Physical therapists in private practice and those who work in medical care facilities, rehabilitation centers, and long-term care facilities should be aware of new ADA regulations for accessible design that will go in effect next month.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) published a final rule for Title II and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), which becomes effective March 15. The regulations in the final rule adopt revised, enforceable accessibility standards called the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design (2010 Standards). The 2010 Standards set minimal requirements for newly designed, constructed, or altered facilities so that they are readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. Title II of the ADA applies to public entities, including state and local government facilities. Title III of the ADA applies to public accommodations and commercial facilities.
Although the rule becomes effective this March 15, compliance with the 2010 Standards will not be required for new construction and alterations until March 15, 2012. In the period between September 15, 2010, and March 15, 2012, covered facilities may choose between the 1991 Standards, the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS), and the 2010 Standards. Facilities that should have complied with the 1991 Standards or the UFAS during any new construction or alteration of facilities, but have not done so by March 15, 2012, must comply with the 2010 Standards. Therefore, if a facility already is compliant with the 1991 standards prior to March 15, that facility will not have to upgrade until an alteration is made to the facility.
These new accessibility requirements will affect physical therapists in their capacity as employers as well as in the administration of medical care facilities generally. As an employer, a physical therapist will be required to provide accessible work areas and accessible routes for employees with disabilities. Further, newly designed, constructed, or altered medical care facilities in particular must comply with the 2010 Standards starting March 15, 2012. Areas in the rule also highlight requirements for medical care facilities, rehabilitation centers, and long-term care facilities.
A full summary of the rule is available to APTA members.