August 5, 1998
The Honorable Gil Gutknecht
Member, U.S. House of Representatives
1530 Greenview Drive, SW
Rochester, Minnesota 55902
Dear Congressman Gutknecht:
I am responding to your inquiry on behalf of your constituent, xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, who wrote to you concerning the accessibility requirements applicable to a high school stadium press box.
The Federal law that applies to this situation is the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by public entities, including public school systems. The Federal regulations implementing the ADA, which took effect on January 26, 1992, require all new construction to be readily accessible to, and usable by, people with disabilities. A public school system may meet this requirement by complying with either the ADA Standards for Accessible Design, 28 C.F.R. pt. 36, App. A, or the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards, 41 C.F.R. pt. 101-19.6. In addition to this Federal requirement, most State building codes now contain accessibility requirements that are similar to those implemented by the ADA. Because Mr. xxxxxxxx letter specifically mentions a law that became effective in January 1996, we infer that the action affecting him was initiated under the State building code.
The ADA does not contain provisions that specifically address the construction of "press boxes." The ADA merely requires that all new construction by covered entities must comply with the applicable requirements of the regulations. In general, these requirements would include an accessible route to an accessible facility and an accessible entrance. In a multi-story facility, an accessible means of vertical access must be provided to connect all levels. Although an elevator is the most common means of providing vertical access, ramps and (in certain-limited circumstances) platform lifts may also be used. See, § 4.1.3.(5), Exception 4, of the enclosed ADA Standards. If the press box is not part of a multi-story facility, a ramp may be used to provide access to the entrance. The ADA does not provide for a waiver of these new construction requirements.
Mr. xxxxxx did not describe the press box in his letter to you, but, because he specifically complained that he is being required to install an elevator to provide access, we infer that his school has chosen to design a traditional press box that is located above the viewing stands with an entrance well-above ground level. This design choice is permitted by the ADA, but it is not compelled by it. Therefore, if Mr. xxxxxxxx school wants to comply with the ADA, but to avoid the cost of an elevator, the school should explore alternative press box designs.
Mr. xxxxxx should also note that the ADA does not preempt the authority of the State of Minnesota to impose more stringent requirements on construction through its building code process. The interpretation and application of the State's accessibility code is a matter that Mr. xxxxxx must resolve with State code officials.
For your information, we note that the ADA Standards are based on the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) developed by the United States Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board). The Access Board is now engaged in a total review of these accessibility guidelines. The Access Board anticipates that the revised guidelines should be published as a proposed rule before the end of this year.
If Mr. xxxxxx wants to address this issue with the Access Board, he may write to:
Thurman M. Davis, Chair
U.S. Architectural and Transportation
Barriers Compliance Board
1331 F Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20004-1111
Copies of the Department's regulations implementing title II and title III of the ADA are enclosed for your reference. The ADA Standards for Accessible Design are published as Appendix A to the title III regulation.
I hope that this information is helpful to you in responding to your constituent.
Bill Lann Lee
Acting Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division