Report: Government Proposing Major Increase in Protection for Disabled

The Bush administration is proposing dramatic increases to the level of protection for the disabled, changes that would affect some 7 million U.S. businesses and every agency in the federal government, according to The New York Times.

The paper reports the government on Tuesday will unveil its plan, which has been in the works for four years and is the most substantial change to the Americans with Disabilities Act since it was passed in 1990.

The changes will mean new construction standards for many familiar types of public spaces: sports arenas, movie theaters, courtrooms, hotels and more. Some of the detailed changes, the Times reports, include changes to the height of light switches and retail service counters, and banning the use of monkeys as service animals.

Also, some fishing pier railings would have to be lower. Miniature golf courses must be wheelchair accessible, and some new swimming pools would have to ensure access for the disabled.

The Census Bureau estimates more than 51 million Americans have some sort of disability. The Justice Department estimates that while the cost of meeting the new regulations could reach $23 billion, the estimated value of public benefit is $54 billion.

While the rules don't go far enough for some advocates of the disabled, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says the rules will be too costly for businesses to adhere to, and increase the likelihood of businesses being sued.

The federal government will publish the rules Tuesday in the Federal Register and open the rules to 60 days of public comment. After considering the comments, the government can begin enforcing the rules.

Click here to read the full report in The New York Times.