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ADA: Renovations and Requirements
August 2, 2011
Maintenance and engineering managers undertaking renovations in institutional and commercial facilities need to be aware of the impact on the project of requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA.
The requirements for readily achievable barrier removal under ADA began Jan. 26, 1992, and have continued since then. Organizations must remove barriers, with a few exceptions, regardless of any work being done.
Anytime a facility undergoes renovations where access barriers exist, the organization must spend 20 percent of the construction costs on removing these barriers from the path of travel. For ADA purposes, the path of travel includes water fountains and restrooms. Any renovation to a primary function area triggers this requirement. The phrase primary function area applies to an area where the activities are germane to the business, such as a bank’s teller stations.
As with the model building code — The International Building Code and the American National Standards Institute — ADA does not require barrier removal on the path of travel that exceeds 20 percent of the cost of the renovation. The major difference in this regard between ADA requirements and building codes is that the ADA requires barrier removal in existing buildings, regardless of renovations. Building codes do not come into play until renovations, alterations or new construction occurs.
Managers can find more specific information in the 1991 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, Sec.36.403 Alterations: Path of travel. ADA guidelines typically supersede a state or local building code, unless the code provides for greater or equal protection of individuals with disabilities.