The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a complex piece of legislation. The Department of Justice Title II regulation is not as clear as many agencies would like, and design standards still don’t exist for some park assets, such as beaches and trails.
When making a reasonable modification is a close call to you and your team, ask yourself two questions: “What harm comes from saying yes, even if the person truly doesn’t need this modification?” Now ask, “What harm comes from denying this request, if the person making the request is entitled to the modification?” In the first question, you have provided great customer service. In the second question, you exposed your agency and yourself to liability for failing to comply with the ADA. Which course is better for your agency, yourself and the people you serve?
Everyone wants to quantify compliance — that is hard to do because of the variables, but, the basic formula is simple. If your agency seeks compliance voluntarily (which agencies must do under ADA Title II), then the cost is staff time and the modification, whether to a park or to a policy. Wait, get sued and lose in court, and the results can be compounded. For example, if a systemwide access audit costs $30,000 and making retrofits cost another $2 million, you can plan when and how to make this happen. Lose in court, though, and your options are gone. You still must spend $30,000 for an access audit, and you’ll still have $2 million in retrofit work. But now you’ll pay for your own legal fees and the legal fees of the person who brought the complaint. There are decisions where legal fees alone have been north of $3 million.
The smart practice is for agencies to be accessible and inclusive voluntarily before they are forced to do it. Agencies that embrace access and inclusion are more likely to succeed at access and inclusion.
To help, NRPA has partnered with Recreation Accessibility Consultants, LLC to provide NRPA Premier members with the following benefits:
- A 10 percent discount on all accessibility audits and services
- For those projects costing an NRPA Premier member $100,000 or more, an additional 1 percent discount will be provided per $25,000, up to a maximum of 15 percent
— Hayley Herzing, NRPA’s Membership Programs Manager