Critical Facilities Summit

4  FM quick reads on ADA

1. ADA and Door Hardware


Business categories: ADA, doors and hardware I’m Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today’s topic is accessibility and door hardware. Among the primary components in determining any facility’s level of accessibility are its doors and door hardware. A general test for accessible door hardware is determining the required type of grasp. If a door hardware component requires that users apply tight pinching or grasping, or if a user cannot operate the hardware with a closed fist, the component probably is not accessible. Handles that do not meet accessibility guidelines for doors include a round, single-knob door handle and thumb-latch or finger-pull doorknobs that provide less than 1 1/2 inches of clearance. Among the types of accessible door handles are lever-type and push-pull handles. Managers should be careful not to specify single-knob, twist-type handles for installation in lavatories. In many cases, users cannot operate them with a closed fist. Instead, managers should consider installing automatic openers. Regarding door installation, workers should adjust door pressure to 8.5 pounds for exterior pressure and no more than 5 pounds for interior restroom doors. The minimum door width is 32 inches. The maximum allowable change in elevation at a door threshold is a one-quarter-inch vertical rise or a beveled one-half inch. Threshold ramps made of recycled rubber tires can help facilities achieve a compliant threshold transition. Finally, a door’s swing should not encroach into a clear floor space unless state codes allow such movement. Both the restroom and the accessible stall must have a 60-inch turning radius. Many restrooms only need a simple reversal of the door swing to achieve compliance.


2.  Accessibility Strategies

I’m Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today’s topic is accessibility.
Restrooms generally receive the lion’s share of organizations’ attention ensuring the accessibility of facilities for visitors and occupants. But before these people reach a building’s restrooms, they often face a host of challenges related to other facility components, including entrance doors, ramps, water fountains, handrails, wheelchair lifts, and elevators.
But in addition to these higher-profile components, facility managers must consider a host of other items and elements that can affect the use of a facility by individuals with disabilities.
Take alarms as an example. Audible alarms are only effective for people who can hear. Where audible alarms exist, the Americans with Disabilities Act also requires the installation of visual strobe alarms. Managers should take a serious look at their facilities to ensure visual strobe alarms accompany audible alarms.
Other items of importance include water fountains and coolers, pay phones, cash machines, and vending machines. When negotiating for the lease, purchase or placement of these items, managers need to make sure the items themselves meet ADA requirements.
The mere presence of the international symbol of accessibility on a product does not signify the item indeed meets ADA requirements. There is no Underwriters Laboratory for ADA.
Instead, managers must ask questions, make sure the vendor answers them satisfactorily, and be sure the new water fountain or cooler complies. Then make sure it is installed in an accessible location. Nothing is worse than a compliant water fountain located at the top of a flight of steps.
Managers must be vigilant about the accessibility and safety of their facilities. Using the ADA requirements as a template is an excellent way to ensure a facility is safe and user-friendly for people with disabilities, seniors, parents pushing baby strollers, and even aging baby boomers — basically, everyone who visits a building each day.

3.  Accessibility and Employee Input

I’m Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today’s topic is, accessibility and employee input.
When designing a facility, whether new construction or as renovation, facility managers and owners must consider the needs of individuals with disabilities. But the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) represent only a minimum standard, not the final word on accessibility. Just as managers should not apply a cookie-cutter approach to any other aspect of the design process, they need to address accessibility and comfort needs in the context of the specific site and its population.
But this latter element — employees with disabilities — can be neglected during the design process. Tapping that resource proved to be key to accessibility planning for the renovation of a more than 300,000-square-foot corporate office building. At the outset of the project, the owner set the goal of creating a work environment where all employees would be comfortable. The design focused on work-life balance, sustainable design, and enhanced accessibility.
The first step was to review the guidelines in ADA and the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board to see what accessibility-related changes would be required. During a meeting, a person who uses a wheelchair pointed out a difficulty he was having with the restroom door. This conversation led to a meeting with a group of company employees with disabilities to discuss the design of the new facility. Typically, such focus groups are arranged to address departmental needs. Meeting with a cross-departmental group based on accessibility needs proved to be a revelation.
The employees had many different types of disabilities — visible and invisible, temporary and permanent — but were reluctant to address their challenges with the building because they did not want to be perceived as complaining. The sentiment shared by the group, however, was that no one had ever asked what their needs were. The project team quickly learned that it is very difficult to anticipate the obstacles that others face. The only way to find out is to ask. For example, a person of short stature was unable to reach a coat hook on the office door. Once the facilities staff was made aware of the problem, they easily relocated the hook the following morning.

4.  ADA Standards Delayed

I’m Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today’s topic is accessibility.
Facility managers and owners awaiting the arrival of updated regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will have to wait a little longer.
The U.S. Department of Justice announced in January it has delayed publication of updated ADA regulations due to the new Obama administration. In early December 2008, the department had submitted new regulations to the Office of Management and Budget for approval but withdrew its submission in response to a memorandum from the new administration.
According to a statement on the department’s web site, “No final action will be taken by the department with respect to these rules until the incoming officials have had the opportunity to review the rulemaking record… Withdrawal of the draft final rules does not affect existing ADA regulations.”
The department’s rulemaking will update regulations for state and local governments under title II of the ADA and regulations for places of public accommodation and commercial facilities covered by title III. Last June, the department published proposed changes to these regulations for public comment. As part of this update, the department intends to adopt new accessibility standards based on guidelines issued by the U.S. Access Board.
The department also proposed updates to sections of the regulations covering existing facilities, service animals, policies and programs, maintenance of accessible features, auxiliary aids and services, and effective communication. The department has not yet indicated a timeframe for resubmitting the final rules.
 More information on the status of standards is available on the Access Board’s website at www.access-board.gov.


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ADA , accessibility , restrooms , doors , door hardware

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