.
The Department is persuaded by the comments to adopt a two-pronged approach to defining the triggering event for new construction and alterations. The final rule states that in those cases where permits are required, the triggering event shall be the date when the last application for a building permit application or permit extension is certified to be complete by a State, county, or local government, or in those jurisdictions where the government does not certify completion of applications, the date when the last application for a building permit or permit extension is received by the State, county, or local government. If no permits are required, then the triggering event shall be the "start of physical construction or alterations.'' The Department has also added clarifying language related to the term "start of physical construction or alterations'' to make it clear that "start of physical construction or alterations'' is not intended to mean the date of ceremonial groundbreaking or the date a structure is razed to make it possible for construction of a facility to take place.
Amusement rides. Section 234 of the 2010 Standards provides accessibility guidelines for newly designed and constructed amusement rides. The amusement ride provisions do not provide a "triggering event'' for new construction or alteration of an amusement ride. An industry commenter requested that the triggering event of "first use'' as noted in the Advisory note to section 234.1 of the 2004 ADAAG be included in the final rule. The Advisory note provides that "[a] custom designed and constructed ride is new upon its first use, which is the first time amusement park patrons take the ride.'' The Department declines to treat amusement rides differently than other types of new construction and alterations and under the final rule, they are subject to Sec. 36.406(a)(3). Thus, newly constructed and altered amusement rides shall comply with the 2010 Standards if the start of physical construction or the alteration is on or after 18 months from the publication date of this rule. The Department also notes that section 234.4.2 of the 2010 Standards only applies where the structural or operational characteristics of an amusement ride are altered. It does not apply in cases where the only change to a ride is the theme.
Noncomplying new construction and alterations. The element-by-element safe harbor referenced in Sec. 36.304(d)(2) has no effect on new or altered elements in existing facilities that were subject to the 1991 Standards on the date that they were constructed or altered, but do not comply with the technical and scoping specifications for those elements in the 1991 Standards. Section 36.406(a)(5) of the final rule sets forth the rules for noncompliant new construction or alterations in facilities that were subject to the requirements of this part. Under those provisions, noncomplying new construction and alterations constructed or altered after the effective date of the applicable ADA requirements and before March 15, 2012 shall, before March 15, 2012, be made accessible in accordance with either the 1991 Standards or the 2010 Standards. Noncomplying new construction and alterations constructed or altered after the effective date of the applicable ADA requirements and before March 15, 2012, shall, on or after March 15, 2012, be made accessible in accordance with the 2010 Standards.
Section 36.406(b) Application of Standards to Fixed Elements (Section-by-Section Analysis)
The final rule contains a new Sec. 36.406(b) that clarifies that the requirements established by this section, including those contained in the 2004 ADAAG, prescribe the requirements necessary to ensure that fixed or built-in elements in new or altered facilities are accessible to individuals with disabilities. Once the construction or alteration of a facility has been completed, all other aspects of programs, services, and activities conducted in that facility are subject to the operational requirements established elsewhere in this final rule. Although the Department has often chosen to use the requirements of the 1991 Standards as a guide to determining when and how to make equipment and furnishings accessible, those coverage determinations fall within the discretionary authority of the Department.
The Department is also clarifying that the advisory notes, appendix notes, and figures that accompany the 1991 and 2010 Standards do not establish separately enforceable requirements unless otherwise specified in the text of the standards. This clarification has been made to address concerns expressed by ANPRM commenters who mistakenly believed that the advisory notes in the 2004 ADAAG established requirements beyond those established in the text of the guidelines (e.g., Advisory 504.4 suggests, but does not require, that covered entities provide visual contrast on stair tread nosings to make them more visible to individuals with low vision). The Department received no comments on this provision in the NPRM.
Section 36.406(c) Places of Lodging (Section-by-Section Analysis)
In the NPRM, the Department proposed a new definition for public accommodations that are "places of lodging'' and a new Sec. 36.406(c) to clarify the scope of coverage for places of public accommodation that meet this definition. For many years the Department has received inquiries from members of the public seeking clarification of ADA coverage of rental accommodations in timeshares, condominium hotels, and mixed-use and corporate hotel facilities that operate as places of public accommodation (as that term is now defined in Sec. 36.104). These facilities, which have attributes of both residential dwellings and transient lodging facilities, have become increasingly popular since the ADA's enactment in 1990 and make up the majority of new hotel construction in some vacation destinations. The hybrid residential and lodging characteristics of these new types of facilities, as well as their ownership characteristics, complicate determinations of ADA coverage, prompting questions from both industry and individuals with disabilities. While the Department has interpreted the ADA to encompass these hotel-like facilities when they are used to provide transient lodging, the regulation previously has specifically not addressed them. In the NPRM, the Department proposed a new Sec. 36.406(c), entitled "Places of Lodging,'' which was intended to clarify that places of lodging, including certain timeshares, condominium hotels, and mixed-use and corporate hotel facilities, shall comply with the provisions of the proposed standards, including, but not limited to, the requirements for transient lodging in sections 224 and 806 of the 2004 ADAAG.
