By John Caden-Accessibility Specialist, SR Smith
In the early 1990ʼs, Marilyn Hamilton introduced a marketing campaign for her Quickie wheelchair company extorting her customers to Get Out There! Patterned on Nikeʼs successful Just Do It campaign, Marilynʼs goal was to get more people inspired to get out of their houses and to participate in mainstream society.
The timing for this campaign couldnʼt have been better. It came on the heels of the 1990 signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the 1991 release of the first set of barrier removal regulations for public accommodations. As these regulations took effect, they resulted in curb cuts, accessible parking spaces, ramps, wider doorways, and accessible toilets. Because of these regulations, getting out there became much easier for millions of people with disabilities.
Fast forward to 2010.
Last July, the Department of Justice launched an update of the ADA law that encompassed many areas that were not addressed in the original legislation. This revision went into effect on March 15 of this year and compliance with the new regulations will be expected by March 15, 2012.
This means that within the next 12 months, businesses in the United States will be spending billions, thatʼs billions with a “B”, of dollars to provide additional accessible opportunities for people with disabilities.
One of the key areas that will be impacted by this new legislation is recreation. The 2010 ADA regulations will require barrier removal modifications for such activities as amusement rides, recreational boating facilities, exercise machines and equipment, fishing piers, golf facilities, miniature golf facilities, play areas, saunas and steam rooms, swimming pools, shooting facilities, bowling alleys, and tennis courts.
People with disabilities will now have significantly more opportunities to become more integrated into mainstream society. Now, more than ever, the ability to Get Out There is readily achievable. The challenge to the disabled community is to follow Marilynʼs original charge and to take advantage of this opportunity.
As the business world is coming to terms with the barrier removal requirements of the 2010 regulations, a frequent complaint is “Why should I spend all of this money to make my facility accessible? We never have any disabled customers.” In many ways, this is a valid claim. Although statistically, 18% of the population is comprised of people with disabilities, few if any of the recreational facilities in the categories listed above have a mix of customers with disabilities that comes anywhere close to that percentage.
Facilities that have previously made barrier removal modifications in anticipation of this revision to the ADA law have seen their efforts largely go unused. For example, there are many instances of businesses with swimming facilities who have purchased pool lifts to provide access, only to see this equipment languish in storage closets for months at a time.
Certainly, the argument can be made that the reason for the lack of patronization of these kinds of facilities is due to the fact that they are not accessible in the first place. Now that accessibility will be required, however, this argument becomes moot. Now the ball, so to speak, is in the court of the disabled community.
There are studies and papers, too numerous to mention, that clearly demonstrate the benefits of exercise and activity for any group, but especially for people with disabilities. Many people who are already involved in such activities, typically gravitate to a gym that is connected to, or affiliated with, a rehab center. With this new legislation opening the door to mainstream facilities, itʼs time to emerge from that cocoon and venture into the local Goldʼs Gym or LA Fitness for your next workout.
Similarly, itʼs time to drop in a line at a local fishing pier, tee off at a golf course, putt around a miniature golf course, or take the plunge into the pool during your next hotel stay. Itʼs time to take advantage of the fact that the world is becoming more accessible.
A few months ago, Scott Raines wrote in this magazine that accessibility is the first step to the real goal of inclusion. Society is taking those first steps by mandating accessibility. Inclusion, however, is a two way street and requires the active and willing participation of the disabled community.
Many advocates have worked diligently for decades to get society to recognize the need to provide an accessible world. Their efforts are now requiring the business community to invest substantial amounts of money to remove barriers to provide that level of accessibility. One fear is that the disabled community will not use this opportunity in sufficient numbers to justify these efforts. If utilization does not justify the expense, there is always the possibility that many of these opportunities will go away. It is vital for thebdisabled community to demonstrate to businesses making these investments that these types of modifications will bring in new customers.
Businesses are being encouraged to expand programming to include activities for different populations. They are advised to consult with local organizations that provide services to people with disabilities for advice on program expansion. It is also valuable for people with disabilities to take a proactive role in assisting businesses to provide this type of programming. The more interaction between these kinds of businesses and the disabled community, the closer we are likely to get to achieving the ultimate goal of an inclusive society.
This is why that now, more than ever, we need to heed Marilyn Hamiltonʼs call and GET OUT THERE!!
For more more information about swimming pool accessibility, please go to www.poollifts.com.