This following provides information on new accessibility regulations that are applicable to some National Park Service concessioners and identifies Commercial Services program tools to assist in overseeing concessioner performance in this area.
New accessibility regulations (28 C.F.R. § 36, Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability by Public Accommodations and in Commercial Facilities) went into effect March 15, 2012. They address requirements to make reservation systems more accessible and requirements for service animals in lodging facilities. A summary of the new regulatory requirements is provided below.
Compliance Oversight and Tools
Accessibility requirements are extensive and complex. It can be challenging to know what key things to look for concerning accessibility when conducting periodic evaluations of concession facilities. Several tools are available to aid in these evaluations.
Summary of New Accessibility Requirements
28 C.F.R. Part 36 Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability by Public Accommodations and in Commercial Facilities
Highlights of the new requirements which have applicability to NPS concessioners are provided below.
Concessioners that operate a place of lodging must ensure that individuals with disabilities can make reservations for accessible guest rooms during the same hours and in the same manner as individuals who do not need accessible rooms, whether through telephone, in-person, online, or third party systems.
The concessioner's reservation systems must identify and describe the accessible features in the lodging and the guest rooms offered through its reservation service in enough detail to reasonably permit individuals with disabilities to assess independently where the hotel or guest room meets their accessibility needs.
The reservation system must ensure that accessible guest rooms are held for use by individuals with disabilities until all other guest rooms of that type have been rented and the accessible rooms are the only remaining room of that type in inventory. This means the practice of releasing accessible rooms from the inventory to individuals without accessibility needs in advance is not permissible.
The reservation system must be able to reserve accessible guest rooms and ensure the guest rooms requested are blocked and removed from all reservation systems. The reservation system must also guarantee that the specific accessible guest room reserved is held for the reserving customer.
In addition to the lodging reservations requirement, the new regulations also includes a clarification that service animals refer to dogs and requirements that ticket sales for events must meet accessibility requirements.
Although the reservation system requirements apply specifically to lodging operations, they may also be appropriate for other concession service reservation systems as part of their program to provide reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The bullets above provide summary information only. Concessioners are responsible for meeting all applicable laws including those related to accessibility. Concessioners are encouraged to review the complete regulation and develop their own programs to meet these requirements.
Accessibility Fact Sheet
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the Federal civil rights law established in 1990 that prohibits the exclusion of people with disabilities from everyday activities in public accommodations. This law extended requirements established under the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The ADA requires businesses such as concessioners to make "reasonable modifications" that are "readily achievable" to their usual ways of doing business to accommodate people with disabilities. Any modification that would result in a "fundamental alteration" to the essential nature of the business is not required. Concession businesses and facilities must comply with ADA accessibility regulations for operations and facilities.
Regulations implementing ADA are contained in 28 CFR, Part 36, Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability by Public Accommodations and in Commercial Facilities. They first went into effect on January 26, 1992, and cover both facilities and operational program requirements. In 2010, the Department of Justice issued revisions to the existing ADA regulations that clarified the definition of service animals, established new lodging reservation system requirements, event ticketing, and swimming pool accessibility requirements as well as updating technical design standards in the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design.
Accessibility Policy and Contractual Requirements
In accordance with NPS Management Policies 2006, Section 10.2.6.2 Accessibility of Commercial Services, concessioners share the NPS' responsibility to provide employees and visitors with the greatest degree of access to programs, facilities, and services that is reasonable, within the terms of existing contracts and agreements. In addition to compliance with requirements in laws and regulations, concessioners may be subject to applicable NPS policy on accessibility. For example, Directors Order #42, Accessibility for Visitors with Disabilities in National Park Service Programs and Services and associated guidance such as the NPS Guide for Accessible Transportation Systems establish accessibility requirements that exceed the legal requirements. Park-specific requirements may also be stipulated in the contract.
Accessibility Information Sources
The NPS Accessibility Management Program contains information and links on accessibility compliance. For additional compliance guidance on ADA business accommodations go to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) ADA website. The DOJ also operates a toll-free ADA Information Line (800-514-0301 voice and 800-514-0383 TDD) to help businesses with their ADA compliance effort. In addition, 10 regional centers funded by the Department of Education are available to provide technical assistance on the ADA. One toll free number connects to the center in your region: 800-949-4232 (voice & TTY).
The purpose of the NPS Commercial Services ADA Accessibility Checklists is to provide a handy reference for Concession Specialists to help identify some key visitor accommodation requirements required under the ADA and the new updated ADA regulations. Checklists are developed for key concession services. The checklists may be an assistance tool for concession specialists evaluating concession facilities and operations during periodic inspections. The checklists identify key issues to look for but do not include all requirements. Concessioners are responsible for understanding and complying with the full scope of regulatory requirements including those under the ADA.