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According to a statement from the Department of Justice, the revised regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are now in effect. These new regulations, the department’s first major revision of its guidance on accessibility in 20 years, will apply to the activities of

more than 80,000 units of state and local government and more than seven million places of public accommodation, including stores, restaurants, shopping malls, libraries, museums, sporting arenas, movie theaters, doctors’ and dentists’ offices, hotels, jails and prisons, polling places, and emergency preparedness shelters.

The department is also releasing a new document, “ADA Update: A Primer for Small Business,”  to help small businesses understand the new and updated accessibility requirements. In addition, the department is announcing the release of a new publication explaining when the various provisions of its amended regulations will take effect.

“The new rules usher in a new day for the more than 50 million individuals with disabilities in this country,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, through a press release. “The rules will expand accessibility in a number of areas and, for the first time, provide detailed guidance on how to make recreation facilities, including parks and swimming pools, accessible.”

According to the release, the new ADA rules adopt the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, which have been retooled to be more user-friendly for building code officials, builders, and architects, and have been harmonized with state and local accessibility codes. The 2010 standards also include, for the first time, standards on making swimming pools, parks, golf courses, boating facilities, exercise clubs, and other recreation facilities accessible for individuals with disabilities. Entities covered by the ADA have until March 15, 2012 to comply with the news standards.

In addition, the amended regulations contain many new or expanded provisions on general nondiscrimination policies, including the use of service animals, the use of wheelchairs and other power-driven mobility devices, selling tickets for wheelchair-accessible seating at sports and performance venues, reserving and guaranteeing accessible rooms at hotels, providing interpreter services through video conferencing, and the effect of the new regulations on existing facilities.

For more information, visit www.ada.gov.  Over the next several months, we’ll talk about how these new changes will affect small businesses and help people who are living with a disability.

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