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AFTERNOON SESSION Mr. MINETA. The Subcommittee will please come to order. I would like to call forward our next panel made up of Larry Roffee, Executive Director of the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board; Jim Raggio, the General Counsel; and Dennis Cannon, the Accessibility Specialist of the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board. TESTIMONY OF LARRY ROFFEE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE
ARCHITECTURAL AND TRANSPORTATION BARRIERS COMPLIANCE BOARD, ACCOMPANIED BY JIM RAGGIO, THE GENERAL COUNSEL, AND DENNIS CANNON, THE ACCESSIBILITY SPECIALIST OF THE ARCHITECTURAL AND TRANSPORTATION BARRIERS COMPLIANCE BOARD
Mr. MINETA. Mr. Roffee, we have your statement and it will be made a part of the record. If you would go ahead and proceed in your own fashion.
Mr. ROFFEE. On behalf of the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, we are happy to be here. As you noted, with me we have Mr. Jim Raggio, our general counsel, and Dennis Cannon, an accessibility specialist, specializing in the transportation area.
The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, or the Access Board as we are more commonly known, was established by Congress sixteen years ago to insure that buildings are designed, constructed, altered or leased with Federal funds are readily accessible to, and usable by, people with disabilities.
The Access Board had been responsible for developing and refining, through active research programs, the Minimum Guidelines and Requirements for Accessible Design. These guidelines repre sent the state of the art in creating an environment usable by all people and serve as a model for the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standard. Those standards are used to implement the Architectural Barriers Act of 1986 and are also used in the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973. They apply to post offices, government buildings and Federally financed housing and transit facilities across the country.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to speed things up; if we can have the written statement put in the record, I will just summarize quickly.
The Access Board has studied many and various architectural, transportation, communication and attitudinal barriers which limit the full participation of citizens with disabilities in our society, and have published a series of technical papers and staff reports on how to eliminate these barriers; for example, Lifts and Wheel Chair Securement gives guidance on providing access to buses and paratransit vehicles; Aircraft Stowage Procedures for Battery-powered Wheel chairs explains how to stow power wheel chairs on aircrafts in accordance with the hazardous materials regulations; and Transit Facility Design for Persons with Visual Impairment gives guidance to transit facility designers and operators on making transit systems usable by person with visual impairments.
Through these and other activities, the Access Board has become a natural resource and center of expertise on accessibility for persons with disabilities.
The Access Board, along with the President and the rest of the Administration wholeheartedly support the broad goals of the Americans With Disabilities Act. This legislation would extend basic civil-rights guarantees to over 36 million Americans with disabilities and eliminate discriminatory barriers in public accommodations, place of employment, public transportation and telecommunications.
The legislation would significantly promote independence, freedom of choice and the productive involvement in the social and economic mainstream for our nation's disabled citizens. Through conducting public forums around the country and sponsoring research projects and studies, the Access Board has gathered extensive information about the extent and effects of discriminatory barriers experienced by people with disabilities and public accommodations and transportation.
The Access Board has carefully analyzed the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act which have passed the Senate, and believes that they provide a comprehensive solution to removing these barriers.
As we have seen, the public transit industry has expressed some technical and financial concerns about the act's provisions. To accommodate those concerns, some amendments have been incorporated in the Senate-passed version of the act which we would like, now, to discuss. The Administration endorses the Senate approach which includes a narrow, temporary exception to the lift requirement for new buses in the cases where a public transit agency can demonstrate that manufacturers are unable to supply lifts for the new buses.
The Access Board maintains extensive files on lift manufacturers and their products. There are, now, several qualified lift manufacturers. With the passage of this act, we believe that American industry will respond to the increased demand for the lifts and that exceptions will be unnecessary.
Consistent with the Senate-passed version of the act, the Administration also recommends that if the provision of paratransit services would impose an undue financial burden on a public transit agency, such services should be required only to the extent that they would not impose an undue financial burden.
The Access Board believes that a flexible approach should be used for determining what constitutes an undue financial burden and that it should take into account such factors as population, service area size and characteristics, current level of paratransit service and interim degree of fixed-route accessible services.
As fixed-route services are substantially achieved, the use of paratransit services will then shift to a feeder distributor system which would be more cost-effective than alternative services presently provided. The over-the-road bus industry has also expressed concerns about the Act's provisions based upon a lift which costs about $35,000 and takes up one luggage bay and seven seats. There are other lifts which cost between $7,000 and $10,000 and displace no luggage space and only two seats.
The act, as passed by the Senate, would require the Office of Technology Assessment to conduct a study of the most cost-effective means for making over-the-road buses accessible and extending the period of compliance to seven years for small providers and six years for other providers, with the possibility of an additional year extension based upon review of the study.
The Access Board would be involved in reviewing and comments upon the study. We believe that this study will provide a firm basis for establishing minimum guidelines and requirements for access to such vehicles.
Finally, there is a technical assistance provision in the act as passed by the Senate which we would especially recommend to you. The provision would require the attorney general, in consultation with the Access Board and certain other federal agencies, to develop a plan to assist entities covered by the act to understand their responsibilities and to provide information and technical assistance on cost-effective means for achieving compliance with the Act.
The Access Board currently has an extensive technical assistance program and believes that such a program is important to help public agencies and private businesses fully understand the responsibilities under the act and how to achieve compliance.
The Access Board and other federal agencies have developed long and varied experience in cost effective approaches for applying the principles of readily accessible and reasonable accommodation which are embodied in the act. By making this expertise available to all who must comply with the act, we can hasten its implementation, we can prevent unnecessary litigation, and, I think most importantly, we can avoid the unnecessary costs to those entities covered by the act. We strongly urge the House and this Committee to include a technical provision in the act.
