The Law & The Planner
Accommodating the Needs of All
Americans with disabilities act gets stricter next month
by Jonathan T. Howe, Esq.February 1, 2012
Jonathan T. Howe, Esq.A senior partner of the Chicago, St. Louis and Washington, D.C., law firm of Howe & Hutton Ltd., specializing in meetings and hospitality law. E-mail questions to him at email@example.com.
• New ADA rules go into effect March 15, addressing gray areas that
have led to many lawsuits since the original rules were enacted in 1990.
hotels and those under renovation must make modifications to fitness
centers, pools and other recreation facilities to comply with the new
• Three sample clauses that can be tailored to your meeting's needs can be found at mcmag.com/webexclusives.
This page is protected by Copyright laws. Do Not Copy
Since 1990, when the Americans With Disabilities Act became
law, those protected by it have been the beneficiaries of far-reaching
civil rights legislation. Based on the concept that it is unlawful to
discriminate against someone because of a physical or mental disability,
Title III of ADA requires that those with disabilities must have the
same opportunities to enjoy goods, services and facilities as their more
able-bodied counterparts at any place of public accommodation. These
include public places to stay, play, learn, shop, exercise and dine, as
well as the transportation options to get to these venues.
under the law is defined as a physical or mental impairment that
substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as
performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking,
standing, lifting, etc.
Minor or temporary impairments expected to last six months or less, such as a broken leg, are not covered by ADA.
does ADA affect your meeting? The law always has required the provider
of the public accommodation to do what is readily achievable to allow
people to fully participate in an event held in their space. The concept
of “readily achievable“ is a balancing act of cost, ability and need.
It is primarily an ad hoc determination; however, effort must be made to
help every person participate in and have access to the program.
But changes are on the horizon. On March 15, new regulations will go into effect.
The New Rules
The revised standards cover the use of service animals, wheelchairs,
and other manually and power-driven mobility aids (including Segways).
also now are required to identify the accessible features in their
guest rooms and ADA-friendly amenities in sufficient detail on their
websites and marketing materials, so individuals with disabilities can
determine if the facility meets their specific needs.
addition, after March 15, a number of other barriers must be gone. For
any new construction or remodeling, the swimming pools, play areas and
other recreation facilities all have to be in compliance -- including
golf courses. Even exercise machines and boat slips are covered by these
more specific regulations.
Also addressed under the ADA
revisions is access to and use of the Internet. Through the years,
several lawsuits have dealt with websites that did not enable people
with low or no vision to use them. To comply now, each element on the
pages needs to work with screen-reader programs that speak the text.
This includes encoding tags for images to describe what a seeing person
gets to look at.
Know thy group It is
imperative for meeting professionals to know these rules and to find
out the specific needs of their individual attendees. Because the act
does not say who bears responsibility, but rather imposes responsibility
upon all unless otherwise noted, comprehensive contract provisions
outlining who is accountable for each accommodation are imperative.
sample clauses related to ADA that can be tailored to your needs, go here. Still confused? Consult with legal counsel.