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City Struggles with ADA Compliance


By Dan Hounsell ADA
Young man in wheelchair approaches high city curb

Even as maintenance and engineering managers wrestle with such emerging issues as the building Internet of Things and the impact of big data on institutional and commercial facilities, many continue to face challenges with government mandates that are nearly three decades old — accessibility.

Consider the case of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Compliance with the 1992 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is proving to be a lesson in patience and precision for city officials, construction contractors, project designers and others, according to The Gazette of Iowa City.

The single biggest line item in a four-year settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to make the city’s public facilities accessible for all has been installing or replacing 3,800 curb ramps to meet federal standards. Minor deviations from the specifications can torpedo a project.

For example, the slope of pavement could be compliant, but the truncated domes installed to help the visually impaired detect the edge of the street could be off. As a result, the whole thing has to be redone.

“They have to rip them out, redo the construction and put them back,” says Brenna Fall, the city’s capital improvement project engineering program manager.

Cedar Rapids is beginning the fourth year of Project Civic Access, a settlement with the Department of Justice intended to eliminate physical and communication barriers in city infrastructure, facilities and programs to comply with Title II of the ADA. The budget for complying also is expected to double from the initial forecast of $15 million to a $30 million total, she says.

Dan Hounsell is editor-in-chief of Facility Maintenance Decisions, and Facilitiesnet.com.

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