Upgrading for Accessibility

ADA, accessibility, upgrades, retrofits   November 22, 2010

I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is accessibility and retrofits.

Restrooms, doorways and interior paths receive a great deal of attention from maintenance and engineering managers planning building retrofits to enhance accessibility. But managers also must consider a host of other areas and elements that can affect the use of a facility by an individual with disabilities. Although alarms fall into this category, post-9/11 emergency preparedness and safety cannot have a higher priority. Audible alarms are only effective for people who can hear. Where audible alarms exist, ADA requires facilities to install visual strobe alarms. This situation is particularly true in restrooms. Managers should take a serious look at their facilities to ensure that 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 presence of an ad or cut-sheet with the international symbol of accessibility on a product does not signify that the item indeed meets ADA requirements. There is no Underwriters Laboratory for ADA.

Instead, ask questions, make sure the vendor answers them, and be confident the product is compliant. Then make sure it is installed in an accessible location. Nothing is worse than a compliant water fountain located at the top of a set of steps.

Using the ADA requirements as a template for the process 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.


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