The Department's NPRM sought public input on this proposal. The Department received a substantial number of comments on these issues from industry representatives, advocates for persons with disabilities, and individuals. A significant focus of these comments was on how the Department should define and regulate vacation rental units in timeshares, vacation communities, and condo-hotels where the units are owned and controlled by individual owners and rented out some portion of time to the public, as compared to traditional hotels and motels that are owned, controlled, and rented to the public by one entity.
Scoping and technical requirements applicable to "places of lodging.'' In the NPRM, the Department asked for public comment on its proposal in Sec. 36.406(c) to apply to places of lodging the scoping and technical requirements for transient lodging, rather than the scoping and technical requirements for residential dwelling units.
Commenters generally agreed that the transient lodging requirements should apply to places of lodging. Several commenters stated that the determination as to which requirements apply should be made based on the intention for use at the time of design and construction. According to these commenters, if units are intended for transient rentals, then the transient lodging standards should apply, and if they are intended to be used for residential purposes, the residential standards should apply. Some commenters agreed with the application of transient lodging standards to places of lodging in general, but disagreed about the characterization of certain types of facilities as covered places of lodging.
The Department agrees that the scoping and technical standards applicable to transient lodging should apply to facilities that contain units that meet the definition of "places of lodging.''
Scoping for timeshare or condominium hotels. In the NPRM, the Department sought comment on the appropriate basis for determining scoping for a timeshare or condominium-hotel. A number of commenters indicated that scoping should be based on the usage of the facility. Only those units used for short-term stays should be counted for application of the transient lodging standards, while units sold as residential properties should be treated as residential units not subject to the ADA. One commenter stated that scoping should be based on the maximum number of sleeping units available for public rental. Another commenter pointed out that unlike traditional hotels and motels, the number of units available for rental in a facility or development containing individually owned units is not fixed over time. Owners have the right to participate in a public rental program some, all, or none of the time, and individual owner participation changes from year to year.
The Department believes that the determination for scoping should be based on the number of units in the project that are designed and constructed with the intention that their owners may participate in a transient lodging rental program. The Department cautions that it is not the number of owners that actually exercise their right to participate in the program that determines the scoping. Rather it is the units that could be placed into an on-site or off-site transient lodging rental program. In the final rule, the Department has added a provision to Sec. 36.406(c)(3), which states that units intended to be used exclusively for residential purposes that are contained in facilities that also meet the definition of place of lodging are not covered by the transient lodging standards. Title III of the ADA does not apply to units designed and constructed with the intention that they be rented or sold as exclusively residential units. Such units are covered by the Fair Housing Act (FHAct), which contains requirements for certain features of accessible and adaptable design both for units and for public and common use areas. All units designed and constructed with the intention that they may be used for both residential and transient lodging purposes are covered by the ADA and must be counted for determining the required number of units that must meet the transient lodging standards in the 2010 Standards. Public use and common use areas in facilities containing units subject to the ADA also must meet the 2010 Standards. In some developments, units that may serve as residential units some of the time and rental units some of the time will have to meet both the FHAct and the ADA requirements. For example, all of the units in a vacation condominium facility whose owners choose to rent to the public when they are not using the units themselves would be counted for the purposes of determining the appropriate number of units that must comply with the 2010 Standards. In a newly constructed condominium that has three floors with units dedicated to be sold solely as residential housing and three floors with units that may be used as residences or hotel units, only the units on the three latter floors would be counted for applying the 2010 Standards. In a newly constructed timeshare development containing 100 units, all of which may be made available to the public through an exchange or rental program, all 100 units would be counted for purposes of applying the 2010 Standards.
One commenter also asked the Department for clarification of how to count individually owned "lock-off units.'' Lock-off units are units that are multi-bedroom but can be "locked off'' into two separate units, each having individual external access. This commenter requested that the Department state in the final rule that individually owned lock-off units do not constitute multiple guest rooms for purposes of calculating compliance with the scoping requirements for accessible units, since for the most part the lock-off units are used as part of a larger accessible unit, and portions of a unit not locked off would constitute both an accessible one-bedroom unit or an accessible two-bedroom unit with the lock-off unit.
