Friday, December 24, 2010

The new ADA: Change you can believe in

I made this movie with a new website Xtra Normal.  It is all about President Obama explaining the changes to the ADA and President George HW Bush reminisces about the old ADA.  I hope you enjoy

Click here to view the movie

Thursday, December 9, 2010

How do we deal with access into small closets?

The 2010 Standards of Accessible Design Section 305.3 describes the clear floor area for rooms, including storage rooms, as being a minimum of 30"x48". This is the amount of space required by a wheelchair.  In storage closets it is important to have not only the minimum requirements, but if they are full entry closets, then the ability to turn around and exit the closet will also be required.  Many times, storage closets are designed narrow and deep, which becomes problematic if the person in the wheelchair is able to fully enterthe space and not get back out. 

Shallow vs. Full entry closets
There are two types of closets: one is a "shallow closet" space which is shallower than  the 48" x 30" required by a wheelchair and therefore does not allow full entry.  A closet that is deeper than 48" would allow full entry by a person in a wheelchair.

In storage facilities (i.e. closets) that allow full entry, a 5'-0" turning space is required so that once in they can turn around and get out without risk of getting stuck. What if you don't have the five feet?  Then you can make the deep closet act like shallow closets.  Here are some examples:

If you have a wide closet that is 48" wide and 48" deep, but no 5'-0" space, try adding
shelving to the back to make the space less than 48" and therefore does not allow

for full entry.

deep closet
Deep Closet and no turning space

solution deep

Shelf makes it a shallow closet

If you have a closet that is narrow , like 36" wide, but deeper than 48", and already
has shelving in the back, one solution is to swing the door in so that there is no risk in getting trapped inside by the door closing and not being able to turn around to exit after the door is closed.
deep out swinging door
Deep closet with an out swinging door

closet with in swinging door
Deep closet with in swinging door

Inspector's Corner: Shallow Closet

The 2010 Standards for Accessible Design, states the requirements for storage in
section 811, but it refers you back to section 308 for reach ranges. If you have
a shallow closet, there needs to be a reach range per Figure 308.3.1 which shows
an unobstructed side approach. The only obstruction you can have 10" of depth
maximum. The rod or shelving would have to be no taller than 48" high


In this shallow closet used to hang smocks and personal belongings at a beauty salon ,
the doorway is not 30" therefore a side approach is required. But the rod is higher than
48" and the distance away from the doorway was more than 10". Therefore this was not
 an acceptable storage closet.


A solution could be to add a second rod that is at 48" high and 10" away from the
opening of the storage closet.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

December 3rd is UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities

December 3rd 2010 will mark the 19th annual celebration of the United Nations’ (UN’s) International Day of Persons with Disabilities. This annual celebration was established in 1981 by the International Year for Disabled Persons, to promote a better understanding of disability issues with a focus on the rights of persons with disabilities and gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of the political, social, economic and cultural life of their communities.

The theme of this year’s observance is Keeping the Promise: mainstreaming disability in the Millennium Development Goals. The UN will mark this milestone with two days of seminars, lectures and a disability film festival, while disability, advocacy and governmental organizations are encouraged to hold celebrations in their own communities.

“Governments need to do more to support people with disabilities. That means implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” remarked UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “On this International Day, let us recognize that the battles against poverty, disease and discrimination will not be won without targeted laws, policies and programs that empower this group.”

