U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Coordination and Review Section P.O. Box 66118 Washington, D.C.

20035-4118 DEC 16 1993 Ms. Yvonne Balagna Michigan Senate Majority Policy Office Olds Plaza, 11th Floor Lansing, Michigan 48909-7536 Dear Ms. Balagna: This responds to your inquiry about the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for wheelchair accessibility in the Michigan Senate gallery. The ADA authorizes the Department to provide technical assistance to individuals and entities that have rights and responsibilities under the Act. We are not, however, able to provide opinions on specific fact situations. This letter provides informal guidance to assist you in understanding how the ADA may apply to you. However, this technical assistance does not constitute a determination by the Department of Justice of your rights or responsibilities under the ADA and does not constitute a binding determination by the Department of Justice. Title II of the ADA, which applies to public entities (State and local governments), prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in a public entity's services, programs, or activities and adopts strict architectural accessibility standards for facilities constructed or altered after the effective date of the statute. Section 35.150 of the Department of Justice's regulation implementing title II, 28 C. F. R. pt. 35 (copy enclosed) , requires "program access," rather than "facility access," for buildings and facilities existing on the effective date. It provides that services, programs, or activities operated by public entities must be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities (unless providing

access would result in a fundamental alteration in the program or activity or in undue financial and administrative burdens), but

01-0243 -2does not require that existing facilities be made accessible. Removal of architectural barriers is one method of providing access to programs and activities in existing facilities, but other methods are also permitted if they provide program access.1/ Section 35.150 (b)(1) of the regulation provides that, in making structural alterations to an existing facility, a public entity must meet the requirements of S 35.151 for alterations. Section 35.151 provides that portions of a facility altered by a public entity must be readily accessible to and useable by individuals with disabilities and provides that State and local governments can follow either the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities (ADAAG)2 or the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS)3 in new construction and alterations. Thus, title II of the ADA requires that individuals with disabilities, including individuals who use wheelchairs, are able to participate in and benefit from the programs and activities made available in the Senate gallery. If the Senate chooses to make structural alterations to the existing facility in order to provide program access, it should refer to the requirements for accessible routes and accessible assembly areas in ADAAG or UFAS, as well as the specific provisions for historic properties, if applicable. _________ 1 If structural alterations are necessary to provide program access, the regulation requires public entities to develop transition plans for completion of the necessary alterations within three years. Individuals with disabilities

who are able to use a facility, however, may not be excluded on the basis of their disabilities merely because the facility is not fully accessible. 2 ADAAG is the standard for private buildings that was issued by the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (the Access Board) under title III of the ADA and was adopted by the Department of Justice as the standard for places of public accommodation and commercial facilities covered by the Department of Justice's regulation implementing title III of the ADA. The ADAAG is published as Appendix A to the Department's title III regulation, 28 CFR Part 36. 3 UFAS is the standard required for new construction and alterations under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended. 01-02844 -3I am enclosing, for your information, copies of the Department's regulations implementing titles II and III (which includes a copy of ADAAG), our Technical Assistance Manuals for titles II and III, and UFAS. I hope this information is helpful. Sincerely, Stewart B. Oneglia Chief Coordination and Review Section Civil Rights Division

Enclosures 01-02845