Member Benefit: The ADA and COVID-19

June 25, 2020, Department, by John N. McGovern, JD

2020 July We Are Parks and Rec Member Benefit 410

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Considerations for park and recreation professionals

We are in a rapidly evolving situation. A pandemic made visitors unwelcome to your facilities, programs and parks. Some professionals are in states that are just opening recreation programs this month; some are in states with programs opening in a month or more; while others are in states where a second wave of COVID-19 has reclosed parks, programs and sites.

Throughout the pandemic, several things remain constant. One is demand by people with and without disabilities for recreation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) leads the fight against the pandemic and acknowledges that discrimination on the basis of disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

DOJ Requirements
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) mandates agencies to serve people with disabilities. Ask yourself:

  • Do you welcome people with disabilities in programs? Across the board, exclusion fails.
  • Do you provide support for people with disabilities? Requests for a sign language interpreter, extra staff training, better staff ratio, policy changes, using adaptive equipment and transportation should be met with a “yes.”
  • Do you consider objective information about a person with a disability posing a direct threat? Mask wearers protect others from the spread of COVID-19 by respiratory droplets. Persons with or without a disability who cannot wear a mask in programs merit a discussion about direct threat. Similarly, some children with certain conditions may spit or bite other participants or staff. Zero tolerance to those behaviors may be acceptable. This must be actual or objective — saying “I think he is a threat” fails. Incident reports, current and past, are necessary to navigate COVID-19.

NRPA members receive a discount on all accessibility audits and services provided by WT Group LLC.

John N. McGovern, JDis Principal-in-Charge at WT Group LLC Accessibility Practice.