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ATBCB Testimony
Monday, March 13, 2000
Washington DC


Sins of Omission and Commission


36 CFR Parts 1190-1191
ADA and ABA ACCESSIBILITY GUIDELINES, PROPOSED RULE

This is the testimony of Krista Munson. My testimony concerns five types of access barriers:

  • Chemical barriers
  • Electromagnetic Fields
  • Lights that trigger seizures
  • Sounds that trigger seizures
  • Paths of travel
All of these are barriers to me personally.

I have arranged for my testimony to be read by Elizabeth A. Capone-Newton, Legislative Assistant of the Unitarian-Universalist Association, Washington office, because these hearings are inaccessible to me.

I have reviewed the proposed rule and have comments to make in two categories, to which I refer as "sins of omission" and "sins of commission."

SINS OF OMISSION

First, areas where standards should have been included, but where none are in the proposal. I think of these as "sins of omission."

Chemical Barriers

Chemical barriers may be eliminated or reduced by three means: by source reduction, by isolation, or by dilution. Source reduction is by far the most effective. However, since the Board does not control such things as fragrance use by individuals, all three tactics are required.

Architectural measures to effect source reduction are needed:

  • For toxic building materials
  • For discouraging the use of pesticides by discouraging pests through good building and landscaping design
  • For discouraging the growth of mold and fungi
  • For elimination or isolation of fuel fumes and combustion by-products
  • For elimination of fragrance emission devices
  • For keeping cigarette smoke away from paths of travel, at least.
EMFs

For electromagnetic field (or EMF) barriers, source reduction can be achieved through better wiring practices, or through substitutes such as incandescent lighting instead of fluorescent. EMFs can also be reduced through the use of shielding.

Photosensitivity (Questions 7 and 26)

For the first time, the current proposed rule takes note of photosensitivity, as it relates to the flash rate of visual alarm devices. Congratulations. Meanwhile, other photosensitive triggers abound, such as fluorescent lights. Try going into a public building, if fluorescent lights trigger seizures for you.

Sound (Question 26)

Sounds capable of inducing seizures also abound, from audible alarms, to the motors of building equipment, to the whine of air through ventilation ducts not designed to minimize noise. Quieter choices, or choices at different frequencies and intervals, are possible and important.

Path of Travel & Equivalent Facilitation

For buildings which cannot be made fully accessible right away, a two-way communication device in a protected area on a safe path of travel should be made available to enable equivalent facilitation outdoors, or some reasonable facsimile thereof.

Additionally, one safer room might be provided with appropriate ventilation, incandescent lights, no EMFs, no toxic materials, and signage prohibiting smoking and fragrances therein.

WRITTEN TESTIMONY

I will be supplying written testimony with details about how such changes can be effected.

SINS OF COMMISSION

There are four elements included in the proposal which create major harm and must be rewritten. I think of these as "sins of commission," however unintended.

In Sections 106.5 and F106.5 of the proposed guidelines, "Accessible" is defined as "a site, building, facility, or portion thereof, that complies with this part." Since no provisions are included in the proposed rules for eliminating any chemical or EMF barriers, and sound and photosensitivity barriers are inadequately addressed, many people will continue to be kept out of buildings, but they will no longer be able to argue that the buildings are inaccessible to them. The definition of "accessible" would be hijacked, creating a legal nightmare.

Ditto for the proposed definition of "Accessible Route".

Also in the same sections, "Alteration" is defined to exclude "Normal maintenance, reroofing, painting, wallpapering, or changes to mechanical or electrical systemsÍ ". But these supposedly minor maintenance activities all create barriers. Toxic paints. Vinyl wallpaper and its adhesives. Asphalt roofing. EMFs. Certain sounds of mechanical systems. Each in and of itself a barrier. Therefore, standards should be set for these items. These types of normal maintenance might not trigger application of the full Guidelines, but must trigger application of standards for those materials and that equipment.

Regarding Section F103 for the proposed A.B.A. guidelines: under current rules, given that all public facilities are inaccessible to me, equivalent facilitation is the best I can get (though usually it's just a pale shadow of equivalent). The proposed rule does not provide for equivalent facilitation by Federal agencies. Instead, the agency head in Washington must rule on a request for a waiver or modification of applicable standards. This rule would mean that a postal employee could not bring my money order to the door, and my H.U.D. Section 8 case worker could not meet with me outside, until my request for the accommodation of meeting outdoors has gone up the channels to Washington and a favorable decision has come back. Until buildings are actually accessible, I need equivalent facilitation without waiting for bureaucratic decisions.

CONCLUSION

By their very nature, architectural changes are too expensive to be made on a case-by-case basis, and can't be made on a last-minute basis, for example, as I'm being wheeled into the Emergency Room. Under this proposal as written, case-by-case will continue to be the only coverage we will have. That constitutes no coverage at all and no access.

What does no access mean? It means no workplaces; no hospital care and no medical facilities; no restrooms; no courts, no government offices; no apartments, no homeless shelters, no motels. It means no hope of a job. It means blood draws and medical exams in the parking lot. It means risking arrest by leaving home, because roadside peeing is illegal. It means not being able to seek damages, or to apply for benefits. It means living in one's car, or in a tent, bouncing from one campground to the next when time limits expire, or when the campers next door light a cigarette or a campfire.

We need access desperately. Only the ATBCB can improve our lot. Many have made this point before. I made it myself, at the March 15, 1993 hearings in San Francisco. We have nothing to show for our efforts but seven more years of sealed buildings built with toxic materials and lit exclusively by fluorescent lights. Seven years' worth of buildings we'll never be able to go into.

Stop this travesty now. You are charged by law with the responsibility for specifying accessibility. Rewrite the rules now, and include our needs in the Guidelines for the A.D.A. and the A.B.A.


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2/1/2000

The Environmental Health Network (EHN) [of California] is a 501 (c) (3) non profit agency and offers support and information for the chemically injured. HomePage is http://www.ehnca.org/ehnindex.htm