Houghtaling & Downey Bill Expanding Beach Access for Disabled Community Advances in Assembly

TRENTON – With the summer season quickly approaching, a measure (A-4388) sponsored by Assemblymembers Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey to establish state-level standards for beach accessibility for people with disabilities was approved Thursday by the Assembly Human Services Committee. Houghtaling and Downey released the following statements:

“We often think of the beach as a place to relax and enjoy, but it can be burdensome for a person with disabilities," Houghtaling (D-Neptune) said. 

"Something as simple as a ramp, restroom, surf chairs, beach access path or handicap parking space can make all the difference. This bill will help us create guidelines to improve beach accessibility and help more people have some fun in the sun.”

“The beautiful Jersey Shore should be able to be enjoyed by all," said Downey (D-Freehold). "We want families to be able to come to the beach without worrying if it will have the right accommodations for a disabled loved one. Everyone should have the opportunity to have a carefree, relaxing day at the beach.”

As amended by the committee, this bill would require the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), in consultation with the Department of Human Services (DHS), to develop guidelines for specific facilities and accommodations necessary to provide accessibility to beaches for persons with disabilities. The guidelines would be required to include recommendations for ramps, restrooms, showers, boardwalks, surf chairs, parking, and any other facilities deemed appropriate. The bill requires the DEP, when developing the guidelines, to consult with any persons or organizations with knowledge and experience in assisting individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

The bill also requires the DHS to establish a process by which such persons and organizations will be informed of their ability to provide input and recommendations in association with the development of beach accessibility guidelines. The DEP is also required to consider, as appropriate, the guidelines for beach access routes and facilities on federal lands adopted by the United States Access Board. The bill requires the DEP to publish the guidelines on its Internet website and to distribute the guidelines to every county and municipality with publicly-owned beach or waterfront property.

This bill also requires the DEP to design a uniform label or sign that may be displayed by a county or local government at any beach that complies with the accessibility guidelines developed under the bill.

The bill now proceeds to the Assembly Speaker for consideration.

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