Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that any entity providing services to the public, such as hotels, restaurants, theaters, stadiums, offices, and retailers, be accessible to persons with disabilities, subject to certain limitations. Requirements cover existing facilities, remodeling, and new construction.
In 1999, the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (ATBCB) published proposed revisions to Title III ADA Accessibility Guidelines that would make it more difficult to meet the minimum specifications for accessibility of a business' physical premises. The U.S. Chamber and other business groups were concerned with the substantive changes to the guidelines, as well as the procedural flaws that the ATBCB adopted throughout the course of this rulemaking, including the lack of a regulatory flexibility analysis as required by law.
In April 2002, the ATBCB published a draft of the final Title III ADA Accessibility Guidelines. The ATBCB met again on September 10, 2002, and approved the proposal—with some key abstentions—but later decided to drastically revise its cost estimates before submitting the guidelines to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which it did in spring 2004.
Further complicating matters, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has included in its regulatory agenda its intention to engage in rulemaking that would revise the ADA Title III regulations. However, before DOJ can proceed, the ATBCB must first complete its own process. Since OMB will have 90 days to review the ATBCB's proposal, we expect the ATBCB's final guidelines in mid to late 2004. At that point, DOJ may undertake its own rulemaking.
One issue of importance that DOJ's rulemaking will have to address is how, if at all, the Accessibility Guidelines will apply to existing facilities. The Chamber has testified during past hearings on this and other related issues, and plans to submit comments during DOJ's rulemaking process.
U.S. Chamber Position
Much of the justification for the proposed stricter standards is based on anecdotal evidence with no basis in fact. We are concerned that the process employed by the ATBCB in raising the standards was lacking, and that the resulting substantive standards are based on nothing more than subjective opinion. We will continue to monitor all developments, either by the ATBCB, OMB, or DOJ, related to this issue.