ADA Mandate

   
   

 

 A Three-Part Series on ADA and Miniature Golf

 By Arne Lundmark,President

 Adventure Golf Services                                       


The Mandate:

A revision to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that on or after March 15, 2012, public accommodations, which include miniature golf facilities, must remove architectural barriers to elements subject to the new requirements in the 2010 Standards when it is "readily achievable" to do so.

The following reference materials appear at the end of this article:

  • A link to a publication titled "ADA Update: A Primer for Small Business" ("Primer"), which offers easy-to-understand discussions of some of the issues facing miniature golf owners. It includes this statement: "Businesses should not wait until March 15, 2012 to identify existing barriers, but should begin now to evaluate their facilities and develop priorities for removing barriers."

  • Other links include the U.S. Department of Justice's published revised final regulations implementing the ADA for Title II (state and local government services) and Title III (public accommodations and commercial facilities) on September 15, 2010, in the Federal Register. These requirements, or rules, clarify and refine issues that have arisen over the past 20 years and contain new and updated requirements, including the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design ("2010 Standards").

  • Access Board factors that determine if barriers are "readily achievable."

    An Overview
    The ball is now in the court of miniature golf owners to interpret the barrier removal requirements and comply. This first of a three-part series focuses on the immediate issue of removing "readily achievable" barriers. Our company's goal is to help others understand the ADA compliance issues they face and to offer probable remedies.

    A word of caution is needed: No one knows all the issues and answers, so my comments are my best efforts to interpret and comply with the regulations. I have participated on committees, spoken with representatives of the U.S. Access Board and have accomplished an extensive review of the regulations. But if there is a question of law and facts, I leave that to the attorneys and others. I am simply trying to provide insight to meet the deadline and help owners develop priorities.

    Before anyone jumps out of their skin from this surprise or rushes to their local congressperson, this may not be as bad as it sounds and the time for reaction has mostly passed. This is not a new issue and the deadline is beginning to show up in our rear-view mirrors.

    How did this happen? Did we not know this was coming? Can we still question the rules and regulations? Where do we begin? What are barriers? What does "readily achievable" mean? What if it can't be done? What if we don't have the funds?

    Yes, we knew this was coming. Yes, we can still have questions answered. To find answers to the balance of these questions, it is helpful to review how we arrived at this moment.

    Over the past 20 years, committees from IAAPA and other organizations have worked with representatives of the Access Board and the Department of Justice both seeking to create regulations that are fair to miniature golf course owners and to persons with disabilities. I believe they did a good job, but there are still questions to be resolved and that effort is ongoing. They have been guided by trying to resolve this statement from the "Primer:" "People with disabilities continue to face architectural barriers that limit or make it impossible to access the goods or services offered by businesses."

    There are three ADA compliance components that impact miniature golf courses:

  • New construction now and after March 15, 2012

  • Removal of barriers that are readily achievable on existing courses

  • Alterations to existing miniature golf courses after March 15, 2012

    Compliance for new courses and alterations to existing courses will be an ongoing requirement after the 2012 deadline. Here are a few introductory comments to new construction and alterations, which I will expand on in future articles:

    New construction is straight-forward, and our company has been building accessible courses for at least 15 years based on scoping provisions of the future regulations. But the devil is in the details, so you have to do your homework. For example, with the compliance to regulations that other businesses have already dealt with, there are specific provisions for signs, parking spaces, counters and other items.

    Alterations to existing miniature golf courses after March 15, 2012, will be governed by the regulations now in place, and there are a few unanswered questions. The industry's effort to find answers to these questions is in process. Our quest for knowledge may not be fully satisfied until we deal with real-life situations after the deadline.

    Barrier Removal
    The removal of barriers is the trigger point for anyone to question why a particular miniature golf course has not removed barriers. Owners, operators, designers and builders are expected to know the law, so lack of knowledge may not be an adequate defense. Adventure Golf Services has made the effort to understand the rules and is already working with many owners and operators on the identification and removal of barriers to beat the deadline.