For more information on this observance, visit

Thursday, November 4, 2010

protruding objects - avoiding hazards along the way

When designing for accessibility, we immediately think of the wheelchair users and their needs.  We design the parking, accessible route, ramps and eliminate the architectural barriers that impede the wheelchair access to the building or site. But the ADA involves more than mobility disabilities. The rules that people are not so aware of deal with the visually impaired community. The way we design for the blind and low vision patrons make it easier for way finding and getting around avoiding hazards along the way. 
The new ADA keeps most of these rules intact, except for adopting a new numbering system in the guidelines. The new section for protruding objects will be found in Section 307 Protruding Objects
Protruding Objects
In the 2004 version of the ADAAG, the rules describe objects that protrude onto the circulation path of travel (not the accessible route).  This path is different than an "accessible route". The path of travel is for all pedestrians, regardless of disability. Along the circulation path, there should not be any protrusions that would cause a hazard to people who are visually impaired and wouldn't normally see the protruding object.  These requirements are now found in section 307 (formally 4.4)
Wall mounted and free standing objects that are mounted above 27" cannot be detected by a person who uses a cane to find their way around. So any object that is mounted on the wall along the circulation path (remember this is a pedestrian route, not a wheel chair route) have to maintain a path free of obstructions
This photo shows a drinking fountain on the way to the restroom and higher than 27" a.f.f. which would be a hazard to a blind person


A person who is visually impaired will not detect objects that are lower than 80" from the ground.  Objects along the circulation path, such as open stairs, sconces, even branches of a tree, should have some warning at a cane detectable height in front of it in order to warn the visually impaired person that a hazard may be up ahead  

This open stair is a hazard since there is no way to detect the lower portion. 
safety zone
This graphic shows exterior elements that could become
hazards if they are not cane detectable.

Inspector's Corner
The 2004 version of the ADAAG eliminates the detectable warnings at curb ramps.  No longer will the truncated dome texture and contrasting color will be required within the property line. The Access Board and the Department of Transportation will be developing guidelines for curb ramps in the public right of way.  We will keep you posted.
 Detectable warnings are a controversial topic for architects but also for the disabled community.  Visually impaired people really like detectable warning, like truncated domes, because it helps them with way finding.  However architects and builders get frustrated with all their inconsistencies.  Wheel chair users don't enjoy the high maintenance that it requires at curb ramps.  If the ramp ices over, it can gather dirt,and it is hard to wheel around it.  So even though the detectable warnings at curb ramps were removed, the controversy in the disabled community has not gone away
This is an example of how a curb ramp can accumulate dirt and ice so that it can become a hazard more than a help

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Do you have a personal mountain?

October 27, 2010  was the 6th annual Accessibility Awareness Exercise at the AIA in Dallas, Tx where architects use a wheel chair for one entire day. The idea is that they should "walk in their clients shoes" (pun intended).  Architects are trained to design for the disabled, and make their buildings accessible and Universal, but until they sit in the chair for one day, they probably won't understand fully the impact those pesky circles and knee spaces that they put on their drawings have on the real world.

Every year they have a speaker that inspires us as architects to think about disabilities in a whole different light.  This year's speaker was Walter Patterson.  He is an amazing man who at 18 months contracted polio.  He spoke about his journey from a toddler having to wear braces on his legs, to having to be horizontal on a wheel chair for 24 hrs at a time, to the time he was a teenager and was able to get his driver's license.  Mundane things like these that we may take for granted, but so important to every kid as they grow up.  He shared how he learned to play bass guitar so he could play in a band in high school because he couldn't dance and it was his only way to participate in the social gatherings.  And in college he discovered gymnastics and was a winner in the sport.  But his most amazing achievement with his polio was his trek up Mt. Everest!

Here is Walter as a toddler with his crutches and wheelchair in the back

Here is Walter at Base Camp of Mt.Everest

With his talk, Walter showed us how his disability did not impede his ability to live a full life! 
"Only 1 out of 10 people (abled bodied or not) that made it to base camp go up to  Mt. Evererst!.  And the number one reason why they don't make it is that they never left home"
Walter had a vision and a plan but more than that he had persistence and a great attitude!  He was also humble enough to accept that he would have to be carried part of the time in order to make it in 29 days (otherwise it could have taken twice as long- not that he couldn't have done it)

I read an article on USA Today  last week about a group of blind and visually impaired kids and adults that went hiking down the Grand Canyon. Scary thought!  I can't imagine me as an abled bodied person going hiking down such a rocky place next to an abyss, let alone if I had no sight!  Wow! But that didn't stop them! 