It is the Department's view that lock-off units that are individually owned that can be temporarily converted into two units do not constitute two separate guest rooms for purposes of calculating compliance with the scoping requirements.
One commenter asked the Department how developers should scope units where buildings are constructed in phases over a span of years, recommending that the scoping be based on the total number of units expected to be constructed at the project and not on a building-by-building basis or on a phase-by-phase basis. The Department does not think scoping should be based on planned number of units, which may or may not be actually constructed over a period of years. However, the Department recognizes that resort developments may contain buildings and facilities that are of all sizes from single-unit cottages to facilities with hundreds of units. The Department believes it would be appropriate to allow designers, builders, and developers to aggregate the units in facilities with 50 or fewer units that are subject to a single permit application and that are on a common site or that are constructed at the same time for the purposes of applying the scoping requirements in table 224.2. Facilities with more than 50 units should be scoped individually in accordance with the table. The regulation has been revised to reflect this application of the scoping requirements.
One commenter also asked the Department to use the title III regulation to declare that timeshares subject to the transient lodging standards are exempt from the design and construction requirements of the FHAct. The coverage of the FHAct is set by Congress and interpreted by regulations issued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Department has no authority to exempt anyone from coverage of the FHAct.
Application of ADA to places of lodging that contain individually owned units. The Department believes that regardless of ownership structure for individual units, rental programs (whether they are on- or off-site) that make transient lodging guest rooms available to the public must comply with the general nondiscrimination requirements of the ADA. In addition, as provided in Sec. 36.406(c), newly constructed facilities that contain accommodations intended to be used for transient lodging purposes must comply with the 2010 Standards.
In the NPRM, the Department asked for public comment on several issues related to ensuring the availability of accessible units in a rental program operated by a place of lodging. The Department sought input on how it could address a situation in which a new or converted facility constructs the required number of accessible units, but the owners of those units choose not to participate in the rental program; whether the facility has an obligation to encourage or require owners of accessible units to participate in the rental program; and whether the facility developer, the condominium association, or the hotel operator has an obligation to retain ownership or control over a certain number of accessible units to avoid this problem.
In the NPRM, the Department sought public input on how to regulate scoping for a timeshare or condominium-rental facility that decides, after the sale of units to individual owners, to begin a rental program that qualifies the facility as a place of lodging, and how the condominium association, operator, or developer should determine which units to make accessible.
A number of commenters expressed concerns about the ability of the Department to require owners of accessible units to participate in the rental program, to require developers, condo associations, or homeowners associations to retain ownership of accessible units, and to impose accessibility requirements on individual owners who choose to place inaccessible units into a rental program after purchase. These commenters stated that individuals who purchase accessible vacation units in condominiums, individual vacation homes, and timeshares have ownership rights in their units and may choose lawfully to make their units available to the public some, all, or none of the time. Commenters advised the Department that the Securities and Exchange Commission takes the position that if condominium units are offered in connection with participation in a required rental program for any part of the year, require the use of an exclusive rental agent, or impose conditions otherwise restricting the occupancy or rental of the unit, then that offering will be viewed as an offering of securities in the form of an investment (rather than a real estate offering). SEC Release No. 33-5347, Guidelines as to the Applicability of the Federal Securities Laws to Offers and Sales of Condominiums or Units in a Real Estate Development (Jan. 4, 1973). Consequently, most condominium developers do not impose such restrictions at the time of sale. Moreover, owners who choose to rent their units as a short-term vacation rental can select any rental or management company to lease and manage their unit, or they may rent them out on their own. They also may choose never to lease those units. Thus, there are no guarantees that at any particular time, accessible units will be available for rental by the public. According to this commenter, providing incentives for owners of accessible units to place their units in the rental program will not work, because it does not guarantee the availability of the requisite number of rooms dispersed across the development, and there is not any reasonable, identifiable source of funds to cover the costs of such incentives.
A number of commenters also indicated that it potentially is discriminatory as well as economically infeasible to require that a developer hold back the accessible units so that the units can be maintained in the rental program year-round. One commenter pointed out that if a developer did not sell the accessible condominiums or timeshares in the building inventory, the developer would be subject to a potential ADA or FHAct complaint because persons with disabilities who wanted to buy accessible units rather than rent them each year would not have the option to purchase them. In addition, if a developer held back accessible units, the cost of those units would have to be spread across all the buyers of the inaccessible units, and in many cases would make the project financially infeasible. This would be especially true for smaller projects. Finally, this commenter argued that requiring units to be part of the common elements that are owned by all of the individual unit owners is infeasible because the common ownership would result in pooled rental income, which would transform the owners into participants in a rental pool, and thus turn the sale of the condominiums into the sale of securities under SEC Release 33-5347.
