Benefits Not Monetized in the Formal Analysis
Finally, the RIA recognizes that additional benefits are likely to result from the new standards. Many of these benefits are more difficult to quantify. Among the potential benefits that have been discussed by researchers and advocates are reduced administrative costs due to harmonized guidelines, increased business opportunities, increased social development, and improved health benefits. For example, the final rules will substantially increase accessibility at newly scoped facilities such as recreation facilities and judicial facilities, which previously have been very difficult for persons with disabilities to access. Areas where the Department believes entities may incur benefits that are not monetized in the formal analysis include, but may not be limited to, the following:
Use benefits accruing to persons with disabilities. The final rules should improve the overall sense of well-being of persons with disabilities, who will know that public entities and places of public accommodation are generally accessible, and who will have improved individual experiences. Some of the most frequently cited qualitative benefits of increased access are the increase in one´s personal sense of dignity that arises from increased access and the decrease in possibly humiliating incidents due to accessibility barriers. Struggling to join classmates on a stage, to use a bathroom with too little clearance, or to enter a swimming pool all negatively affect a person´s sense of independence and can lead to humiliating accidents, derisive comments, or embarrassment. These humiliations, together with feelings of being stigmatized as different or inferior from being relegated to use other, less comfortable or pleasant elements of a facility (such as a bathroom instead of a kitchen sink for rinsing a coffee mug at work), all have a negative effect on persons with disabilities.
Use benefits accruing to persons without disabilities. Improved accessibility can affect more than just the rule´s target population; persons without disabilities may also benefit from many of the requirements. Even though the requirements were not designed to benefit persons without disabilities, any time savings or easier access to a facility experienced by persons without disabilities are also benefits that should properly be attributed to that change in accessibility. Curb cuts in sidewalks make life easier for those using wheeled suitcases or pushing a baby stroller. For people with a lot of luggage or a need to change clothes, the larger bathroom stalls can be highly valued. A ramp into a pool can allow a child (or adult) with a fear of water to ease into that pool. All are examples of "unintended" benefits of the rule. And ideally, all should be part of the calculus of the benefits to society of the rule.
Social benefits. Evidence supports the notion that children with and without disabilities benefit in their social development from interaction with one another. Therefore, there will likely be social development benefits generated by an increase in accessible play areas. However, these benefits are nearly impossible to quantify for several reasons. First, there is no guarantee that accessibility will generate play opportunities between children with and without disabilities. Second, there may be substantial overlap between interactions at accessible play areas and interactions at other facilities, such as schools and religious facilities. Third, it is not certain what the unit of measurement for social development should be.
Non-use benefits. There are additional, indirect benefits to society that arise from improved accessibility. For instance, resource savings may arise from reduced social service agency outlays when people are able to access centralized points of service delivery rather than receiving home-based care. Home-based and other social services may include home health care visits and welfare benefits. Third-party employment effects can arise when enhanced accessibility results in increasing rates of consumption by disabled and non-disabled populations, which in turn results in reduced unemployment.
Two additional forms of benefits are discussed less often, let alone quantified: option value and existence value. Option value is the value that people with and without disabilities derive from the option of using accessible facilities at some point in the future. As with insurance, people derive benefit from the knowledge that the option to use the accessible facility exists, even if it ultimately goes unused. Simply because an individual is a non-user of accessible elements today does not mean that he or she will remain so tomorrow. In any given year, there is some probability that an individual will develop a disability (either temporary or permanent) that will necessitate use of these features. For example, the 2000 Census found that 41.9 percent of adults 65 years and older identified themselves as having a disability. Census Bureau figures, moreover, project that the number of people 65 years and older will more than double between 2000 and 2030—from 35 million to 71.5 million. Therefore, even individuals who have no direct use for accessibility features today get a direct benefit from the knowledge of their existence should such individuals need them in the future.
Existence value is the benefit that individuals get from the plain existence of a good, service or resource—in this case, accessibility. It can also be described as the value that people both with and without disabilities derive from the guarantees of equal treatment and non-discrimination that are accorded through the provision of accessible facilities. In other words, people value living in a country that affords protections to individuals with disabilities, whether or not they themselves are directly or indirectly affected. Unlike use benefits and option value, existence value does not require an individual ever to use the resource or plan on using the resource in the future. There are numerous reasons why individuals might value accessibility even if they do not require it now and do not anticipate needing it in the future.
Costs Not Monetized in the Formal Analysis
The Department also recognizes that in addition to benefits that cannot reasonably be quantified or monetized, there may be negative consequences and costs that fall into this category as well. The absence of a quantitative assessment of such costs in the formal regulatory analysis is not meant to minimize their importance to affected entities; rather, it reflects the inherent difficulty in estimating those costs. Areas where the Department believes entities may incur costs that are not monetized in the formal analysis include, but may not be limited to, the following:
Costs from deferring or forgoing alterations. Entities covered by the final rules may choose to delay otherwise desired alterations to their facilities due to the increased incremental costs imposed by compliance with the new requirements. This may lead to facility deterioration and decrease in the value of such facilities. In extreme cases, the costs of complying with the new requirements may lead some entities to opt to not build certain facilities at all. For example, the Department estimates that the incremental costs of building a new wading pool associated with the final rules will increase by about $142,500 on average. Some facilities may opt to not build such pools to avoid incurring this increased cost.
Loss of productive space while modifying an existing facility. During complex alterations, such as where moving walls or plumbing systems will be necessary to comply with the final rules, productive space may be unavailable until the alterations are complete. For example, a hotel altering its bathrooms to comply with the final rules will be unable to allow guests to occupy these rooms while construction activities are underway, and thus the hotel may forgo revenue from these rooms during this time. While the amount of time necessary to perform alterations varies significantly, the costs associated with unproductive space could be high in certain cases, especially if space is already limited or if an entity or facility is located in an area where real estate values are particularly high (e.g., New York or San Francisco).
Expert fees. Another type of cost to entities that is not monetized in the formal analysis is legal fees to determine what, if anything, a facility needs to do in order to comply with the new rules or to respond to lawsuits. Several commenters indicated that entities will incur increased legal costs because the requirements are changing for the first time since 1991. Since litigation risk could increase, entities could spend more on legal fees than in the past. Likewise, covered entities may face incremental costs when undertaking alterations because their engineers, architects, or other consultants may also need to consider what modifications are necessary to comply with the new requirements. The Department has not quantified the incremental costs of the services of these kinds of experts.
Reduction in facility value and losses to individuals without disabilities due to the new accessibility requirements. It is possible that some changes made by entities to their facilities in order to comply with the new requirements may result in fewer individuals without disabilities using such facilities (because of decreased enjoyment) and may create a disadvantage for individuals without disabilities, even though the change might increase accessibility for individuals with disabilities. For example, the new requirements for wading pools might decrease the value of the pool to the entity that owns it due to fewer individuals using it (because the new requirements for a sloped entry might make the pool too shallow). Similarly, several commenters from the miniature golf industry expressed concern that it would be difficult to comply with the regulations for accessible holes without significantly degrading the experience for other users. Finally, with respect to costs to individuals who do not have disabilities, a very tall person, for example, may be inconvenienced by having to reach further for a lowered light switch.