Long awaited, the U.S. Department of Justice has adopted revisions to Title II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act regulations. The amended regulations were published in the Federal Register on September 15, 2010. These final rules will take effect March 15, 2011.
(Impact on Federal goverment agencies)
Revisions to the Title II and III regulations give more clear guidance on policy and procedural issues. Recreation land managers have struggled with policy modifications to permit the use of service animals in areas typically not opened to pets. The definition of “service animal” has been scrutinized over the last several years as more people look to the use of exotic animals for comfort and therapy. The rule defines "service animal" as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. The rule states that other animals, whether wild or domestic, do not qualify as service animals. Dogs that are not trained to perform tasks that mitigate the effects of a disability, including dogs that are used purely for emotional support, are not service animals. The final rule also clarifies that individuals with mental disabilities who use service animals that are trained to perform a specific task are protected by the ADA. The rule permits the use of trained miniature horses as alternatives to dogs, subject to certain limitations. To allow flexibility in situations where using a horse would not be appropriate, the final rule does not include miniature horses in the definition of "service animal."
Other power-driven mobility devices:
The definition and regulation to permit the use of mobility devices has been amended. The rule adopts a two-tiered approach to mobility devices, drawing distinctions between wheelchairs and "other power-driven mobility devices" such as the Segway Human Transporter. Wheelchairs (and other devices designed for use by people with mobility impairments) must be permitted in all areas open to pedestrian use. "Other power-driven mobility devices" must be permitted to be used unless the covered entity can demonstrate that such use would fundamentally alter its programs, services, or activities, create a direct threat, or create a safety hazard. The rule also lists factors to consider in making this determination.
(adapted from the NCA website)
For the text of the Final Rule, go to DOJ's website.
The Fort Smith National Historic Site takes great pride in its accessibility for disabled visitors. The Visitors' Center is fully wheelchair accessible, and also houses one wheelchair for visitor use if needed.
We also have an audio description "wand" for the visually impaired to use. This was developed through consultation with a visually impaired employee with the Harpers Ferry Center. The wands are located at the front desk and are available free of charge. Although designed to meet our accessibility mandates they can and are used by any of our visitors. The audio program provides a description of almost all of our exhibits within the visitor center as well as on the walking tour of the outside wayside exhibits.