Several commenters noted that requiring the operator of the rental program to own the accessible units is not feasible either because the operator of the rental program would have to have the funds to invest in the purchase of all of the accessible units, and it would not have a means of recouping its investment. One commenter stated that in Texas, it is illegal for on-site rental programs to own condominium units. Another commenter noted that such a requirement might lead to the loss of on-site rental programs, leaving owners to use individual third-party brokers, or rent the units privately. One commenter acknowledged that individual owners cannot be required to place their units in a rental pool simply to offer an accessible unit to the public, since the owners may be purchasing units for their own use. However, this commenter recommended that owners who choose to place their units in a rental pool be required to contribute to a fund that would be used to renovate units that are placed in the rental pool to increase the availability of accessible units. One commenter argued that the legal entity running the place of lodging has an obligation to retain control over the required number of accessible units to ensure that they are available in accordance with title III.
A number of commenters also argued that the Department has no legal authority to require individual owners to engage in barrier removal where an existing development adds a rental program. One commenter stated that Texas law prohibits the operator of on-site rental program from demanding that alterations be made to a particular unit. In addition, under Texas law, condominium declarations may not require some units and not others to make changes, because that would lead to unequal treatment of units and owners, which is not permissible.
One commenter stated that since it was not possible for operators of rental programs offering privately owned condominiums to comply with accessible scoping, the Department should create exemptions from the accessible scoping, especially for existing facilities. In addition, this commenter stated that if an operator of an on-site rental program were to require renovations as a condition of participation in the rental program, unit owners might just rent their units through a different broker or on their own, in which case such requirements would not apply.
A number of commenters argued that if a development decides to create a rental program, it must provide accessible units. Otherwise the development would have to ensure that units are retrofitted. A commenter argued that if an existing building is being converted, the Department should require that if alterations of the units are performed by an owner or developer prior to sale of the units, then the alterations requirements should apply, in order to ensure that there are some accessible units in the rental pool. This commenter stated that because of the proliferation of these type of developments in Hawaii, mandatory alteration is the only way to guarantee the availability of accessible units in the long run. In this commenter's view, since conversions almost always require makeover of existing buildings, this will not lead to a significant expense.
The Department agrees with the commenters that it would not be feasible to require developers to hold back or purchase accessible units for the purposes of making them available to the public in a transient lodging rental program, nor would it be feasible to require individual owners of accessible units to participate in transient lodging rental programs.
The Department recognizes that places of lodging are developed and financed under myriad ownership and management structures and agrees that there will be circumstances where there are legal barriers to requiring compliance with either the alterations requirements or the requirements related to barrier removal. The Department has added an exception to Sec. 36.406(c), providing that in existing facilities that meet the definition of places of lodging, where the guest rooms are not owned or substantially controlled by the entity that owns, leases, or operates the overall facility and the physical features of the guest room interiors are controlled by their individual owners, the units are not subject to the alterations requirement, even where the owner rents the unit out to the public through a transient lodging rental program. In addition, the Department has added an exception to the barrier removal requirements at Sec. 36.304(g) providing that in existing facilities that meet the definition of places of lodging, where the guest rooms are not owned or substantially controlled by the entity that owns, leases, or operates the overall facility and the physical features of the guest room interiors are controlled by their individual owners, the units are not subject to the barrier removal requirement. The Department notes, however, that there are legal relationships for some timeshares and cooperatives where the ownership interests do not convey control over the physical features of units. In those cases, it may be the case that the facility has an obligation to meet the alterations or barrier removal requirements or to maintain accessible features.
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).
Section 36.406(e) Housing at a Place of Education (Section-by-Section Analysis)
The Department of Justice and the Department of Education share responsibility for regulation and enforcement of the ADA in postsecondary educational settings, including architectural features. Housing types in educational settings range from traditional residence halls and dormitories to apartment or townhouse-style residences. In addition to title III of the ADA, universities and schools that are recipients of Federal financial assistance also are subject to section 504, which contains its own accessibility requirements currently through the application of UFAS. Residential housing, including housing in an educational setting, is also covered by the FHAct, which requires newly constructed multifamily housing to include certain features of accessible and adaptable design. Covered entities subject to the ADA must always be aware of, and comply with, any other Federal statutes or regulations that govern the operation of residential properties.
