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June 2024

Understanding ADA Regulations for Golf Cart Accessibility on Golf Courses

By Ronnie Miles

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a landmark legislation that aims to ensure equal opportunities and access for individuals with disabilities. One area of particular relevance to the golf industry is the use of mobility devices, such as golf carts, on golf courses. To better understand how ADA regulations apply in this context, let's delve into Section 35.137 of the ADA Title III regulations, which apply to public entities.

The ADA regulations outline provisions for accommodating individuals with disabilities while considering potential harm to individuals or damage to property. Specifically, Section 35.137 addresses using mobility devices, including golf carts, on pedestrian paths and routes.

When it comes to golf courses, ensuring accessibility for golfers with disabilities is not only a legal requirement but also a moral obligation to promote inclusivity and equal enjoyment of the sport. Golf course operators must adhere to ADA regulations to provide reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities without causing harm or property damage.

One crucial aspect highlighted in Section 35.137 is the concept of reasonable modifications. Golf courses are encouraged to make modifications to their policies, practices, and procedures to accommodate individuals with disabilities, including the use of mobility devices like single-rider golf carts. However, these modifications should not compromise the safety of individuals or the integrity of the golf course.

For instance, individuals with mobility impairments may require access to golf carts to navigate the course effectively. Subpart C Section 36.307 states that the business is not required to maintain a single-rider golf cart but must have access to one when requested by a person with disabilities. Golf courses can implement measures such as providing single-rider golf carts or modifying existing golf carts with features that accommodate individuals with disabilities. These modifications should ensure that individuals can safely access and enjoy the golf course without posing a risk to themselves or others.

Moreover, Section 35.137 emphasizes the importance of considering alternative measures to accommodate individuals with disabilities. Golf courses should explore various options, such as accessible pathways, designated areas for mobility devices, or modified golf cart policies, to meet the diverse needs of golfers with disabilities.

However, it's essential to strike a balance between accessibility and preserving the integrity of the golf course. While accommodating individuals with disabilities is paramount, golf courses must also consider factors such as terrain, course layout, and environmental impact when implementing accessibility measures.

Furthermore, Section 35.137 underscores the principle of individualized assessments. Golf course operators should conduct individualized assessments to determine the most appropriate accommodations for golfers with disabilities based on their specific needs and circumstances. This may involve engaging in dialogue with individuals with disabilities to understand their requirements and preferences regarding mobility devices on the golf course. While golf course staff generally are not permitted to ask an individual about their disability, however, when asked by the individual to rent specially designed equipment, such as a single-rider golf cart, the staff can ask for proof of disability, such as a state certification of disability issued for designated parking purposes.

The NGCOA encourages owners and operators to visit GAIN - the Golf Access and Inclusion Network™, a free platform for networking, education, and resources related to the ADA and golf provided by the National Alliance for Accessible Golf.  Within GAIN is the Alliance Education Hub, which provides specific guidance and tools to not only train your staff but also conduct a self-assessment of how your facility is doing in relation to access and inclusion for individuals with disabilities in the game of golf. The NGCOA has supported the National Alliance since it was created in 2001.

Section 35.137 of the ADA Title III Regulation provides guidance on accommodating individuals with disabilities, including the use of mobility devices like golf carts, on golf courses. By adhering to these regulations and implementing reasonable accommodations, golf courses can promote accessibility and inclusivity while ensuring the safety and enjoyment of all golfers. For most golf facilities, meeting these standards is readily achievable, Ultimately, embracing accessibility not only aligns with legal obligations but also fosters a welcoming and inclusive environment for individuals of all abilities to enjoy the game of golf.
 

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