New disability-access rules spark chorus of concerns

Thousands of gallons of water pulse through waterfalls and rapids at Adventure Mini Golf in Lake Worth, Fla. The course, which covers about an acre, features different elevations with two sets of stairs connecting them.

When people ask whether it's accessible for the disabled, owner Jerry Doser says he jokingly tells them, “No, but I'll paint some lines in the parking lot and put some cups out there and then you can play.”

Courses like Doser's could end up in the annals of miniature golf history. Miniature golf courses are among the millions of businesses and other public facilities that would be affected by proposed regulatory changes under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the milestone 1990 civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability.

The proposed regulations address a wide range of facilities and establish specific requirements for qualifying accessible designs. For miniature golf courses, half of the holes would have to be accessible for players in wheelchairs.

The regulations proposed by the Justice Department are drawing intense scrutiny from businesses that foresee a financial drain and disability rights advocates who say they are long overdue and don't go far enough. Both groups say they want more clarity.

“We have a very mixed sense of what's happened,” said Curtis Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network. “They left a lot of things unanswered.”