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July 8, 2009 - Contact FacilitiesNet Editorial Staff »
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.