For more-accessible buildings, clarify guidelines

By , Tracey Hammer, Ebere Akobundu, and Miles Epstein

Your recent coverage of the 10th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) failed to point out one of the law's primary shortcomings, which will continue to prevent full and consistent accessibility in buildings, schools, and other public facilities ("A decade later, Disabilities Act has made its mark in schools," July 25).

Because the ADA was crafted as a civil rights law, it is meant to be flexible and open to interpretation. While this may be effective in addressing issues of discrimination, architects - who are charged with implementing the ADA through the design of accessible public spaces - simply have no way of knowing whether or not the buildings they design will be considered ADA-compliant. Though the Department of Justice has the authority to certify existing building codes that conform to the ADA, the review process is burdensome and time-consuming.

Architects were among the strongest early supporters of the law as it was being drafted in the late 1980s. However, the woeful ambiguity of the ADA simply does not mesh with the finite elements that protection of public safety requires of architects. Architects are committed to designing accessible facilities and public spaces, but will continue to find it difficult to do so until the Department of Justice provides clear and certain guidelines. Clarity and certainty would result in a better-designed and more-accessible built environment for all.

Recommended: Default

Mike Janes Washington The American Institute of Architects

The best way to clean US waters

I disagree with your July 14 editorial "An EPA up the creek." Since when do states voluntarily clean up anything in a reasonable amount of time without a little pressure or, as you put it, coercion? Bravo to the EPA for getting this important piece of legislation through as quickly as it did. Personally, I'd prefer to have my drinking water cleaned up a lot sooner than 15 years or more from now and at any cost. I'm ashamed of the Monitor for taking the position that since clean water may be a bit "costly," maybe we should all back off the idea of accomplishing that goal before our children our grown.

Tracey Hammer Westport, Conn.

Your editorial "An EPA up the Creek" highlights an oft-forgotten point in the water quality debate: The majority of farmers and foresters truly care about their land because impairments directly affect their bottom line.

Water pollution being a local issue, local participation needs to be encouraged and rewarded. EPA's rule treats landowners as foes rather than friends, resulting in a heavy-handed and ineffective approach to water-pollution control. Moreover, the rule rests on a shaky scientific basis. The US General Accounting Office recently testified before Congress that only 6 out of 50 states have the data needed to fully assess their waters. These and other concerns raised by scientists, state officials, and farmers should cause regulators to rethink these regulations.

Ebere Akobundu Washington

Don't redesign parks for RVs

Your article "Where Internet hookups meet bull moose" (July 20) made me cringe and shudder. Granted, this is America, and if you can afford a half-million dollar, 40-foot-long rolling display of over-consumption, go for it. But we need to draw the line at redesigning national-park campgrounds to accommodate these beasts. Public funds should be spent where they do the most good for the most people. Creating longer, larger campsites so that bigger RVs can crowd into our national parks is a lousy idea.

Miles Epstein Bath, Maine

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