Sweeping changes in store for ADA

The Bush Administration approved sweeping changes to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)—an initiative that will have a definite impact on the AEC industry.


The Bush Administration approved sweeping changes to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)—an initiative that will have a definite impact on the AEC industry. An advance text with accompanying analyses and reports was posted on the ADA Web site at www.ada.gov . The changes were published as a Proposed Rule in the June 17 issue of the Federal Register, which initiates a 60-day public review. There is one section for commercial facilities, and another for state and local government services.

The advance text posting includes an analysis of the changes as Appendix A. When the review period is over, final rules will be published as law.

According to a June 16 story from the New York Times, the proposal will “substantially update and rewrite federal standards for enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a landmark civil rights law passed with strong bipartisan support in 1990.”

According to the Times story, more than 7 million businesses and all state and local government agencies will be affected. Covered will be all new construction and renovations, with some coverage for existing buildings. The new rules would set more stringent requirements in an effort to meet the needs of an aging population and a growing population of disabled war veterans.

A U.S. Census Bureau report states there were 50 million Americans with some type of disability in 2002. According to the report, people have a disability “if they have difficulty performing a specific activity such as seeing, hearing, bathing, or doing light housework, or had a specified condition, such as Alzheimer's disease or autism. People are considered to have a severe disability if they are completely unable to perform one or more of these tasks or activities, need personal assistance or have one of the severe conditions described in the report.”

Under those definitions, the report stated that approximately 51.2 million people said they had a disability; for 32.5 million of them, the disability was severe. The report did not break down the reasons for the disabilities.

Regarding disabled American veterans, a 2007 Census report said that there are 6.1 million veterans with a disability, with about 3.5 million of them over 65 years of age. However, according to the Associated Press, the number of disabled American veterans has increased 25% (to 2.9 million) since 2001 because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

To review the proposed rule and supplemental reports, go to www.ada.gov .

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