Recreation facilities, services, programs, and activities offered by both public entities (state and local government) and private businesses are required to be accessible to people with disabilities. Compliance responsibilities are outlined below.  

Facility and Built Environment Accessibility

Recreation facilities are required to follow the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design.  These standards went into effect on March 12, 2012 and apply to new construction, alterations, and renovations. 
Along with general features such as parking lots, entrances, accessible routes, and bathrooms; standards for specific recreational features are included in the 2010 ADA Standards.
These are:

  • amusement rides,
  • recreational boating facilities,
  • exercise machines and equipment,
  • fishing piers and platforms,
  • golf facilities,
  • play areas,
  • swimming pools,
  • wading pools, and spas, 
  • shooting facilities. 

These elements must comply with the 2010 ADA Standards, whether they are existing or new construction.  There is no safe harbor for these elements, even if they were constructed prior to March 12, 2012.  This means that regardless of whether they were existing facilities or not when the ADA Standards went into effect, these particular recreation features need to follow the standards.

Visit Guides to Recreation Facilities

Program Access and Public Entities

Program Access requires that the use of facilities and services be equal to what other individuals receive, and it must be provided in an integrated setting with other members of the community.  Public entities such as state government, cities, counties and schools are required to provide "program access" to all recreational activities and services. This means that if a recreational facility or element is not accessible to people with disabilities, the obligation to still provide access to services and programs  still exists.  The public entity must find, to the greatest extent possible, another means to provide access to their recreational programs.   

For more information about program access obligations, visit our page  Recreation and Program Access.

Business and Readily Achievable Barrier Removal

Private businesses with recreational facilities such as hotels and gyms are required to follow the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design. Existing facilities, however, (those built before the passage of the ADA in 1990) are only required to make the changes needed to meet the 2010 ADA Standards that are "readily achievable". That means changes that are relatively inexpensive and easy to do based on the businesses resources.   Obviously, a large chain of fitness centers will have more money to update their facilities than a small business.  Visit Readily Achievable and Small Business.

Responsibilities for Providing Services to People with Disabilities Under the ADA

Along with requirements to provide accessible facilities, both public and private entities have a responsibility to provide services that do not discriminate against people with disabilities.  Actions that reduce barriers and help people with disabilities participate such as modifying policies and  providing effective communication are also required, unless doing so would pose an administrative burden or change the fundamental nature of the activity or business.  

Visit Requirements for Serving People with Disabilities under Title II and III of the ADA