The lesson from all this is that there is no reason not to get to the top of "Your" mountain!  Whatever that barrier or obstacle is for you, these amazing individuals show us that nothing is too difficult to surmount.

Join us for ADA Webinars in Dallas, Tx

"ADA: The Next Generation"

The National ADA Coordinators are putting on webinars on the new ADA, and we can view them as a group.  Abadi Accessibility and ARS purchased the webinars and want to share them with you.
Each webinar is $10 and below is the agenda.  If you have any questions, call me at 214-403-8714

Webinar Agendas

Session 1 - ADA Standards - Admin provisions; Accessible Routes; & Building Blocks

Wednesday, 11/3/2010, 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

At Sitelark 5000 Quorum Ste 100, Dallas, Tx

Overview of the new ADA Standards;

What has been clarified, added, dropped, or changed from the 1991 Standards?

Equivalent facilitation, tolerances, and the expanded definitions section.

How will changes affect different facility types?

• Significant scoping and technical requirement changes:

Accessible routes

Accessible means of egress


Elevators, platform lifts, LULAs, and private residence elevators

Doors, doorways, and gates

Floor and ground surfaces

Changes in level

Ramps and curb ramps

Turning spaces

Clear floor and ground spaces

Knee and toe spaces

Protruding objects

Reach ranges

Operable parts


Session 2 - ADA Standards - Common Space & Element Types; and Communications

Wednesday, 11/10/2010, 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

At the Miele Showroom 1700 Oak Lawn Avenue Suite 200 Dallas, Texas 75207

What has been clarified, added, dropped, or changed from the 1991 Standards?

How will changes affect different facility types?

Significant scoping and technical requirement changes:

Common space types including

Parking spaces and passenger loading zones

Dressing, fitting, and locker rooms

Common element types including

Dining surfaces and work surfaces

Storage elements



Windows (this is completely new)

Automatic teller machines and fare machines

Check-out aisles, sales and service counters

Depositories, vending machines, change machines, mail boxes, and fuel dispensers

Communications systems and devices including



Fire alarm systems

Assistive listening systems

Two-way communication systems (this is also new)

Detectable warnings


Session 3 - ADA Standards - Toilets, Bathing, Kitchens and Plumbing Elements

Wednesday, 11/17/2010, 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

At the Miele Showroom 1700 Oak Lawn Avenue Suite 200 Dallas, Texas 75207

In many facility types, these requirements are some of the most critical to the users. Significant changes have made certain sections stricter and others less restrictive than the 1991 Standards.

The 1991 Standard allowed six by six and five by seven foot single user toilet rooms. What are the smallest configurations a single user toilet room can have under the new Standards?

How do these requirements compare to the IBC and ICC/ANSI A117.1 Accessibility Standards?

How will these changes affect different facility types?


Session 4 - ADA Standards - Specialized Rooms, Spaces and Elements including Recreation and Residential

Wednesday, 12/1/2010, 12:00 pm - 3:00 pm
(This session may be extended beyond 1 ½ hours)


HALFF Associates Inc. Office (214.346.6200) - 1201 North Bowser Road / Richardson, Texas 75081 - Coordinated by Ms. Joni Caldwell - 214.346.6310

Many new sections covering whole new facility types have been added in the 2010 ADA Standards. Two common facility types no longer have their own sections. Some VERY significant changes and clarifications have been made in those sections that were already included in the 1991 Standards. What has changed and how must those changes be incorporated into new, altered, and existing facilities?

If residential facilities are not (typically) covered by the ADA, why are there new standards for them? How do the covered residential facility types correlate with the ADA transient lodging and Fair Housing requirements?

