The first major changes to regulations in the Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990, went into effect Tuesday.
The changes include tightening the definition of service animals to include only animals trained to provide a specific task for their owners.
Robin Resnick, an attorney with the Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania, said until now many people thought animals that provide emotional support to people with psychiatric disorders fit into that category. No longer. The changes also limit service animals to dogs, with one exception.
“You can have a miniature horse who is specially trained and also be a service animal,” Resnick said. “But you can’t have any other kind of animal like a cat, a pig, or a snake.”
Starting next year, swimming pools, amusement parks, golf courses and playgrounds must be accessible to people in wheelchairs. Clinton Crittendon, a Northeast Philadelphia man who uses a wheelchair, said he hopes the new rules will help him find a gym he can use.
“Recently I was looking for a gym to attend myself, and being disabled there aren’t any gyms that are accessible friendly,” Crittendon said.
New construction projects started after March 15, 2012, will have to meet the new requirements, as will buildings that undergo renovation after then.