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November 18, 2014 -
Complying with the design standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is all in the details. There are three facets of a building's life cycle that have an impact on compliance with ADA: design, construction, and maintenance. There are common problems with ADA compliance in each area.
Consider maintenance, whose importance is often overlooked when building construction is complete, and many owners and operators do not fully understand ADA's ongoing maintenance requirements. Facility maintenance personnel need to understand ADA design requirements since they are responsible for repairs to elements that often have accessibility requirements.
For example, coat hooks in restroom compartments often need to be replaced, so if a new hook replaces the low accessible hook in the accessible compartment, it needs to be placed within compliant reach range. Knowing the maximum height for reach range is 48 inches high — it was 54 inches high for a side reach in the 1991 ADA guidelines — means the hook will be placed correctly and a possible ADA complaint averted. Owners and operators need to provide training, procedures, or both, for the repair and maintenance of accessible elements.
Cleaning staff or other employees should have a basic understanding of ADA design criteria so they are not inadvertently creating ADA compliance problems. If a trashcan is pulled to the door, emptied, and left there, it can obstruct the door maneuvering clearance. Or if a hotel employee places a table against the wall in a meeting room to provide refreshments and doesn't understand the need to provide a clear floor space for a wheelchair by the only house phone in the room, then this creates a compliance issue.
It is not the customer's or guest's responsibility to ask that these situations be corrected; they should not occur in the first place. This requires training employees to grasp the importance of ADA and be vigilant about compliance issues that can be avoided or easily resolved.
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