Although the 1991 Standards mention dormitories as a form of transient lodging, they do not specifically address how the ADA applies to dormitories and other types of residential housing provided in an educational setting. The 1991 Standards also do not contain any specific provisions for residential facilities, allowing covered entities to elect to follow the residential standards contained in UFAS. Although the 2004 ADAAG contains provisions for both residential facilities and transient lodging, the guidelines do not indicate which requirements apply to housing provided in an educational setting, leaving it to the adopting agencies to make that choice. After evaluating both sets of standards, the Department concluded that the benefits of applying the transient lodging standards outweighed the benefits of applying the residential facilities standards. Consequently, in the NPRM, the Department proposed a new Sec. 36.406(e) that provided that residence halls or dormitories operated by or on behalf of places of education shall comply with the provisions of the proposed standards for transient lodging, including, but not limited to, the provisions in sections 224 and 806 of the 2004 ADAAG.
Private universities and schools covered by title III as public accommodations are required to make their programs and activities accessible to persons with disabilities. The housing facilities that they provide have varied characteristics. College and university housing facilities typically provide housing for up to one academic year, but may be closed during school vacation periods. In the summer, they often are used for short-term stays of one to three days, a week, or several months. Graduate and faculty housing often is provided year-round in the form of apartments, which may serve individuals or families with children. These housing facilities are diverse in their layout. Some are double-occupancy rooms with a shared toilet and bathing room, which may be inside or outside the unit. Others may contain cluster, suite, or group arrangements where several rooms are located inside a defined unit with bathing, kitchen, and similar common facilities. In some cases, these suites are indistinguishable in features from traditional apartments. Universities may build their own housing facilities or enter into agreements with private developers to build, own, or lease housing to the educational institution or to its students. Academic housing may be located on the campus of the university or may be located in nearby neighborhoods.
Throughout the school year and the summer, academic housing can become program areas in which small groups meet, receptions and educational sessions are held, and social activities occur. The ability to move between rooms--both accessible rooms and standard rooms--in order to socialize, to study, and to use all public use and common use areas is an essential part of having access to these educational programs and activities. Academic housing also is used for short-term transient educational programs during the time students are not in regular residence and may be rented out to transient visitors in a manner similar to a hotel for special university functions.
The Department was concerned that applying the new construction requirements for residential facilities to educational housing facilities could hinder access to educational programs for students with disabilities. Elevators generally are not required under the 2004 ADAAG residential facilities standards unless they are needed to provide an accessible route from accessible units to public use and common use areas, while under the 2004 ADAAG as it applies to other types of facilities, multistory private facilities must have elevators unless they meet very specific exceptions. In addition, the residential facilities standards do not require accessible roll-in showers in bathrooms, while the transient lodging requirements require some of the accessible units to be served by bathrooms with roll-in showers. The transient lodging standards also require that a greater number of units have accessible features for persons with communication disabilities. The transient lodging standards provide for installation of the required accessible features so that they are available immediately, but the residential facilities standards allow for certain features of the unit to be adaptable. For example, only reinforcements for grab bars need to be provided in residential dwellings, but the actual grab bars must be installed under the transient lodging standards. By contrast, the residential facilities standards do require certain features that provide greater accessibility within units, such as usable kitchens and an accessible route throughout the dwelling. The residential facilities standards also require 5 percent of the units to be accessible to persons with mobility disabilities, which is a continuation of the same scoping that is currently required under UFAS and is therefore applicable to any educational institution that is covered by section 504. The transient lodging standards require a lower percentage of accessible sleeping rooms for facilities with large numbers of rooms than is required by UFAS. For example, if a dormitory has 150 rooms, the transient lodging standards would require 7 accessible rooms, while the residential standards would require 8. In a large dormitory with 500 rooms, the transient lodging standards would require 13 accessible rooms, and the residential facilities standards would require 25. There are other differences between the two sets of standards, including requirements for accessible windows, alterations, kitchens, an accessible route throughout a unit, and clear floor space in bathrooms allowing for a side transfer.
In the NPRM, the Department requested public comment on how to scope educational housing facilities, and it asked whether the residential facilities requirements or the transient lodging requirements in the 2004 ADAAG would be more appropriate for housing at places of education and asked how the different requirements would affect the cost of building new dormitories and other student housing. See 73 FR 34508, 34545 (June 17, 2008).
