U.S. Justice Department's New ADA Regulations and Accessibility Guidelines for Places of Public Accommodation and Public Entities

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On July 23, 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released new regulations, under title II and title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), on accessibility for public entities and places of public accommodation. The ADA defines places of public accommodation as facilities operated by private entities whose operations "affect commerce," including hotels, restaurants, museums, parks, retail stores, theaters, sports venues, public or private schools, banks, hospitals or offices of healthcare providers, daycare and senior centers, pharmacies, and offices of accountants and lawyers, among others.

The changes adopted by these new regulations will become effective six months after their publication in the Federal Register. Eighteen months after publication, both new construction and alterations will be required to be in compliance with the regulations' standards. Those entities that were required to comply with the 1991 Standards for Accessible Design (1991 Standards) during any new construction or alteration of facilities or elements, but that have not done so by 18 months after the publication date of the final rule, must comply with the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design. The new regulations are anticipated to be published in the Federal Register in September 2010.

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