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Adoption of the Revised ADA Standards for Accessible Design What it Means to Recreation Facilities

May 9, 2011

President Obama recently announced that the U.S. Department of Justice has adopted revised Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations, which include the ADA Standards for Accessible Design. This month’s research column is different than previous columns. We thought we would do a little of our own research into what these new revisions would entail. So we went on a quest to decipher these regulations and to inform our NCPAD community about what the adoption of these revised standards specifically means in the world of physical activity and recreation.

Standards for Accessible Design

The 2010 Standards for Accessible Design are a revision of the 1991 Access Board Guidelines with additional sections that cover recreation facilities, play areas, and state and local government facilities. For the past several years, these standards have been guiding many who have understood the importance of access and participation. However, the significance of this adoption now ensures that facilities (including fitness centers) have a legal obligation to adhere to these accessible design standards, standards that can really make a difference in the participation of people of all abilities in activities and programs around the country.

The new design standards include relevant chapters from the Access Board’s 2004 ADA/ABA Accessibility Guidelines, as well as revisions to the 1991 Access Board guidelines, with some modifications. The changes specific to recreation facilities are summarized below:

Amusement Rides

  • Newly designed or constructed rides must be accessible and located on an accessible route.

Recreational Boating Facilities

  • If boat slips are provided, the minimum number that must be accessible depends on the size of the facility and must be dispersed throughout the various slip types.
  • Where boarding piers are provided, at least 5% (but no fewer than one) must be accessible.

Exercise Machines and Equipment

  • At least one of each type of exercise equipment must be on an accessible route and must have a clear floor space positioned to enable an individual with a disability to use the equipment.

Fishing Piers and Platforms

  • Newly designed, constructed, or altered piers must provide accessible routes.
  • At least 25% of guard/handrails must be no higher than 34 inches and dispersed, with clear floor space provided at each railing and turning space on the pier.

Golf Facilities

  • Newly constructed and altered facilities must have either an accessible route or golf car passages with a minimum width of 48 inches connecting accessible elements and spaces within the golf course boundary and an accessible route provided to other elements outside the boundary.
  • One or two teeing grounds per hole must be accessible.
  • A golf car must be able to enter and exit existing weather shelters.
  • Certain percentages of practice teeing grounds, practice teeing stations at driving ranges, and putting greens must be accessible.

Miniature Golf

  • At least 50% of all holes must be accessible and must be consecutive.
  • The last accessible hole must be on an accessible route that connects to the course entrance or exit.

Play Areas

  • Covers any areas designed, constructed, and altered for children ages two and over in a variety of settings.
  • Accessible ground and elevated play components, accessible routes, ramps and transfer systems, and accessible ground surfaces must be provided.

Swimming Pools, Wading Pools, and Spas

  • Accessible means of entry/exit for pools are required (i.e. pool lift or sloped entry, and either a transfer wall, transfer system, or pool stairs).Wading pools must provide sloped entry.
  • Spas must provide a pool lift, transfer wall, or transfer system.

Saunas and Steam Rooms

  • Must be accessible, having appropriate turning space, doors that do not swing into clear floor space, and, where provided, an accessible bench.

*Effective Date:*

The rules will take effect on March 15, 2011, 6 months after their publication in the Federal Register on September, 15, 2010. Then facilities are not going to be required to comply with the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design for another 18 months after this publication date. Therefore, as of March 15, 2012, all new construction, renovations, and alterations must use the 2010 Standards. In the period between the publication date and the full compliance date, (September 15, 2010 through March 15, 2012) covered entities may choose to use either standard, but they must use one or the other in its entirety. Elements of a facility that have been built or altered in order to comply with the 1991 Standards do not have to come under compliance with the 2010 Standards until they become part of a planned alteration (due to the Element by Element Safe Harbor rule).

Additional Resources:

The Department of Justice has published a number of factsheets to explain the changes that were made. The changes include items addressing the accessibility in specific locations, such as detention and correctional facilities, judicial facilities, and residential dwelling units, as well as changes to the 1991 standards that involve improving the access related to reach range requirements, water closet clearances, assembly areas, accessible routes to stages, and more. These can be found on the DOJ website or through the links below.

General Summary: ( )

2010 Standards for Accessible Design: (

Beyond these Standards for Accessible Design, revisions have also been made to Title II (public entities) and Title III (public accommodation and commercial facilities) of the ADA. For more information, go to:

Title II: (

Title III: (

This content was provided by the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability. To learn more visit their website at


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