Friday, May 21, 2010

The 2010 AIA/HUD Secretary award for housing accessibility!

I just read that the AIA and HUD has awarded the Madrona Work/Live project by Tyler Engle Architects the 2010 AIA/HUD Secretary Alan J. Rothman Award for Housing Accessility

Here is what the website article reads:

A storefront from the early 1900’s has been converted into a live / work space for a couple with an extensive art collection. Creating the modern equivalent of the traditional courtyard house, the new design is centered on a large skylight over the living and dining room. Inspired by a shipping container, a wood-clad service core houses the kitchen and powder room. A flexible and multi-functional space is facilitated by large pocket doors, steel plate blinders that hide the kitchen and concealed equipment that pivots out for use.

Like the client whose personality makes the obviousness of his disability disappear, so was the intent to make the design of this project the primary focus rather than the requirements of accessibility. Entering from the sidewalk, the main living space has a single level polished concrete slab for unrestricted wheelchair access. However, the office is raised up four steps to be flush with the sidewalk at the rear of the site to satisfy the client’s desire to “commute to work” around the perimeter of the building. A floating concrete countertop that steps from low to high accommodates disparate height requirements of the clients and exemplifies how the design provides an elegant solution on a tight construction budget.

Some of the Jury comments were:

This project transcends our preconceptions about accessible design and illustrates how Universal Design can be embodied in a design solution that is attractive and usable to a wide audience.

While small scale, this project evidences how accessibility and high quality design can go hand in hand.
(one of the jurors was an old professor of mine at UT Austin- Natalye Appel!)

On a personal note, I am proud that the AIA is recognizing projects for their outstanding accessibility!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Lighthouse for the Blind

When most people think of the Americans with Disabilities Act they automatically think of wheelchair users.  The guidelines written in the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) have several sections and chapters that illustrate the rules on how to make facilities and buildings more accessible for people with mobility impairments.  From the accessible parking spaces, to ramps, to elevators, to low curbs, and many other guidelines.  But there are several other disabilities that are addressed in the ADA.

Visually impairement is addressed in the ADA in several chapters and sections as well.  From requiring Braille at signs, shallow protrusions from the wall, no hazards along the circulation path, detectable warnings at ramps and other vehicular hazard areas just to name a few.  Visually impaired people are taught several ways to manuever around their envioronemnt with their disability.  Our society has come such a long way in this arena.

There are approximately 42,000 blind or visually impaired individuals living in the North Texas region according to the most recent U.S. Census data. More than 50% of those individuals are seeking gainful employment and a chance to live a productive and independent life.  In Dallas, Texas, the Lighthouse for the Blind was established in 1931 (several years before the ADA got passed).  They have been providing opportunities and assistance to visually impaired individuals for more than 75 years. they enhance the lives and opportunities of their clients through job training, employment, and a multitude of community services. The visually impaired clients they work with lead successful lives in their workplace, at home, and in their community.  Their guiding principle is the belief that with knowledge, training and motivation, people who are visually impaired can succeed and thrive in any workplace, live productive and meaningful lives, and be important contributors to their communities

An architectural note: The building was designed by prominent architect Goeoge Dahl in 1968.  It is a one-story building that is primarily factory uses but quite interesting – the exterior walls are white articulated precast panels; this was an early use of precast and was nicely done. The portion of the building that faces Capital Ave also contains a clerestory, providing an abundance of natural light into the working area. The interesting and thoughtful stair/ramp out front (facing Capital Street) was added later (1987) by Dahl Braden PTM. credit: Marcel Quimby, FAIA

They invite everyone to their Free open house so you can see this great building and appreciate their program.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The ADA from a Lawyer's perspective

I purchased a book two weeks ago, called Understanding the Americans with Disabilities Act, 3rd Edition by Willam D. Goren (published by the American Bar Association). I was expecting it to be about Title III (design and constuction of commercial facilities and places of public accommodations). But as it turned out it was about the Civil Rights law of the ADA written by a lawyer who is deaf but with hearing aids and lip reading functions entirely in the hearing world. How interesting. He cites cases and examples on how law suits come about in the ADA arena. I was so impressed that I asked him to be a guest blogger for Abadi Accessibility News. here is what he had to say:

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to "places of public accommodations." A place of public accommodation can be any of 12 different categories including:

1) places of lodging;
2) establishments serving food and drink;
3) places of exhibition and entertainment;
4) places of public gathering, such as a Museum or library;

5) sales or rental establishments;
6) service establishments;
7) specified public transportation, such as terminals and depots;
8) public display or collection;
9) places of recreation (parks, etc.);

10) places of education;
11) social service center; and
12) places of exercise or recreation (athletic in nature) (42 U.S.C.A. § 12181(7)).

