The U.S. Department of Justice is considering regulating various categories of equipment, furniture, and Web sites under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Many industries would be affected, including health care and hospitals, hotels and motels, shopping centers, theaters, and stadiums, as well as all industries using the Internet to reach the public.
On July 26, 2010, the DOJ published two Advance Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRMs) in which it announced its intent to revise the regulations promulgated under Title II (Public Sector) and Title III (Public Accommodation) of the ADA. It is now seeking public input on whether it should issue proposed regulations for such categories and, if so, what the scope and nature of those regulations might be. The public comment period ends January 24, 2011.
The first ANPRM regarded possible regulations related to public entities' and public accommodations' use of furniture and equipment. Specifically, the DOJ is contemplating regulating access to the following categories:
- Medical equipment and furniture. Regulations would cover health care providers' use of equipment including treatment tables, scales, diagnostic equipment such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and X-ray machines, lifts, and infusion pumps. Currently, the DOJ seeks to learn what other types of medical equipment it should include within future regulations, and if there are certain technological advantages or features that would best enhance the access of individuals with disabilities to the furniture and equipment under consideration.
- Exercise equipment and furniture. Regulations would cover the use of exercise equipment in health clubs, hotel fitness centers, public recreation centers, and schools. The DOJ seeks to know whether it should require all or some covered entities to provide accessible equipment and, if so, whether it should do so based on a percentage of total equipment made available by each covered entity.
- Accessible golf carts. Regulations would specifically require golf courses to provide carts that are accessible to individuals with disabilities. The DOJ defines an accessible golf cart as one that is designed and manufactured to be driven on all areas of a golf course, is independently usable by individuals with mobility disabilities, has a hand-operated brake and accelerator, carries golf clubs in an accessible location, and has a seat that swivels and rises to put the golfer in a standing or semi-standing position. The DOJ seeks input related to the availability and cost of accessible golf carts.
- Beds in guest rooms and sleeping rooms. Regulations would cover beds in hotel guest rooms, dormitories, and social service establishments. Specifically, the DOJ is considering developing a general standard for bed heights, and asks whether there is an existing standard to which it should look for guidance and whether such a standard should apply to all accessible rooms maintained by a covered entity.
- Beds in nursing homes and other care facilities. Regulations would cover the design and use of beds in nursing homes and other care facilities. The DOJ is concerned that these beds may be too high or too low for individuals with disabilities and have adjustment controls that are not sufficiently accessible. The DOJ seeks input as to whether these beds should fall under the same regulations as do hospital beds or whether independent standards should be developed for beds in these specific facilities.
- Electronic and information technology. Regulations would affect the use of electronic and information technology, for example, EIT equipment, such as credit card payment terminals, ATMs, ticketing kiosks, and self-checkout stations. Other rules being considered would require the use of EIT to enhance communication between individuals with disabilities and public accommodations. The DOJ seeks to know of available EIT equipment that would allow individuals with communication disabilities to communicate with others from hospital rooms, nursing home facilities, and guest rooms. It also asks whether there is an appropriate scope to regulations related to EIT devices and what events should trigger a covered entity's replacing old machines with compliant ones.
The second of the ANPRMs published on July 26, 2010, regards potential regulations aimed at Web sites, and "making the goods, services, facilities, privileges, accommodations, or advantages offered via the Internet" accessible to individuals with disabilities. Noting that the Internet has vastly changed—and continues to change—the way in which individuals access government services, socialize, and seek entertainment, the DOJ seeks to eliminate barriers to Web accessibility faced by individuals with disabilities. For example, the DOJ is considering how public accommodations might change their Web-based services to make them more accessible to those who are deaf or hard of hearing and blind or of low-vision capacity.