The Department received several comments on this issue under title III. One commenter stated that the Department should adopt the residential facilities standards for housing at a place of education. In the commenter's view, the residential facilities standards are congruent with overlapping requirements imposed by HUD, and the residential facilities requirements would ensure dispersion of accessible features more effectively. This commenter also argued that while the increased number of required accessible units for residential facilities as compared to transient lodging may increase the cost of construction or alteration, this cost would be offset by a reduced need later to adapt rooms if the demand for accessible rooms exceeds the supply. The commenter also encouraged the Department to impose a visitability (accessible doorways and necessary clear floor space for turning radius) requirement for both the residential facilities and transient lodging requirements to allow students with mobility impairments to interact and socialize in a fully integrated fashion. Another commenter stated that while dormitories should be treated like residences as opposed to transient lodging, the Department should ensure that "all floors are accessible,'' thus ensuring community integration and visitability. Another commenter argued that housing at a place of education is comparable to residential housing, and that most of the housing types used by schools do not have the same amenities and services or function like transient lodging and should not be treated as such.
Several commenters focused on the length of stay at this type of housing and suggested that if the facilities are subject to occupancy for greater than 30 days, the residential standards should apply. Another commenter supported the Department's adoption of the transient lodging standards, arguing this will provide greater accessibility and therefore increase opportunities for students with disabilities to participate. One commenter, while supporting the use of transient lodging standards in this area, argued that the Department also should develop regulations relating to the usability of equipment in housing facilities by persons who are blind or visually impaired. Another commenter argued that the Department should not impose the transient lodging requirements on K-12 schools because the cost of adding elevators can be prohibitive, and because there are safety concerns related to evacuating students in wheelchairs living on floors above the ground floor in emergencies causing elevator failures.
The Department has considered the comments recommending the use of the residential facilities standards and acknowledges that they require certain features that are not included in the transient lodging standards and that should be required for housing provided at a place of education. In addition, the Department notes that since educational institutions often use their academic housing facilities as short-term transient lodging in the summers, it is important that accessible features be installed at the outset. It is not realistic to expect that the educational institution will be able to adapt a unit in a timely manner in order to provide accessible accommodations to someone attending a one-week program during the summer.
The Department has determined that the best approach to this type of housing is to continue to require the application of transient lodging standards but, at the same time, to add several requirements drawn from the residential facilities standards related to accessible turning spaces and work surfaces in kitchens, and the accessible route throughout the unit. This will ensure the maintenance of the transient lodging standard requirements related to access to all floors of the facility, roll-in showers in facilities with more than 50 sleeping rooms, and other important accessibility features not found in the residential facilities standards, but also will ensure usable kitchens and access to all the rooms in a suite or apartment.
The Department has added a new definition to Sec. 36.104, "Housing at a Place of Education,'' and has revised Sec. 36.406(e) to reflect the accessible features that now will be required in addition to the requirements set forth under the transient lodging standards. The Department also recognizes that some educational institutions provide some residential housing on a year-round basis to graduate students and staff that is comparable to private rental housing but contains no facilities for educational programming. Section 36.406(e)(3) exempts from the transient lodging standards apartments or townhouse facilities that are provided with a lease on a year-round basis exclusively to graduate students or faculty and that do not contain any public use or common use areas available for educational programming; instead, such housing must comply with the requirements for residential facilities in sections 233 and 809 of the 2010 Standards.
The regulatory text uses the term "sleeping room'' in lieu of the term "guest room,'' which is the term used in the transient lodging standards. The Department is using this term because it believes that for the most part, it provides a better description of the sleeping facilities used in a place of education than "guest room.'' The final rule states in Sec. 36.406(e) that the Department intends the terms to be used interchangeably in the application of the transient lodging standards to housing at a place of education.
Section 36.406(f) Assembly Areas (Section-by-Section Analysis)
In the NPRM, the Department proposed Sec. 36.406(f) to supplement the assembly area requirements of the 2004 ADAAG, which the Department is adopting as part of the 2010 Standards. The NPRM proposed at Sec. 36.406(f)(1) to require wheelchair spaces and companion seating locations to be dispersed to all levels of the facility that are served by an accessible route. The Department received no significant comments on this paragraph and has decided to adopt the proposed language with minor modifications.
Section 36.406(f)(1) ensures that there is greater dispersion of wheelchair spaces and companion seats throughout stadiums, arenas, and grandstands than would otherwise be required by sections 221 and 802 of the 2004 ADAAG. In some cases, the accessible route may not be the same route that other individuals use to reach their seats. For example, if other patrons reach their seats on the field by an inaccessible route (e.g., by stairs), but there is an accessible route that complies with section 206.3 of the 2004 ADAAG that could be connected to seats on the field, wheelchair spaces and companion seats must be placed on the field even if that route is not generally available to the public.