The list is not meant to be exclusive the rather sets forth the examples. What is interesting about title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act is that the only remedies available are injunctive relief, attorneys fees, and the court, in its discretion, can impose civil penalties.(42 U.S.C.A. § 12188; 28 C.F.R. § 36.504).

Nevertheless, there has been substantial litigation with title III of the ADA over the years. A hot issue today is whether a business that has an Internet site must have its Internet site accessible to persons with disabilities. I wrote an article in the DuPage County Bar Journal, The Brief, about it and here is the link In short, if you do have a website, you would do well to make sure that it is accessible to people with disabilities (people who use voice dictation technology, screen readers, etc.) when you investigate that, you will find that ensuring that it is accessible to people with disabilities is not going to be nearly as expensive or as hard to accomplish as you think.

William D. Goren, J. D. LL.M., is currently an Instructor and the Paralegal Program Coordinator at South Suburban College in South Holland, Illinois with a campus in Oak Forest as well, where he teaches business law, evidence, legal research and writing, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. He is also the author of the book, Understanding the Americans With Disabilities Act, now in its Third Edition, from the American Bar Association In addition to his books, he is a frequent presenter and also the author of numerous articles, most but not all of which pertain to the rights of persons with disabilities. His latest articles have appeared in the DuPage County Bar Journal (The Brief), and the Illinois State Bar Association publication, Diversity Matters. When he is not teaching, he consults ( ), including but not limited to providing expert witness services and educational programming on the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 as amended and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Mr. Goren is a licensed attorney in both Illinois and Texas. He received his B.A. from Vassar College, his J.D. from the University of San Diego, and his LL.M. in Health Law from Depaul University.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Accessible Parking Webinar

The ADA Conference Center gave a class on new accessible parking guidelines. It was very well done. Here is the seminar in a .pdf

If you want to attend the next one check out this link

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Accessibility in a Retail Clothing Store

Commercial facilities are places where commerce takes place, such as retail stores. They are one of the two types of projects that are mentioned in Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act as having to comply with the Design Guidelines. In the Guidelines, there isn't one chapter which talks directly about commercial facilities, or retail spaces. You have to piece it together from various sections. This newsletter will discuss a clothing store to show which sections it must adhere to.

Clothes Rods

In storage closets that are used by the public and are not part of a work are, clothes rods are required to be provided within a reach range as shown in Figure 38 below.

But in a clothing store that has clothes rods throughout, this requirement does not apply...

4.1.3(12)(b) Shelves or display units allowing self-service by customers in mercantile occupancies shall be located on an accessible route complying with 4.3. Requirements for accessible reach range do not apply.

Dressing Rooms

Dressing rooms in the ADAAG are covered in section 4.35. Dressing rooms in retail stores are not only the place where dressing rooms are found, but here is the summary of the requirements of an accessible dressing room in a retail store per ADA 4.35.

1. An accessible dressing room with a sliding or swing door requires a 180 degree turning circle inside.
2. A dressing room requires a fixed bench.
3. The door cannot swing into the clear floor space of the dressing room.
4. And if a mirror is provided, then a full length mirror needs to be provided as well.

The dressing room shown in the picture, does not meet any of the requirements. The door swings in, there is no 180 degree turning space and no fixed bench. But if they changed the door to a curtain, then the requirement for turning does not apply.

"...Turning space shall not be required in a private dressing room entered through a curtained opening at least 32 in (815mm) wide if clear floor space complying with section 4.2 renders the dressing room usable by a person using a wheelchair."

All the other provisions (i.e. bench, mirrors, etc.) are still required even if you don't have a door.

Check out counters/registers

Section 7 Business and Mercantile discusses sales counters. Department stores and retail stores have requirements for their counters that have a cash register used for sales. At least one of each type of counter shall have a counter 36" long, at 36" high a.f.f. Depth is not specified, but in Texas they recommend 12" minimum. These should be dispersed and be on an accessible route.

There are some instances when an "equivalent Facilitation" may be allowed if it proves to be an equal or better accessible solution.  Some examples would be folding check writing counters, or sliding counters which allow for the main counter to be higher and the accessible surface temporily put away until required.