Significant scoping and technical requirement changes:

Transportation facilities

Assembly areas

Medical care and long-term care facilities

Transient lodging guest rooms

Transportation facilities

Completely new sections:

o Judicial facilities and courtrooms

o Detention and correctional facilities

o Holding and housing cells

o Residential dwelling units and facilities

o Recreational facilities including amusement rides, exercise machines and equipment; boating, fishing, golf and miniature golf facilities, play areas, swimming pools and spas.


Session 5: Overview of Title II and Title III Regulations, Part I

December 8, 2010 12:00-1:30 (Recorded)

At the Miele Showroom 1700 Oak Lawn Avenue Suite 200 Dallas, Texas 75207

Overview of the new rules;

Service animals: Emotional support animals aren't service animals, but what about animals that assist people with psychiatric disabilities?

Segways and service animals: What questions can you ask about either one, and when can you say "no"?

Effective communication: can you use video interpreting services, how, and when? How do the new provisions on automated phone systems and relay calls affect you?

DOJ's separate notices on electronic/web communication, theater captioning/video description, and next generation 9-1-1;

Testing and licensing, with a focus on documentation; and transitioning/ time frames.


Session 6: Overview of Title II and Title III Regulations, Part II

Wednesday Dec. 15, 2010 12:00-1:30 (Recorded)

At the Miele Showroom 1700 Oak Lawn Avenue Suite 200 Dallas, Texas 75207

Overview of the new rules;

New construction and alterations: how these now overlap with barrier removal and program access;

Making sense of the DOJ-drafted provisions in tandem with the Access Board's Guidelines;

New definition of "place of lodging" and implications under both titles (for higher education, shelters, and others);

Hotel reservations, assembly event ticketing and seating;

The new element-by-element safe harbor;

DOJ's notice of its intent to regulate furniture and equipment;

Certification of state codes: if you comply with a code certified before 2010, does it "count"? Should you urge your state to go for certification, under relaxed new procedures? and,

Compliance and enforcement: DOJ can now retain Title II complaints for investigation, rather than sending them to "designated agencies." What are the implications?


Session 7: Planning for the transition and beyond, and using the safe harbors

Wednesday, 12/22/2010, 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm (Recorded)

At the Miele Showroom 1700 Oak Lawn Avenue Suite 200 Dallas, Texas 75207

What should you do first to get to policy compliance within the six month deadline?

Is it time for a do-over? Do you need to do a new or revised self-evaluation, transition plan, or barrier removal plan? If you don't think you have to, should you anyway?

How safe are the "safe harbors" under Title II and Title III? Are you "grandfathered" out?

Is there any advantage to doing barrier removal in the next 6 or 18 months, under the 1991 Standards, versus using the 2010 Standards?

Is this a sleeper provision? They call it "maintenance," but it addresses reducing access below 1991 Standards. How and when are reductions allowed?

What can you learn from the preamble (analysis) and the appendices, with their helpful explanations and drawings? How do they relate to the requirements themselves?

How do you ensure compliance with all applicable laws, including state and local codes and ordinances?

Do the new provisions apply under section 504 too? Or should state and local governments and others who receive federal funds, and federal agencies, continue to follow the 504 rules?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

ADA and Children

In keeping with the theme of my past two posts, children are now part of the ADA.  In the 1991 version of the Amercians with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines, did not have any provisions for children.  So even though facilities were accessible to different disabilities, there were still barriers for children.
In 1994 Texas adopted the Texas Accessibility Standards and added an entire section just for children.  Section 2 of TAS shows how high drinking fountains, water closets, lavatories and grab bars need to be mounted...among other things.  So for the past 16 years, Texas has been designing for children with disabilities.

Now the 2004 ADAAG has several places througout the standards that gives you specific requirement for children.  The ADA Companion Guide shows examples and gives commentary on how the guidelines came to adopt the children's requirements.

