Q. What is "universal" accessibility?
A. When something is "universally" accessible it is usable by everyone regardless of ability. Universal design makes our facilities and programs available to the widest possible range of people. The goal is to integrate use, not to create separate facilities for "special" people.
Q. I hear the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) doesn't apply to Federal agencies. Is that true?
A. The ADA was enacted in 1990 to extend to people with disabilities the same rights and access to facilities and programs in State and local governments and the private sector as earlier legislation had required in federal facilities. So, yes, technically the ADA does not apply to federal facilities. However, since the ADA is a more recent law and has more up-to-date concepts for providing access, the Corps has adopted policies to adhere to the ADAAG (Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines) in our programs and facilities wherever the ADAAG standards exceed the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS). Please see the policy letters and memos.
Q. What is the status of the Corps regulation on accessibility?
A. Chapter 16 of ER/EP-1130-2-500 is reserved to address accessibility in Corps recreation facilities and programs. A task force has provided draft language for this chapter to CECW-ON. Review and publication of this draft are on hold pending finalization of the rule on Outdoor Developed Areas by the Access Board. It will be important for our regulation to be in line with these guidelines when they are approved.
Q. What do we use for guidelines in the meantime?
A. Both the UFAS and the ADAAG address accessibility for the built environment such as buildings, restrooms, parking areas, etc. These guidelines should be used where they are applicable. The Outdoor Developed Areas guidelines will provide specific standards for recreation facilities such as campgrounds, picnic areas, and other outdoor developed areas not addressed in UFAS and ADAAG. These recommended guidelines are available on the US Access Board Web site and are considered the "best available" and should be followed for new and altered Corps recreation facilities.
Q. A few years back our office received a copy of "A Design Guide, Universal Access to Outdoor Recreation" by PLAE, Inc. Is this a good reference tool?
A. The theory advanced in this design guide defines a range of outdoor settings from urban to primitive and provides guidance on managing risk factors within these settings to establish levels of accessibility. This guide has NOT been approved by the Access Board and therefore should be used only as a reference. The Design Guide is no longer being used by the US Forest Service. They have issued official policy adopting the Reg Neg developed guidelines. Our legal standards continue to be UFAS and ADAAG.
Q. Why did we stop using the term "handicapped"?
A. It is a matter of respect. The word "handicapped" is derived from Old English usage referring to individuals who were forced to beg for their livelihood by holding "cap in hand." Using the term "people with disabilities" puts the person first and thus the focus is on the individual, not the disability.
Q. What do I do if an accessibility complaint is filed?
A. Managing complaints is dealt with in the AR-600-7, "Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Handicap in Programs and Activities Assisted or Conducted by the Department of the Army." Chapter 4 of AR-600-7 covers "Complaints." Be sure to read the whole document to ensure a full understanding of the process. It is important to involve individuals from Office of Counsel, Human Resources, and the EEO Offices in the development of any program or complaint resolution.