Regulatory language that was included in the 2004 ADAAG advisory, but that did not appear in the NPRM, has been added by the Department in Sec. 36.406(f)(2). Section 36.406(f)(2) now requires an assembly area that has seating encircling, in whole or in part, a field of play or performance area, such as an arena or stadium, to place wheelchair spaces and companion seats around the entire facility. This rule, which is designed to prevent a public accommodation from placing wheelchair spaces and companion seats on one side of the facility only, is consistent with the Department's enforcement practices and reflects its interpretation of section 4.33.3 of the 1991 Standards.
In the NPRM, the Department proposed Sec. 36.406(f)(2), which prohibits wheelchair spaces and companion seating locations from being "located on (or obstructed by) temporary platforms * * *.'' 73 FR 34508, 34557 (June 17, 2008). Through its enforcement actions, the Department discovered that some venues place wheelchair spaces and companion seats on temporary platforms that, when removed, reveal conventional seating underneath, or cover the wheelchair spaces and companion seats with temporary platforms on top of which they place risers of conventional seating. These platforms cover groups of conventional seats and are used to provide groups of wheelchair seats and companion seats.
Several commenters requested an exception to the prohibition of the use of temporary platforms for public accommodations that sell most of their tickets on a season-ticket or other multi-event basis. Such commenters argued that they should be able to use temporary platforms because they know, in advance, that the patrons sitting in certain areas for the whole season do not need wheelchair spaces and companion seats. The Department declines to adopt such an exception. As it explained in detail in the NPRM, the Department believes that permitting the use of movable platforms that seat four or more wheelchair users and their companions have the potential to reduce the number of available wheelchair seating spaces below the level required, thus reducing the opportunities for persons who need accessible seating to have the same choice of ticket prices and amenities that are available to other patrons in the facility. In addition, use of removable platforms may result in instances where last minute requests for wheelchair and companion seating cannot be met because entire sections of accessible seating will be lost when a platform is removed. See 73 FR 34508, 34546 (June 17, 2008). Further, use of temporary platforms allows facilities to limit persons who need accessible seating to certain seating areas, and to relegate accessible seating to less desirable locations. The use of temporary platforms has the effect of neutralizing dispersion and other seating requirements (e.g., line of sight) for wheelchair spaces and companion seats. Cf. Independent Living Resources v. Oregon Arena Corp., 1 F. Supp. 2d 1159, 1171 (D. Or. 1998) (holding that while a public accommodation may "infill'' wheelchair spaces with removable seats when the wheelchair spaces are not needed to accommodate individuals with disabilities, under certain circumstances "[s]uch a practice might well violate the rule that wheelchair spaces must be dispersed throughout the arena in a manner that is roughly proportionate to the overall distribution of seating''). In addition, using temporary platforms to convert unsold wheelchair spaces to conventional seating undermines the flexibility facilities need to accommodate secondary ticket market exchanges as required by Sec. 36.302(f)(7) of the final rule.
As the Department explained in the NPRM, however, this provision was not designed to prohibit temporary seating that increases seating for events (e.g., placing temporary seating on the floor of a basketball court for a concert). Consequently, the final rule, at Sec. 36.406(f)(3), has been amended to clarify that if an entire seating section is on a temporary platform for a particular event, then wheelchair spaces and companion seats may also be in that seating section. However, adding a temporary platform to create wheelchair spaces and companion seats that are otherwise dissimilar from nearby fixed seating and then simply adding a small number of additional seats to the platform would not qualify as an "entire seating section'' on the platform. In addition, Sec. 36.406(f)(3) clarifies that facilities may fill in wheelchair spaces with removable seats when the wheelchair spaces are not needed by persons who use wheelchairs.
The Department has been responsive to assembly areas' concerns about reduced revenues due to unused accessible seating. Accordingly, the Department has reduced scoping requirements significantly—by almost half in large assembly areas—and determined that allowing assembly areas to in-fill unsold wheelchair spaces with readily removable temporary individual seats appropriately balances their economic concerns with the rights of individuals with disabilities. See section 221.1 of the 2010 Standards.
For stadium-style movie theaters, in Sec. 36.406(f)(4) of the NPRM the Department proposed requiring placement of wheelchair seating spaces and companion seats on a riser or cross-aisle in the stadium section of the theater that satisfies at least one of the following criteria: (1) It is located within the rear 60 percent of the seats provided in the auditorium; or (2) It is located within the area of the auditorium where the vertical viewing angles are between the 40th and 100th percentile of vertical viewing angles for all seats in that theater as ranked from the first row (1st percentile) to the back row (100th percentile). The vertical viewing angle is the angle between a horizontal line perpendicular to the seated viewer's eye to the screen and a line from the seated viewer's eye to the top of the screen.
