4 FM quick reads on ADA
1. ADA: The Outside Story
I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, ADA: The Outside Story.
Accessibility is intended primarily to ensure the equal use and enjoyment of institutional and commercial facilities for people with disabilities, but it provides benefits for everyone. Using the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements as a baseline, maintenance and engineering managers can expand on accessibility, incorporate elements of universal design, and make facilities more usable to more people. Consider these two exterior areas of facilities:
Parking. Using placards to indicate handicapped parking is on the rise. ADA provides a numerical table to help managers determine the required number of reserved accessible van and car spaces. These are minimum standards, so if space is available, managers can include additional spaces. If a facility has multiple entrances or levels of parking, consider spreading these spaces out among the entrances or levels.
Exterior areas. Sidewalks, pathways and other areas of pedestrian travel are critical areas for proper maintenance. This work can ensure walking surfaces are clear and dry and that plowed snow is not deposited into the accessible parking spaces or at the bottom of curb ramps. But it also is important to make sure walking surfaces remain smooth and free of gaps, cracks and other obstacles. These areas present trip hazards for anyone, particularly those who have trouble seeing or walking.
2. Common ADA Violations
I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, common ADA violations.
Where do the most common violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act occur in institutional and commercial facilities? Truth be told, violations occur in nearly every area of a facility. Consider these examples:
The built environment. Violations range from ramps that are too steep to a lack of marked parking spaces with marked access aisles and signs. Ground markings don't count because visitors can't see them at night or when it has just snowed.
Restrooms. The most common violations include toilets that are not mounted the correct distance from wall or partition, as well as flush valves for toilets that are on the wrong side. In the latter case, if the handle isn't on the wide side, a user must reach over the toilet to flush it.
Operations. Many common violations are operational in nature, meaning they were not designed or constructed that way.
For example, a housekeeper places a garbage can next to a restroom exit door. Clear space next to a door gives a wheelchair user the space to approach the door, reach the handle and open it, but this is not possible if the garbage can is in the way. A worker also might place a garbage can directly in front of an elevator's call buttons, which hampers the ability of someone using a wheelchair or a walker to reach the buttons.
Also, in some facilities, on walls in the circulation route workers mount objects that project 4 inches or more from the wall. If the objects are between 27 inches to 80 inches from the floor, a person with a visual disability will miss the item when doing a cane sweep and walk into the object, risking injury and a lawsuit.
3. ADA: Ensuring Compliance
I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, ensuring compliance with ADA.
Even though the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, became law more than 20 years ago, managers in institutional and commercial facilities still must be diligent in ensuring their facilities comply with ADA accessibility guidelines.
Managers must take two key steps to meet this goal. The first is to perform a jurisdictional analysis. Managing projects that result in compliant facilities requires a thorough analysis of the range of accessibility regulations. In the early planning stages, such an analysis can help managers determine the required level of accessibility. Must all public entrances be accessible? 50 percent? Just one? A jurisdictional analysis must take place at the beginning of the project and be reviewed at key milestones. Specific questions to ask depend, in part, on the state the project is in.
The second issue involves knowing the organization's resources. Having in-house expertise is the easiest source for answering accessibility questions. Every organization should designate one person to become familiar with the federal laws and accessibility guidelines, as well as requirements of the states in which the organization has facilities. Managers must keep in mind that accessibility issues in many cases are not straightforward and often warrant second opinions or interpretations.
4. ADA: Compliance Considerations
I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, ADA compliance considerations.
Maintenance and engineering managers rely on the guidance and knowledge of architects and contractors before and during new construction and renovations. Confidence in the architect's or contractor's ability to meet applicable codes and regulations is usually a given.
Since passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, in 1990 and the implementation of Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines, or ADAAG, some managers have inserted references to nondiscrimination and compliance with the ADA into contracts. On the surface, this seems to offer all the protection needed. ADA is a federal law. It's easy to assume that architects and contractors will comply with it and fully understand it. But in real life, things aren't so simple.
Managers would be wise to invest time upfront to be sure the project they expect is actually the project architects and contractors deliver. Consider these questions to ask architects and contractors, many of which also apply to product manufacturers and representatives:
- Is your firm knowledgeable about the various disability-related laws and requirements pertinent to this project?
- What is your firm's design philosophy, particularly on accessibility and universal design?
- Does the firm involve people with disabilities in the design process?
- How disruptive will this project be to persons with disabilities?
- Does the firm have a list of past client references for similar accessibility projects that can be contacted?