    So what are the barriers that need to be removed? According to an Access Board spokesperson, "The new construction requirements for miniature golf courses can be used as a measuring stick for identifying barriers. The requirement is that you remove barriers when it is 'readily achievable.'"

    Examples of new course requirements include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Accessible holes

  • Slope requirements and related standards of the accessible route

  • Tee areas and exits

  • Passage dimensions and space requirements for persons with disabilities to move around obstacles and on the miniature golf play area

    However, some probable requirements may be found in sections not specifically listed under the miniature golf requirements, such as:

  • Protrusions along the circulation path

  • Overhead clearance

  • Stairway and handrail details

  • Surfaces

  • Toilet rooms

  • Counters

    Developing an action plan related to the removal of barriers and future compliance will be determined by answering these tougher questions:

  • What are the barriers on a miniature golf course?

  • How many holes are accessible?

  • Does the accessible route connecting the accessible route comply

    Readily Achievable Barrier Removal
    These statements from "Primer" help miniature golf owners understand the term "readily achievable:"

    The ADA requires that small businesses remove architectural barriers in existing facilities when it is "readily achievable" to do so. Readily achievable means "easily accomplishable without much difficulty or expense." This requirement is based on the size and resources of a business. So, businesses with more resources are expected to remove more barriers than businesses with fewer resources.

    Determining what is readily achievable will vary from business to business and sometimes from one year to the next. Changing economic conditions can be taken into consideration in determining what is readily achievable. Economic downturns may force many public accommodations to postpone removing some barriers. The barrier removal obligation is a continuing one and it is expected that a business will move forward with its barrier removal efforts when it rebounds from such downturns.

    This quote from the "Primer" should help clarify the issue: "The ADA strikes a careful balance between increasing access for people with disabilities and recognizing the financial constraints many small businesses face. Its flexible requirements allow businesses confronted with limited financial resources to improve accessibility without excessive expense."

    (See related reference materials on factors that determine if barriers are "readily achievable.")

    Number of Golf Holes for Barrier Removal
    According to the Access Board spokesperson, operators should review their existing courses and strive to make at least 50% of the holes accessible to the extent that it is "readily achievable." This is an ongoing obligation and is intended to be accomplished over time.

    The rules for new courses state that "for at least 50 percent of holes on miniature golf courses shall comply with 1007.3".---"Where possible, providing access to all holes on a miniature golf course is recommended. If a course is designed with the minimum 50 percent accessible holes, designers or operators are encouraged to select holes which provide for an equivalent experience to the maximum extent possible."


    In the long view, "readily achievable barrier" removal needs to start outside of the course and focus on how an individual with a disability would first get into the facility and eventually to the course. This is illustrated in the examples the DOJ uses for prioritizing "barrier removal."

    Tax Credit and Deduction
    I claim no expertise on this issue, so I pass the following information from the "Primer" for consideration by owners and their accountants:

    To assist small businesses to comply with the ADA, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Code includes a Disabled Access Credit (Section 44) for businesses with 30 or fewer full-time employees or with total revenues of $1 million or less in the previous tax year. Eligible expenses may include the cost of undertaking barrier removal and alterations to improve accessibility, providing sign-language interpreters, or making material available in accessible formats such as Braille, audiotape, or large print. Section 190 of the IRS Code provides a tax deduction for businesses of all sizes for costs incurred in removing architectural barriers in existing facilities or alterations. The maximum deduction is $15,000 per year.

    The call for action is now, and I encourage all miniature golf owners to determine their priorities and develop a plan for removing barriers.

    For additional information contact:
    Adventure Golf Services
    www.adventureandfun.com
    888-725-4FUN or 231-922-8166

    About The Author
    Arne Lundmark is founder and president of Michigan-based Adventure Golf Services, which has been in the business for more than 30 years and offers design, construction, installation and consulting services to national and international clients. Lundmark got his start as an owner-operator of miniature golf courses and family entertainment centers, including ski resorts. He also has served as chairman of the miniature golf committee for the International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions and is a past board member of that organization.
    ____________________________________________
    Reference Materials

    The ADA regulations and explanations are contained in the following documents:

    1991 ADA STANDARDS FOR ACCESSIBLE DESIGN

  • As published in the Title III regulations (28 CFR Part 36, revised July 1, 1994) issued by the Department of Justice. The ADA Standards for Accessible Design are in Appendix A of the Title III Regulations.

