On April 8 I attended a daylong conference at Goodwill in St. Paul about the new Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations, which took effect on March 15. The main speaker was Peter Berg, an Technical Assistance Coordinator with the Great Lakes ADA Center. There were several people there from different agencies from around the Twin Cities (of course, I was there representing “Two Men On”!). Berg covered lots of new rules, including those related to service animals, wheelchairs, and ticketing. Sometimes the conversation got pretty heated, especially when “ticketing” came up.
People who have sensory, physical, mental, or psychiatric disabilities can be allowed service animals. The animal must have some kind of tether or leash, unless it is a safety issue or the handler uses voice commands. Service animals are allowed anywhere that the public can go, as long as the owner can keep the animal under control. If the animal is removed from a building, the handler should be given an opportunity to participate without the animal. Previously, service animals were limited to dogs but now there is an exception for miniature horses (as long as they are well-trained and behave!).
The Department of Justice has finally come up with a definition of a wheelchair: “A manually-operated or power-driven device designed primarily for use by an individual with a mobility disability for the main purpose of indoor, or of both indoor and outdoor locomotion.” People who use wheelchairs can use any area open to pedestrians. Other power-driven mobility devices include golf carts or other electronic personal assistance mobility devices. People may not ask a person with a wheelchair or other power-driven mobility device about the nature or extent of the individual’s disability. A tank chair (my next wheelchair!) is designed to go off-road though streams, mud, snow, sand, gravel, or anywhere outdoors. A tank chair is designed to be used outdoors, but it is marketed as an indoor chair as well.
By March 2012, organizations must sell ADA tickets through the same distribution channels as non-ADA tickets. That means all teams and venues must sell handicap accessible tickets online. There are three people who can buy ADA tickets: the disabled person, a person who will be the companion, or a person who is buying tickets for a disabled person. Accessible seating may not have higher pricing than other seating in that section and must be available at every ticket price. There are only three circumstances that makes it OK for someone without a disability to buy ADA seating: when all non-accessible tickets have been sold, when all non-accessible tickets have been sold in a designated seating area, or when all non-accessible tickets have been sold in a price category. If you need to give up your ADA tickets, you can ask people if they have a need for these seats. Also, you can attest in writing that they are disabled though letter or e-mail. This does not mean you are asking proof of disability.
This is a brief summary of some of the new laws. Here is the full PowerPoint that Berg showed: Revised ADA Regulations
Written by: Michael L. Sack