4 FM quick reads on ADA
1. Accessibility and Restrooms
I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, accessibility and restrooms.
Restroom renovations can bring a host of benefits to institutional and commercial facilities from improved hygiene to water conservation. One major challenge for managers is to ensure renovations deliver these benefits while also addressing accessibility considerations. Paper and soap dispensers offer an example of the balance renovations need to strike.
Technicians should be careful not install dispensers or hand dryers more than 40 inches above the finished floor for adult standards. The 40-inch maximum height requirement refers to the operating mechanism or feature, not to the bottom of the dispenser. Some paper-towel dispensers have an operating mechanism or handle that is higher than the bottom of the dispenser.
One way to provide accessibility to dispensers is to specify a unit with automatic controls, such as infrared or motion-sensor-type activation switches. But be careful: The height at which the automatic control activates the dispenser can not be more than 40 inches high.
Toilet-paper dispensers installed in the wrong location can interfere with visitors' access to grab bars and make the dispensers non-compliant. Technicians can recess the dispensers so they are flush behind the side grab bar.
Finally, dispensers for sanitary seat covers also require clear floor space. Technicians should be careful not to install these dispensers above the back of a water closet. They will not be compliant because of the lack of required floor space in front.
2. Accessibility and Design
I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, accessibility and design.
When helping to design a renovation or new construction project, facility managers know they 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 would not apply a cookie-cutter approach to any other part of the design, they must address accessibility and comfort needs in the context of a specific site and its population.
Designers can neglect employees and visitors with disabilities during the design process, but focusing on that element proved to be key to accessibility planning when renovating one corporate office building with more than 300,000 square feet. At the outset, 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.
As with all such projects, planners encountered challenges, particularly in cafeterias, where accessibility needs conflicted with other requirements. For example, it is difficult to design a salad bar that complies with health-department regulations and is accessible. The solution was to provide a second, more accessible salad section in the server line.
Planners solved some challenges in the cafeteria by applying common sense, rather than requiring an architectural solution. One complaint involved drinks on the top shelf of a reach-in beverage cooler that were too high to reach. By arranging the different types of drinks vertically rather than horizontally, each drink was available at several heights.
Some design solutions came with significant costs, while others required only a more thoughtful approach. While the low- and no-cost solutions might be easier — and, thus, more appealing — to implement, making a workplace accessible to all employees and visitors is well worth any reasonable cost a solution requires.
3. Restrooms and ADA
I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, restrooms and accessibility.
The first aspect managers must consider in planning for restroom renovation is compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA. To meet ADA requirements during renovation, managers must consider these factors:
• occupant count and fixture requirements
• space requirements
• structural requirements.
Most ADA-compliance renovations result in the loss of a stall or a urinal because of changes to meet the 5-foot diameter requirement for stalls. If the number of existing fixtures is appropriate for the code governing the area population, then the loss of a stall might require additional construction costs.
Similarly, space requirements for an ADA-compliant stall might require realigning remaining stalls and stools. One possible cost-saving option is to make the ADA-compliant stall the size of two existing stalls, exceeding the size needed for a compliant stall but eliminating the need to move plumbing fixtures.
Structural requirements also come into play with grab bars required in the ADA stall. Often, walls must be reinforced to accommodate the potential weight-bearing capacities of these bars.
4. Talking about ADA
I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, ADA and communications.
Facilities change regularly, as do their operations and occupants. As a result of these shifts, maintenance and engineering managers need to communicate as thoroughly as possible about their departments' efforts to comply with facility access guidelines under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA.
Managers also can use these tactics to communicate their compliance efforts:
• Designate an ADA coordinator. Managers should post the ADA coordinator's name, title, address, phone number, TDD/TTY number, and e-mail in a visible public location, and they should include this information in handbooks and all other organizationwide publications.
• Develop a brochure or an informational packet that provides information on ADA requirements, as well as information on how to contact the organization's ADA coordinator.
• Develop a procedure for providing materials in accessible alternate formats. These formats include large print, taped materials and Braille. All of these materials need not be available in an alternate format prior to a request. But a procedure should be in place to provide an alternate format in a timely manner if one is requested.
• Finally, give members of the public, people with disabilities, and organizations representing people with disabilities an opportunity to provide input. Tools for this purpose include postings, surveys of facility users, organizations and site administrators, and newspaper notices.