The Department proposed this bright-line rule for two reasons: (1) the movie theater industry petitioned for such a rule; and (2) the Department has acquired expertise in the design of stadium-style theaters during its litigation with several major movie theater chains. See United States. v. AMC Entertainment, Inc., 232 F. Supp.2d 1092 (C.D. Cal. 2002), rev'd in part, 549 F.3d 760 (9th Cir. 2008); United States v. Cinemark USA, Inc., 348 F.3d 569 (6th Cir. 2003). Two industry commenters—at least one of whom otherwise supported this rule—requested that the Department explicitly state that this rule does not apply retroactively to existing theaters. Although this provision on its face applies to new construction and alterations, these commenters were concerned that the rule could be interpreted to apply retroactively because of the Department's statements in the NPRM and ANPRM that this bright line rule, although newly articulated, is not a new standard but "merely codifi[es] longstanding Department requirement[s],'' 73 FR 34508, 34534 (June 17, 2008), and does not represent a "substantive change from the existing line-of-sight requirements'' of section 4.33.3 of the 1991 Standards, 69 FR 58768, 58776 (Sept. 30, 2004).
Although the Department intends for Sec. 36.406(f)(4) of this rule to apply prospectively to new construction and alterations, this rule is not a departure from, and is consistent with, the line-of-sight requirements in the 1991 Standards. The Department has always interpreted the line-of-sight requirements in the 1991 Standards to require viewing angles provided to patrons who use wheelchairs to be comparable to those afforded to other spectators. Section 36.406(f)(4) merely represents the application of these requirements to stadium-style movie theaters.
One commenter from a trade association sought clarification whether Sec. 36.406(f)(4) applies to stadium-style theaters with more than 300 seats, and argued that it should not since dispersion requirements apply in those theaters. The Department declines to limit this rule to stadium-style theaters with 300 or fewer seats; stadium-style theaters of all sizes must comply with this rule. So, for example, stadium-style theaters that must vertically disperse wheelchair spaces and companion seats must do so within the parameters of this rule.
The NPRM included a provision that required assembly areas with more than 5,000 seats to provide at least five wheelchair spaces with at least three companion seats for each of those five wheelchair spaces. The Department agrees with commenters who asserted that group seating is better addressed through ticketing policies rather than design and has deleted that provision from this section of the final rule.
Section 36.406(g) Medical Care Facilities (Section-by-Section Analysis)
In the 1991 title III regulation, there was no provision addressing the dispersion of accessible sleeping rooms in medical care facilities. The Department is aware, however, of problems that individuals with disabilities face in receiving full and equal medical care when accessible sleeping rooms are not adequately dispersed. When accessible rooms are not fully dispersed, a person with a disability is often placed in an accessible room in an area that is not medically appropriate for his or her condition, and is thus denied quick access to staff with expertise in that medical specialty and specialized equipment. While the Access Board did not establish specific design requirements for dispersion in the 2004 ADAAG, in response to extensive comments in support of dispersion it added an advisory note, Advisory 223.1 General, encouraging dispersion of accessible rooms within the facility so that accessible rooms are more likely to be proximate to appropriate qualified staff and resources.
In the NPRM, the Department sought additional comment on the issue, asking whether it should require medical care facilities, such as hospitals, to disperse their accessible sleeping rooms, and if so, by what method (by specialty area, floor, or other criteria). All of the comments the Department received on this issue supported dispersing accessible sleeping rooms proportionally by specialty area. These comments from individuals, organizations, and a building code association, argued that it would not be difficult for hospitals to disperse rooms by specialty area, given the high level of regulation to which hospitals are subject and the planning that hospitals do based on utilization trends. Further, comments suggest that without a requirement, it is unlikely that hospitals would disperse the rooms. In addition, concentrating accessible rooms in one area perpetuates segregation of individuals with disabilities, which is counter to the purpose of the ADA.
The Department has decided to require medical care facilities to disperse their accessible sleeping rooms in a manner that is proportionate by type of medical specialty. This does not require exact mathematical proportionality, which at times would be impossible. However, it does require that medical care facilities disperse their accessible rooms by medical specialty so that persons with disabilities can, to the extent practical, stay in an accessible room within the wing or ward that is appropriate for their medical needs. The language used in this rule ("in a manner that is proportionate by type of medical specialty'') is more specific than that used in the NPRM ("in a manner that enables patients with disabilities to have access to appropriate specialty services'') and adopts the concept of proportionality proposed by the commenters. Accessible rooms should be dispersed throughout all medical specialties, such as obstetrics, orthopedics, pediatrics, and cardiac care.