Section 102 tells us:

"The technical requirements are based on adult dimensions and anthropometrics. In addition, this
document includes technical requirements based on children’s dimensions and anthropometrics for
drinking fountains, water closets, toilet compartments, lavatories and sinks, dining surfaces, and work

New items that are also scoped for children, is play areas!  Now instead of just requiring an accessible route up to the equipment, the components within the play area will have to comply.  The requirements are lengthy, so we will be more specific in a different post.

Amusement rides are required to be accessible, but there is an exception 234.3 Exception 2 that states if rides are designed for children where adults put them on or take them off do not have to have a separate accessible loading area. But of course, it can be done, as we saw on my last post about Morgan's Wonderland where all can ride indendently.

Besides the scoping for what is required to comply, we also have reach ranges specific for children. Section 308 has a table just for children's reach ranges.

 Drinking fountain requirements for children are found in chapter 6 602.2 Exception which says that children don't have to have a knee space, but can use a parallel approach for the drinking fountain.  The spout must be at 30" a.f.f. and 3 1/2" max from the front edge.

Water closets, toilet compartments, grab bars and dispenser heights for children are found in Section 604.9 and there is a table that we use according to the different age groups.

 Section 606 Lavatories and Sinks states that a knee clearance of 24" min. a.f.f. under a sink for children 6-12 is required.  Rim or counter shall be 31" maximum high.  And children five years old and younger can have a parallel approach.

So when the new ADA is required (March 15, 2012) children will be counted and will be given similar standards than the adults.  Just like the old standards gave more independence and dignity to the adults with disabilities, the new guidelines now give more independence and dignity to our disabled children!

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Universal Amusement Park

I while back I wrote about my very independent three year old who was getting potty trained and wanted to get on the toilet all by himself.  Most of the time I hear "I can do this all by myself".  Frustrating at times, but a huge sense of pride for me as a mom.  Most disabled children feel the same way, and the frustration is typically more than the fact that the parents won't let them, but that they truly can't, given all the obstacles in their way.  Disabled children want to be able to go to school, to the restroom and even to an amusement park and use the facilities independently or at least just be able to get in.  There are many types of disabilities, such as mobility impaired, visually and hearing impaired.  But some that we may not even think of are cognitive and emotional disabilities.  A child with autism also wants to be able to enjoy his or her childhood but may have a hard time doing it in the same places as able bodied children. They may feel scared and confused and ovewhelmed with all the stimuli. 

I typically deal with the disabilities that are written down as part of the ADA and I typically just deal with the built environment when I do my consulting work.  But this weekend my eyes and mind were open to a huge and untapped world!  While at the Texas Society of Architects convention in San Antonio, Texas I was priviliaged to attend one of the tours to a park called "Morgan's Wonderland".  It is an amusement park for children with special needs.  And what an amazing place!!!!  The first thing you notice is that it does not look or feel like it is a "special" amusement park.  It looks like a fun and safe place for all children.  What a treat (the only complaint I had was that when we went the park was closed so I was not able to see how the children enjoyed the park...Next time)

A lot of time was spent in the design and care was taken to be all inclusive.  And they succeeded!  As we toured, the architect Kyle Tostenson from Luna Architecture in San Antonio, explained how they laid out the park for all the different disabilities, making it truly Univesal.  The first stop we made was to the Carousel.  The Carousel was equipped with all kinds of seats for each type of disability.  Of course it had the regular seats, horses, chickens, dragons.  But they also had ones with back support, ones for wheel chairs, and ones that were stationary for those who did not want to go up and down.  It was a wonderful adaptation.  All children can enjoy. 

But beyond the physical impairedness comes the emotional and cognitive impairdness.  For those children who are ovewhelmed by change and too many people, the one's that are autistic, the park decided to purchase a stationary horse that is right outside the carousel.  That horse is out so that the child can experience the carousel and get used to it until he or she is ready to ride the real deal.

The entire park was one impressive experience after the other.  There was fun rides, safe rides, rides that played on the senses, rides that allowed kids to be kids in a safe environment! 