The Access Board looks forward to working with Congress, the administration and other federal agencies in crafting and imple menting a workable law that will insure the full protection and guarantees of civil rights and an accessible environment for Americans with disabilities.
If there are any questions from you, sir, we would be glad to answer them.
Mr. MINETA. Before I get into the questions, let me recess so that we can respond to the call of the House for a vote, and convene in about fifteen minutes.
[Recess from 2:35 p.m. to 2:55 p.m.)
Mr. MINETA. The Subcommittee will please come to order. Mr. Roffee, thank you very much for your testimony. We are pleased to have good friends here on the panel and especially, to see my good friend, Dennis Cannon, before the Subcommittee.
Mr. Roffee, how will the functions and responsibilities of the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board differ from what they are today under the Americans with Disabilities Act?
Mr. ROFFEE. Sir, under the ADA, we would be required to update and enhance and revise the MGRAD publication, the Minimum Guidelines and Requirements for Accessible Design, to include standards for rolling stock. We woulu also have a much larger role as bill has passed the Senate providing technical assistance and, I think, see a significant increase in the number of requests for technical assistance coming into our office. I would also imagine that our current caseload of complaints under the Architectural Barriers Act would probably decrease.
Mr. MINETA. I am wondering, is there a current design criteria that the Access Board has for transit bus and rail facilities?
Mr. ROFFEE. May I turn the microphone over to Dennis.
Mr. CANNON. We don't have, as yet, any specific guidelines for those vehicles and what-not because we have not, heretofore, had the authority to define those kinds of things. The ADA would give us that authority for the first time.
However, those requirements are not new. They were embodied, in many respects, in the 1979 DOT regulation which I helped draft when it was written in '79. There have been subsequent studies as well. The Urban Mass Transportation Administration sponsored an industry panel in 1968 to come up with guidelines, advisory guidelines, for lifts, ramps and wheel chair securements. Our intention would be to borrow from those very heavily in writing the minimum guidelines.
In essence, we also have some previous studies that have to do with the accessibility of things like platforms. We are developing advisory guidance at this time on a number of issues that we would anticipate to be able to translate into minimum guidelines and requirements.
So we don't see that as a major contractual or study obligation. Our role would be to define the envelope, if you will, into which the DOT standards would fit. The DOT standards would be more explicit. Ours would provide the guidance for setting the upper and lower limits for a variety of things.
Mr. MINETA. Do I understand that under the ADA, design standards would now extend to privately-operated facilities where, up to this point, that has not been covered.
Mr. CANNON. At the present time, the minimum guidelines only cover things which are Federally financed and Federally funded. What would change is not so much the technical provisions of those, but the scope of coverage. And we have with the Uniform Federal Accessibility standard, for example-
Mr. MINETA. Could you explain scope of coverage a little more, then?
Mr. CANNON. The current Architectural Barriers Act, which we enforce the standards for, sets forth facilities in buildings which are designed, altered, constructed or leased with Federal financial assistance. That covers a very broad range of things and types of facilities.
What would change under the Americans With Disabilities Act is that those same standards, or similar ones, would now apply to privately-operated and privately-built motels and so forth, or transit facilities, or transit vehicles which are not currently covered under the standards. We don't believe that the technical requirements would be substantially different.
What it would do is extend the coverage beyond the very limited coverage that is currently under the Architectural Barriers Act.
Mr. MINETA. As an example, if a hotel had been built under a UDAG grant, there were standards being applied. Now those same standards, or something similar, would be applied to any hotel being built?
Mr. CANNON. That's correct. You also need to understand that in reality the vast majority of facilities in this country are already covered by state and local regulations and laws most of which incorporate the American National Standards Insitutute standard which is almost identical to the Federal standard which we enforce for Federally-financed buildings.
In reality, for the broad majority of cases, there would be no new requirements under the ADA. Those local buildings and hotels and whatever still have to conform to the local laws. In fact, California is one of those states that has a building code which is more stringent than the Federal standard. So California is already subject to, in terms of its building requirements, a law that is being applied with little or no problems throughout the state of California and a few others that actually require more, in terms of access, than does the federal standard.
Mr. MINETA. In later testimony, it will be suggested that the federal government develop design standards for wheel chairs which are compatible with workable safety restraints and which will work on transit vehicles and in transit facilities.
In view of the Access Board's research in the area of wheel chair securement, what is your reaction to this suggestion. Is such a standard for wheel chairs needed?
Mr. CANNON. First of all, there is already a process underway to develop some standards-in fact, international standards—through an organization called RESNA which I have been a part of in de veloping those standards. Those standards would refer to such things as the structural integrity of the wheel chair, how strong it is and so forth, so that if you grabbed onto it with a securement device, you would some reason to believe that it would, in fact, be held in place.
The match up of securement in wheel chair is a complicated issue. What is complicated is that while you can set certain standards about the structural integrity, structural tie points, and so forth, on the wheel chair, you can't, necessarily, define a standard wheel chair. All the wheel chairs are designed, like a set of clothing, to meet the individual needs of the individual.
So there isn't any such thing, really, as a "standard wheel chair" except that you can define certain points on the frame, for example, that would have structural integrity where a clamp of a particular design could grab onto. We think those things are very necessary, and we are working on them.
My understanding of the ADA-and, perhaps, a lawyer could better answer it-is that it does not cover that to the extent that we would be given any authority to write those kinds of standards. But, as I say, we have been working on the issue and we are more than happy to cooperate and work with the designers of chairs.
We also know that there are at least two transit systems that have designed their own securement system which, in their own words, “We can secure anything that has come along so far," including the three-wheel devices which are the largest expanding market, and many of the power chairs including the one that I am using.