Recreation Accessibility Consultants, LLC


January 26, 2017 marked the 25th anniversary of the effective date of the powerful Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The portion of the ADA that applies to counties, towns, cities, and the State of Arizona is known as title II.  In Arizona, there are approximately 1,348 (including school districts) units of local government.  The ADA applies to the everything provided by those entities.  That includes:

  • The way in which existing parks and facilities are evaluated and retrofit for accessibility;
  • The way in which new parks and facilities are designed, constructed, and maintained;
  • The way in which public meetings are planned and conducted;
  • The way in which recreation programs are planned and conducted;
  • The way in which people with disabilities are invited to register alongside people without disabilities;
  • The way in which people with disabilities are supported when they register for recreation programs;
  • The way in which budgets are planned and fiscal resources allocated, and
  • The way in which policies are adopted by local entities.

Do you address the issues above in an ADA-friendly way?  This brief article offers some insight regarding compliance.  We will also describe an opportunity for Arizona agencies to learn more about each of these subjects.


It is no accident that some Arizona agencies have succeeded in ADA compliance.  They are ready to do so, they have an infrastructure that helps.  Some of that infrastructure is briefly discussed below.

We have an ADA Coordinator…do you?  Yes, we know that title II 35.107 only requires an ADA Coordinator for entities with 50 or more employees.  But don’t you need this in-house expert on your staff, at staff meetings, talking aquatics and sports and camps with you every day?

We completed an access audit of existing facilities and parks…when was yours completed?  It is not just enough to make new parks and facilities comply.  All existing parks and park assets, as well as facilities must have a title II 35.105 evaluation for compliance.  If your agency doesn’t know what fails to meet the design standards, you’ll never know what should be retrofit.

We completed a transition plan and phased the retrofit work to match our resources…that’s better than having a court set your retrofit schedule.  Need ten years?  Take ten years.  Wait until someone sues and your agency loses?  Your loss includes a loss of calendar control.

We have a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) on staff (or on contract)…don’t you?  A CTRS knows disability, interventions, planning modifications, can conduct assessments for programs, can establish behavior plans, and much more.  Think about it this way…would you run your pool without an AFO?  Would you put lifeguards on the deck that are not certified?  Would you manage your golf course without a PGA pro?  Then why would you serve people with disabilities without a credential like the CTRS?

Our staff know what we will provide as a reasonable modification to support a person with a disability…do you have that list?  In the 25 years of ADA compliance, some modifications or supports are clearly required: assessments, sign language interpreters, extra staff, additional training for staff,  finger-prick tests to monitor blood sugar, adaptive equipment, and more.  That said, there are some grey areas.  Knowing both the black-and-white list and the grey areas will help you more easily answer requests for modifications in a timely manner.

We require our design professionals to provide a memo that highlights ADA compliance features…this keeps us out of trouble regarding new assets.  It isn’t enough to assume the design professional will get it right.  Court decisions and settlement agreements alike show us that errors can occur not just in construction, but also in design.  Taking this extra step saves everyone a headache at the ribbon cutting.

The 2010 Standards for Accessible Design

Effective March 15, 2012, the 2010 Standards finally addressed some but not all recreation assets.  Those addressed are playgrounds, golf courses, swimming facilities, shooting ranges, sports fields and courts, boating and fishing areas, fitness facilities, and amusement parks.  The Standards set both a scoping requirement (when something is required and how many are required) as well as technical requirements (width, slope, length, height, and so forth).  You can find the Standards here.

But some Arizona assets are not covered.  Trails, picnic tables, shared use paths, campsites, constructed camping features like grills, beaches, and more remain to be addressed.  Sadly, this has been a final guideline since 2013, but because of the Congressional stalemate, was never issued as a final standard.  Standards are solely a function of the administrative branch of the federal government.  What will the new administration do?  It is safe to say that this is difficult to predict.

A word of caution here.  While the Administration can slow the development and issuance of standards, court decisions cannot just be undone.  The 7 to 2 Supreme Court decision, giving professional golfer Casey Martin the modification of playing while riding from shot to shot in a golf car, won’t be undone.  Many other court decisions have addressed accessibility of local government infrastructure.  These simply don’t go away, and in fact, they govern your decision-making.

Title II

The ADA title II regulation is the big dog.  It lists do’s and don’ts, and offers guidance for the development of smart practices.  Issued by the Department of Justice, it has been revised once in 25 years.  Learn it and follow it.  Find it here.  Knowing title II is the equivalent of having a Get Out of Jail card in Monopoly. 

Plan Ahead

Your agency hasn’t seen a lot of demand by people with disabilities?  You will.  Whether the demand is in the form of requests for inclusion support, or an insistence on making facilities accessible, or a request to bring a service animal into a park on Independence Day, planning ahead helps with compliance.  Just as with typical risk management, foreseeing requests by listening to the requests other agencies receive, and then determining before the heat of the dispute how to address the request, makes happy customers.  Happy customers means staff with less stress.  Staff with less stress mean more happy customers!

APRA Steps Up for You

On Tuesday, May 16, at APRA Office 12950 North 7th Street, Phoenix, APRA will offer a 2.5 hour workshop in the morning regarding sites and facilities.  After lunch, at the same site, APRA will offer a 2.5 hour session on recreation inclusion policies and supports.  Both workshops will be facilitated by John McGovern, President of Recreation Accessibility Consultants, LLC (RAC).  McGovern’s firm has worked for many Arizona communities, and with many Arizona professionals, to improve the quality of life through parks and recreation.  For registration information, go to the APRA website’s calendar or click the direct link to register


John McGovern writes and speaks frequently about the application of the ADA to parks and recreation.  His long career in parks and recreation, his law degree, and his involvement in the development of the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design, give him a unique and practical perspective.  For more information, or answers to an inclusion or access puzzle, reach him at


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