New ADA Regulations are Now in Effect

Daily Record (Rochester, NY),
Mar 18, 2011
by Todd Etshman

The first revised regulations to the Americans with Disabilities Act in 20 years took effect March 15. For the most part, compliance with the new regulations is not mandated until March 15, 2012. According to the Department of Justice, this delay allows businesses enough time to implement the new requirements.

However, attorney Matthew Fusco of ChamberlainD’Amanda explained the new regulations concerning accessibility and communication technology apply immediately to facilities constructed or revamped after March 15.

Changes in ADA communication regulations may have the biggest impact locally since Rochester has one of the highest per capita deaf populations in the country.

“If you communicate with customers electronically, through computers, cellphones, BlackBerry, etc., you must also now communicate through TTY [telecommunication device for the deaf],” Fusco said.

A statement released by the White House Disability Group said the regulations will apply to the activities of more than 80,000 units of state and local
government and more than seven million places of public accommodation.

“Businesses and governments weren’t interpreting the ADA correctly and I think this will help clarify things for them,” said Diane Coleman, director of
advocacy for the Center for Disability Rights in Rochester.

The new regulations incorporate revised accessibility standards for government facilities and commercial establishments.

“Every time I go anywhere, it’s a problem,” said CDR Chief Operating Officer Chris Hildebrandt, regarding his use of a wheelchair.

Wheelchairs and power driven mobility devices (such as Segways) operated by individuals with mobility impairment must be permitted in areas commonly open to pedestrian use. Exemptions do apply.

“There are already rules to allow reasonable accommodation but further clarification was needed,” he said.

Fusco said the new regulations will affect government sponsored Rochester-area festivals. Another major revision includes the use of, and definition of,
service animals.

“Facilities such as theaters, resorts, restaurants, bars and government buildings must allow service animals everywhere now unless they are out of control or not housebroken,” Fusco said.

An expanded definition of service animal now includes any dog that is individually trained to benefit a disabled individual. It also includes the use of
miniature horses as service animals.

CDR representatives said there were boundaries regarding the use of service animals that weren’t clear previously and restaurants and other establishments often didn’t know what to allow. It is not necessary for disabled persons to carry a certificate of the dog’s purpose.

“You can no longer say no to admitting service dogs,” Coleman said. She also said that since the use of trained monkeys has proven useful to disabled individuals, the revised definition should have included them, too.

Lodging reservations and ticketing procedures also saw major changes in the new ADA law. Places of lodging must now ensure that reserved handicapped accessible rooms are available upon arrival.

“This regulation is catching up to the best practices on that point,” Coleman said.

Individuals with disabilities may now make reservations during the same hours and in the same manner as other guests.

“You shouldn’t have to call ahead to ensure that they’ll block it for you,” Coleman said.

Ticketing is another area that has been rife with problems for the disabled.

Hildebrandt said obtaining tickets from Blue Cross Arena and Ticketmaster can be a nightmare for the disabled, who often get a confusing runaround and have to wait for tickets.

“You may have to attest to your disability but you shouldn’t need an entire medical file to obtain accessible seating,” he said.

“They have to have tickets available now,” Fusco said. “They can’t set up special times [for the disabled] to get tickets.”

CDR representatives said the new laws are very clear and make for easier small business compliance. Another advantage of the new law is it allows small businesses to comply without having to spend a lot of money. For example, a restaurant that can’t afford to print menus in Braille can comply with new communication guidelines simply by reading the menu to blind patrons.

“I think the law is spreading deeper and affecting more small entities now,” Hildebrandt said.

CDR, located at 497 State St. in Rochester, assists small businesses in providing better services for the disabled.

The federal government also helps businesses with ADA compliance through Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers nationwide. The closest center is located in Buffalo.

An explanation of the new ADA regulations and dates of compliance is available at

Copyright 2011 Dolan Media Newswires

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