# 181 II-6.1000 II-6.

3100

February 15, 1996

The Honorable Rick Santorum United States Senator Suite 960 Widener Building One South Penn Square Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107 Dear Senator Santorum: I am responding to your letter on behalf of your constituent, Judge James P. MacElree II of the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County, Pennsylvania, regarding the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The response to your letter was delayed because of the shutdown of the Federal government. We apologize for any inconvenience to your constituent. Judge MacElree's letter expresses concern that the requirements of the ADA for alteration of courtrooms increase the costs of the planned alterations and limit the functionality of courtroom design. Specifically, Judge MacElree believes that the ADA requires a ramp or lift at any elevated judge's bench, witness stand, jury box, or clerk's stand and that any ramp must be 16 feet long for every 6 inches of height. The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by State and local government agencies, including courts. The Department of Justice's regulations implementing title II (enclosed) specify that whenever an entity covered by title II undertakes an alteration to a facility, the altered area must be made accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. The standard of accessibility to be applied may be either the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS), 41 C.F.R. pt. 101-19.6, Appendix A, or the ADA Standards for Accessible Design (Standards), 28 C.F.R. pt. 36, Appendix A (enclosed).

Both the ADA Standards and UFAS require all altered public and common use areas to be made accessible. Therefore, jury boxes and witness stands must be accessible to individuals with disabilities, including those who use wheelchairs. In order to be considered accessible, a jury box or witness stand must be reachable by an accessible route, must contain at least one accessible wheelchair space (a removable seat may be installed in the space when it is not needed to accommodate a wheelchair), and must be served by an unobstructed turning space. Any fixed counters or operating mechanisms in a jury box or witness stand must be accessible. Judge MacElree seems most concerned about the requirement that an accessible route be provided to the accessible areas. The ADA does require such an accessible route. If the accessible juror or witness seating is not raised, such an accessible route consists simply of a level route with adequate width and head room. If the accessible seating is raised, a ramp that complies with ADA Standard 4.8 or UFAS 4.8 must generally be provided. Such a ramp need not be 16 feet long for each 6 inches of height, however, as Judge MacElree believes. Rather, it must generally have a 1:12 slope, i.e., 1 foot long for every 1 inch high (a 6-inch high ramp would, therefore, only have to be 6 feet long). In addition, in alterations, if space limitations prohibit use of a 1:12 ramp, a steeper slope may be used. As Judge MacElree notes, the requirement that some juror and witness seats be level or ramped may alter traditional courtroom design. This alteration is necessary, however, to ensure that individuals with disabilities have the same opportunities to participate fully in their communities that non-disabled individuals have, including the opportunities for jury service and for participation as witnesses in legal proceedings. Judge MacElree has also asked about accessibility of judges' benches and clerks' and reporters' stands. The UFAS and ADA Standards do not provide specific scoping requirements for such spaces. However, one of the purposes of the ADA is to increase employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Therefore, the ADA generally requires construction to be accomplished in such a way that it will not pose an obstacle to employment of individuals with disabilities. In order to balance traditional courtroom design with the need to avoid obstacles to employment, the Department of Justice has recently issued proposed design standards for courtrooms (enclosed). If adopted,

such standards would require judges' benches and clerks' stations to be either fully accessible or adaptable, at the discretion of the builder. An adaptable bench or station would be designed to contain necessary maneuvering clearances and other spaces so full accessibility can easily be achieved when an employee requires it. For example, an adaptable judges' bench would not need a ramp if it were designed so that a ramp or lift can be easily installed at a later date. Under the proposed rule, court reporters' stations, bailiffs' stations, and counsel and litigants' stations must be fully accessible. The Department believes that requiring full accessibility of these areas will have minimal conflict with traditional courtroom design. In addition, full accessibility is justified by the more fungible nature of these positions, i.e., more than one person may use these stations, which increases the likelihood that an individual with a disability will need to use the stations. I hope this information will assist you in responding to your constituent. Sincerely,

Deval L. Patrick Assistant Attorney General Civil Rights Division Enclosures