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ADA, Maintenance and Compliance


What challenges and opportunities do maintenance and engineering managers face in planning to incorporate universal design into an institutional or commercial facility? Remember, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a requirement, so that must always be the baseline. Using ADA requirements as a baseline, managers can use the opportunity that universal design presents to expand on ways facilities can be more usable to more people. Several examples are most informative and offer managers straightforward and low-cost options.

Parking. The use of placards indicating handicapped parking is on the rise in garages and lots. But senior citizens who have difficulty walking or health problems that are not readily obvious — such as emphysema or heart disease — often use them, as well.

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, making sure all additional spaces meet the requirements and include access aisles and signs.

Exterior areas. Sidewalks, parking lots, pathways and other areas of pedestrian travel are critical areas for proper maintenance. This work might take place during the winter months to ensure that 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 that walking surfaces are kept smooth and free of gaps, cracks and other obstacles. These present trip hazards for anyone, particularly those who have trouble seeing or walking. They then become a risk-management problem for the organization.

Entrances. Heavy doors can generate the most complaints from people using buildings. Even though a large number of factors go into designing an exterior entrance, managers have options that can help all occupants and visitors. Power-assisted door operators have become more cost-effective and cost-efficient. Again, from a universal user standpoint, delivery personnel, sales people and those pulling briefcases and PCs on wheeled cases are the heaviest users of these doors.

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