Businesses in America are being crushed by regulation. We spend an inordinate amount of money on compliance, modifications, reporting, and of course lawsuits related to allegedly not doing any of that correctly. Businesses today must comply with a myriad of rules and regulations from a variety of government entities I simply refer to as the “initial people”. These may or may not be real people, and just might represent programs and legislative decrees, but would include the IRS, INS, OSHA, ADA, EEOC, FMLA, HIPPA, DOT, NLRB, and on and on and on. Now I am reading about the onslaught of new accessibility rules being implemented by the “Revised ADA Standards for Accessible Design,” which went into effect on March 15, and a couple of them are just too good for me to pass up.

I understand some of the requirements as they seem perfectly rational, and have no problem helping to assure common services to as many people as possible. Although a couple of these seem so intrusive as to make me wonder “where is the common sense here”?

For instance: Any new or altered ride at an amusement park must contain at least one seat to accommodate a person in a wheelchair. That sounds great, on the surface, but as a rollercoaster enthusiast I find myself thinking about some of the rides I've been on and wonder, “How the hell do you secure that thing?”  How does an inverted roller coaster with multiple flips, twists and loops safely hold a wheelchair and its occupant?

The easiest answer, most likely, is that you don't build any more inverted roller coasters.

As for miniature golf courses, the requirements say that at least 50 percent of golf holes on miniature golf courses be “accessible” – with a ground space that is “48 inches minimum by 60 inches minimum with slopes not steeper than 1:48 at the start of play.”

I don't know what this means to existing facilities, as “reasonable accommodation” remains a fairly gray area that fluctuates with the courts, but it sounds like new courses will be lower, flatter, and less challenging than before.

My favorite new regulation, however, is the recognition and resulting protections now afforded persons who use a “Service Horse”.  A Service Horse is a Miniature Horse trained to do those tasks that a service dog might do. A section of the guidelines regulating commercial facilities states that, “a public accommodation shall make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a miniature horse by an individual with a disability if the miniature horse has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of the individual with a disability.”

So now when I am eating dinner in a restaurant and Wilbur parks stinky little Mr. Ed next to my table, it will, I assume, seem perfectly normal. When visiting a friend in the hospital, a horse at the next bed will, I suppose, not cause any concerns. The regulations do say that a Service Horse can be denied access to a location if it is not house broken, or the owner does not have control of the animal. I suppose the restaurant owner will know it is not house broken just from looking at it, or when another customer steps in its crap – but somehow they will know. The Justice department notes that “Some individuals with disabilities have traveled by train and have flown commercially with their miniature horses”.  I've never witnessed a horse on a plane, but I have been crammed next to people with gigantic asses, and THEY seemed perfectly comfortable.

Fortunately, the Justice Department is specifically excluding “Ponies and full size horses” from these regulations (for now).  There is no word on whether new inverted roller coasters will have to accommodate Service Horses as well.  

But there is, at least from a business persons point of view, a bright spot in these regulatory changes. My extensive research has also found that, with the allowance of miniature horses under the ADA, the new regulations actually removed other previously recognized service animals. This was apparently done in response to requests from disability advocates, who (rightly) believed that the regulations were being abused by non-disabled persons just to get their pet or animal admitted to various locales. Effective with the new rules, “monkeys, rodents and reptiles, among others, are no longer permitted to accompany individuals with disabilities into places of public accommodation.”

While this is very bad news for my Seeing Eye Mole, it will be nice to dine without someone's service monkey flinging pooh across the dining room.


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