Utah businesses have until next July to comment on regulations proposed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to implement the Americans With Disabilities Act, signed into law last July by President Bush.

Jim Henderson, a regional advocate for the Small Business Administration's Region 7, which includes Utah, said Utah businesses can submit comments or obtain more information from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Phoenix, (602) 640-5000.The act mandates businesses to modify employment practices, public accommodations and services, transportation and telecommunications to prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability. It is an expansion of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The act applies to all employers with 15 or more employees working 20 hours or more per week in the current or preceding calendar years. The term employer includes governmental agencies and political subdivisions.

Businesses with 15-24 employees have four years and businesses with 25 or more employees have two years to complete the changes necessary to comply with the act.

Henderson said employers must "reasonably accommodate" the needs of qualified individuals with disabilities, unless "undue hardship" on the business would result.

He said a business's public accommodations must not discriminate against anyone on the basis of disability. For example, buses, including hotel vehicles offering general transportation services that are ordered after Aug. 26, 1990, must be accessible to people with disabilities.

Small privately operated bus and van companies have extended deadlines of up to six to seven years to comply. Companies offering telephone services to the general public must offer telephone relay services to individuals who use telecommunications devices for the deaf or similar devices.

The act defines a disabled person as one who demonstrates a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of the individual, a record of such an impairment or being regarded as having such an impairment.

Business are expected to pay for all costs of improved access, although a tax deduction of up to $35,000 is available to help defray expenses connected with complying with the act.

Henderson said EEOC regulations will be issued no later than July 26, 1991. Until these specific regulations are issued, businesses can prepare for possible changes by reviewing Commerce Clearing House's publication titled "CCH's Explanation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990."

The publication can be obtained by calling the CCH at (303)298-1222.

Before the EEOC drafts its final regulations, it will publish in the Federal Register the results of a series of public meetings with business owners, employees and others held in October. The last opportunity for public comment will be 30 days after publication, which is scheduled for July 26, 1991.