This swing is for wheelchairs.  The wheelchair is placed inside and flaps and chains keep it from falling out

This is a fishing pier at the park.  Notice the different heights of rail which accommodates the children in wheelchairs (and even shorter folks like me ;-) )

This place is a true blessing!  It is not only so well designed that anyone can use it, but it achieves what it set out to do:
             "We wanted a safe place for my child to play"
So the can-do attitude of the owners, architects and builders and their problem solving expertise made a Wonderland for all! 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The 2010 Standards for Accessible Design have finally been published

The final regulations implementing changes to Title II and III Regulations was published today, September 15, 2010 in the Federal Register.

The revised regulations amend the Department's Title II regulation, 28 C.F.R. Part 35, and the Title III regulation, 28 C.F.R. Part 36.

Appendix A to each regulation includes a section-by-section analysis of the rule and responses to public comments on the proposed rule.
Appendix B to the Title III regulation discusses major changes in the ADA Standards for Accessible Design and responds to public comments received on the proposed rules.

Implementation dates:
The final rules will take effect March 15, 2011
• Compliance with the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design is permitted as of September 15, 2010, but NOT REQUIRED until March 15, 2012.

You can access the final rules implementing Title II on the Federal Register Website at: (HTML Version) (PDF Version)

You can access the final rules implementing Title III on the Federal Register Website at: (HTML Version) (PDF Version)

Appendix B to Final Title III Regulation: (Analysis of the 2010 ADA Standards is available at: (HTML Version) (PDF Version)

The US Department of Justice has prepared several fact sheets that discuss the changes to the regulations and they are available as follows:

Highlights of the Final Rule to Amend the Department of Justice's Regulation Implementing Title II of the ADA

Highlights of the Final Rule to Amend the Department of Justice's Regulation Implementing Title III of the ADA

Adoption of the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design

If this is confusing to you, I wrote a guide all about the new guidelines with photographs and commentary check out our book "The ADA Companion Guide" published by John Wiley & Sons. I have a discount code for our subscribers if you visit my website

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Monday, September 6, 2010

How are the ADA guidelines changing?

The new Americans with Disabilities Act has some interesting techical changes. This Blog 
will explain some of the changes.  For a summary of the Scoping changes please read the 
past Blog post

Summary of Technical Changes

Most of the technical guidelines are very similar to the original ADAAG, but there is a few 
minor changes and additions to the entire document.  Below are a few of the changes that 
stood out.

1) In the new techical chapters the main changes is the re-formating to meet the numbersing
 system of the ANSI.  They have grouped sections together that make more sense, like all
plumbing fixtures under chapter 6. 

2) New ranges where originally being absolute dimensions and lowering the existing ranges 
are two new changes.  For example they lowered the maximum height for side reaches from
 54 to 48 inches (308.3.1)


3) Chapter 4 eliminates the texture and contrasting color for the curb ramps.  This issue is being
addressed by the Department of Justice and will have new ruling from that agency.  They also 
are requiring a 36" landing on top and bottom of the ramp.
landing at ramp

4) The parking spaces and access aisle for vans has been changed so that instead of the van 
accessible aisle to be 96" wide, now it is 5'-0" but the van space is 132" wide.
5) They added a range to the distance for water closets from the wall to their center line and 
made it 16"-18". 
6)The clear floor space at water closets is now only allowed to be 5'-0" wide x 56" min. It can 
no longer share space with a lavatory.
7) Childrens heights for water closets were added

child wc

8) Urinals now have to be 13 1/2" in depth to its rim from the mounting surface.


9) An exception allows for a parallel approach at kitchen sinks if there is no cook top or range. 

break room

10) Signage now has a range for mounting heights from 48" to 60" and an 18" clear floor 
space centered on the sign is required.

For more information on the changes, The ADA Companion Guide is a comprehensive 
explanation of the new ADAAG.

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