  • 1991 Title III ADA regulation published July 26, 1991, which should continue to be used until March 14, 2011.

    2010 STANDARDS FOR PUBLIC ACCOMMODATIONS AND COMMERCIAL FACILITIES: TITLE III

  • Public accommodations and commercial facilities must follow the requirements of the 2010 Standards, including both the Title III regulations at 28 CFR part 36, subpart D; and the 2004 ADAAG at 36 CFR part 1191, appendices B and D.

  • 2010 Title III ADA regulation published September 15, 2010, should be used beginning March 15, 2011.

    ADA UPDATE: A PRIMER FOR SMALL BUSINESS

    ADA 2010 REVISED REQUIREMENTS


    ACCESS BOARD FACTORS THAT DETERMINE IF BARRIERS ARE READILY ACHIEVABLE

    How does a public accommodation determine when barrier removal is readily achievable? Determining if barrier removal is readily achievable is necessarily a case-by-case judgment. Factors to consider include:

    1) The nature and cost of the action;

    2) The overall financial resources of the site or sites involved; the number of persons employed at the site; the effect on expenses and resources; legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operation, including crime prevention measures; or any other impact of the action on the operation of the site;

    3) The geographic separateness and the administrative or fiscal relationship of the site or sites in question to any parent corporation or entity;

    4) If applicable, the overall financial resources of any parent corporation or entity; the overall size of the parent corporation or entity with respect to the number of its employees; the number, type and location of its facilities; and

    5) If applicable, the type of operation or operations of any parent corporation or entity, including the composition, structure and functions of the workforce of the parent corporation or entity.

    If the public accommodation is a facility that is owned or operated by a parent entity that conducts operations at many different sites, the public accommodation must consider the resources of both the local facility and the parent entity to determine if removal of a particular barrier is readily achievable. The administrative and fiscal relationship between the local facility and the parent entity must also be considered in evaluating what resources are available for any particular act of barrier removal.â€

    Continuing obligation: The obligation to engage in readily achievable barrier removal is a continuing one. Over time, barrier removal that initially was not readily achievable may later be required because of changed circumstances.

    If the obligation is continuing, are there any limits on what must be done? The obligation is continuing, but not unlimited. The obligation to remove barriers will never exceed the level of access required under the alterations standard (or the new construction standard if the accessibility standard does not provide specific standards for alterations).

    Priorities for barrier removal: The Department's regulation recommends priorities for removing barriers in existing facilities. Because the resources available for barrier removal may not be adequate to remove all existing barriers at any given time, the regulation suggests a way to determine which barriers should be mitigated or eliminated first. The purpose of these priorities is to facilitate long-term business planning and to maximize the degree of effective access that will result from any given level of expenditure. These priorities are not mandatory. Public accommodations are free to exercise discretion in determining the most effective "mix" of barrier removal measures to undertake in their facilities.
    The regulation suggests that a public accommodation's first priority should be to enable individuals with disabilities to physically enter its facility. This priority on "getting through the door" recognizes that providing physical access to a facility from public sidewalks, public transportation or parking is generally preferable to any alternative arrangements in terms of both business efficiency and the dignity of individuals with disabilities.

    The next priority is for measures that provide access to those areas of a place of public accommodation where goods and services are made available to the public. For example, in a hardware store, to the extent that it is readily achievable to do so, individuals with disabilities should be given access not only to assistance at the front desk, but also access, like that available to other customers, to the retail display areas of the store.

    The third priority should be providing access to restrooms, if restrooms are provided for use by customers or clients.

    The fourth priority is to remove any remaining barriers to using the public accommodation's facility by, for example, lowering telephones