Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ten Tips for Accessibility Design

Below are ten tips that I've given to my clients to assist them  in desiging for accessibility.

Before you begin your design, make sure you are aware which code you are required to follow based on the City you are designing in. (for example, some Municipalities requires ANSI vs. ADA) Click here to see which Code has been adopted by State.  Remember that you have to use the most stringent between ADA and whatever other code/guidelines your municipality is using.

It is smart to have a checklist so you don't forget some part of the puzzle.  The ADA has a checklist that you can follow for assessments and design process. 

When given a range, don’t use the lowest or tallest number. Give yourself some tolerances for construction imperfections. For example, a handrail can be between 34” and 38”, so a 36” tall handrail is acceptable.

When designing toilet rooms, keep in mind what finishes will be on the wall. If the water closet must be 18” away from the finished wall, ceramic tile is sometimes 3/8” thick which can throw off the required clearances.

Remember that in a toilet room, a door cannot swing into the clear floor space of an accessible fixture, but clear floor spaces of fixtures can overlap each other. And the door swing can overlap the required turning space. There is an exception given in Texas and in ANSI for single user restrooms. Click here for the Technical Memo

When designing storage rooms, keep in mind that if a person in a wheel chair can enter the room and close the door behind them, then they must be able to turn around and go back out. In cases where the storage room is 48” deep (allowing a wheel chair front access), try to either swing the door in so they can’t close it once they are inside; or create shelving that will make the room shallower and therefore will not create the ability to stay stuck inside.

Most places in a facility that are used by more than one employee at a time, or by patrons or visitors to the facility are required to be accessible and meet the requirements of the Guidelines.  This includes employee non-work areas like storage closets, restrooms, and break rooms.  The mistake I see often is that most people believe that the ADA is only for non-employees.  In reality, comon use spaces that are also accessed by employees  must comply.

Employee work areas only have the requirement to be able to be approached, entered and exited.  Everything else within the work area are exempted.  For example sinks that are in work areas (per ADA 4.1.3) are not required to have knee clearances for wheel chairs. Break Rooms are not considered work areas, therefore do require the knee clearance. Sinks and Lavatories have different requirements for knee clearances. Be aware that the knee clearance below sinks is 27” and below lavatories is 29” below their respective aprons.

Break rooms are not considered work areas (that is where you take a "break" from work, therefore do require the knee clearance.

In Texas, TAS does not allow any person to wheel themselves behind parked cars. When possible, allow for an accessible route in front of the cars. A person in a wheelchair is lower than the driver's visual range and if they are wheeling behind a parked car, the driver may not see them if they are backing up.

Also, if there are any objects that are along the circulation path that are placed higher than 27" above the ground, they must not project more than 4" from the wall into the circulation path.  Visually impaired people will not detect the object and could hurt themselves.

In an alteration of an area containing a primary function the existing parking, accessible route, restrooms, drinking fountains and telephones must be brought up to compliance with ADA.  This is not always part of the scope of work of the remodel, but nevertheless must become part of the total scope if it's not already compliant

Note: ADA has a 20% rule, which allows a deference of compliance if the amount of money required to fix the non-compliance items exceeds the total cost of the project by 20%.

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Anonymous said...

Great advice. This categorizes 90% of violations.

Anonymous said...

I have been frustrated by the variations that have been approved in the city where I work. In one building the kitchen is not accessible (no knee clearance under the sink) and passed all inspections and another building the owner was told the sink must be accessible. I have read the codes and even spoken to RAS in the area, so there should not be variations. However, it is sad that the codes you must adhere to depend on the RAS doing the inspection. (I'm in Texas)

by Marcela Abadi Rhoads said...

Dear Anonymous in Texas,
I hear and feel your frustration! I feel the same way when I do inspections and then they tell me that another RAS said it wasn't one when it clearly was...there are some things that are vague and hard to understand. Knee spaces at a non-work area is currently a black and white issue...now the gray area is what is a work area in terms of the facility and I always tell them to put it in writing. Who am I to tell them that their area is not a work area. Unless it is a bathroom, I take their word for it.
Also the same goes to religious ritual areas.
I'm not sure how we solve the inconcsistencies with our RAS inspectors. We hope that now that TDLR is requiring CEUs for registration that we will be better educated.
Thanks for the comment