Monday, April 11, 2011

We Moved!

Dear Abadi Accessbility News Blog followers,

My Blog has a new home!  We look forward to you visiting and staying a while.  And feel free to subscribe to our feed and share with others!  Thank you for reading

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Making true sustainable spaces by making it Universal

I'm presenting a seminar at the 2011 AIA National convention in New Orleans. The title of my seminar is ADA and Urban Regeneration". I selected that topic to stay within the theme of the convention, but the more I investigated the connection, the more appropriate it became.

Urban Regeneration is the process by which run-down parts of cities, towns or rural neighborhoods improve their social, environmental and economic well-being. Its objective is ato reverse the cycle of exclusion suffered by people in disadvantaged areas, to provide decent homes, good transport links, new jobs and safe, comfortable surroundings. These activities, when taken together, contribute to the growth of sustainable communities and the renewal of the built environment.

So how does the ADA get tied in? A community can be renewed and revitalized by means of environmental changes, sustainable strategies and economic stimulation. But if us as designers forget about our aging population and other disabled patrons, then we are excluding a large portion of our citizens. If buildings cannot be accessed and enjoyed by everyone, then we are not reaching its potential. It is not by accident that the word regeneration is made up of "generation". It should be all generations that enjoy our spaces. The ADA allows this to happen by giving us good guidelines to follow.

Urban Sidewalks
As part of thinking of how best to create a built environment that is universal, which is inclusive of the able-bodied community as well as the disabled community, urban sidewalks are one of the first issues to resolve.
As pedestrian ways deteriorate, they create hazards for the wheelchair users as well as for the visually impaired. This sidewalk has a larger change in level than the required ¼" which prevents wheelchairs from being able to go over the bump, and could be a tripping hazard for others.

The way to fix this deficiency would be to repair the sidewalk to meet all the sloping requirements. This is one of the considerations required when renovating a public sidewalk and accessible route.

Urban Entrances

In an urban setting, the entrances to shops and other establishments along the pedestrian way, must also be accessible.

In this entrance the ramp is too steep, and does not have the proper landing at the door. This would cause the wheelchair user to slide down before he could open the door, that is if they were even able to get up the ramp to reach the door.

The solution would be to rebuild the ramp so it will have a 1:12 slope maximum and a 5'-0" landing at the door. The ramp could be placed on the side of the building reather than the front. If the rise is more than 6" then handrails on both sides will be required.  If some existing spaces are not able to have a 1:12 ramp, the new Standards allow for a steeper slope

Universal design and ADA allows for inclusion.  Buildings can be sustainable but if they don’t allow access to all then it fails at its goal.  The goal for regeneration is to utilize spaces for generations to come.  The ADA allows this to happen by giving us good guidelines to follow.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How do architects deal with "head knockers" under stairs?

A common design feature in many commercial lobbies are grand stair cases.  Many times, the grand stair is open on all sides, to feature its structural beauty.  Grand stairs are typically curved or done in a way that it gives the lobby a sense of elegance.
One thing architects and designers don’t think about is what happens with their visually impaired patrons who will not see the back of the stair?  The open structure below the stair is a design feature, but because a blind person who uses a cane to find their way around will only detect an object that is mounted lower than 27” , the stair treads that are above 27” and below 80” will be a hazard since they are not detectable. 

A client of mine called them “head knockers”.  I thought that was pretty appropriate.  Architects and designers are problem solvers. They love a challenge, especially when it comes to being creative with a solution to a possible design issue.  There are many ways that I’ve seen these head knockers get resolved.  Below are just a few of the one’s that I have seen. 

This stair does not have a cane detection element, so it is a hazard to my poor husband, oops, I mean poor man that is running into it

Some designers use planters

Some don't want to call attention to the cane detection barrier rail , so they use a curb instead.  This one is 4" tall.  Although this is technically cane detectable it is not detectable by distracted people who could trip on it

Putting furniture is not a good solution, since it can be moved

At a retail store, placing the back of the stair where there is no circulation path could work

A simple and elegant rail that mimicks the design of the stair

This one is at the University of North Texas and the rail is a nice green and white which are their school colors.  Very spirited
This was a good attempt with low fixed bench type seating.  The problem with this one is that is still open and able to be accessed by a blind person who would not detect the barriers on either side of the open stair.

In general, this type of issue could be a great opportunity for great designers to solve.....  

Sunday, March 13, 2011

When hotels "leave the light on for you"

The 2010 Accessibility Standards modified the provisions for transient lodging.  The changes did not only occurr in the technical standards, but also in the Department of Justice requirements for hotels and other transient lodging facilities.

The Department of Justice made the following additions to the 2004 ADAAG regarding transient lodging:

(1) Facilities that are subject to the same permit application on a common site that each have 50 or fewer guest rooms may be combined for the purposes of determining the required number of accessible rooms and type of accessible bathing facility

(2) Facilities with more than 50 guest rooms shall be treated separately for the purposes of determining the required number of accessible rooms and type of accessible bathing facility

(3) Alterations to guest rooms in places of lodging that are condos and not owned by the facility owner are not required to comply

• Housing at a place of education.

Housing at a place of education are considered transient lodging. The term "sleeping room" is intended to be used interchangeably with the term "guest room". This also includes kitchens within housing units with multiple rooms. Some exceptions are:

o Apartments or townhouse facilities that are provided by or on behalf of a place of education, which are leased on a year-round basis exclusively to graduate students or faculty, and do not contain any public use or common use areas available for educational programming, are not subject to the transient lodging standards

• Social service center establishments.

Group homes, halfway houses, shelters, or similar social service center establishments that provide either temporary sleeping accommodations or residential dwelling units shall comply.

(1) In sleeping rooms with more than 25 beds covered by this part, a minimum of 5% of the beds shall have clear floor space

(2) Facilities with more than 50 beds that provide common use bathing facilities shall provide at least one roll-in shower with a seat. Transfer-type showers are not permitted in lieu of a roll-in shower with a seat. When separate shower facilities are provided for men and for women, at least one roll-in shower shall be provided for each group.

• Reservations Made by Places of Lodging.

o procedures that will allow individuals with disabilities to make reservations for accessible guest rooms during the same hours and in the same manner as other guests,

o and requirements that will require places of lodging to identify and describe accessible features of a guest room,

o to hold back the accessible guest rooms for people with disabilities until all other guest rooms of that type have been rented,

o and to ensure that a reserved accessible guest room is removed from all reservations systems so that it is not inadvertently released to someone other than the person who reserved the accessible room.

• Timeshares, Condominium Hotels, and Other Places of Lodging. The rule provides that timeshare and condominium properties that operate like hotels are subject to new Standards. If the condo is owned by a private person and not the operator of the place of lodging, then it is exempted.

Changes to the Technical Requirements for Transient Lodging
In the 2010 Standards, the section specific to Transient Lodging are 224 for scoping and 806 for the technical requirements. Below are a few of the changes to the technical requirements.

206.5.3 Transient Lodging Facilities. In transient lodging facilities, entrances, doors, and doorways providing user passage into and within guest rooms that are not required to provide mobility features complying with 806.2 shall comply with 404.2.3.

Advisory 224.1 General. Certain facilities used for transient lodging, including time shares, dormitories, and town homes may be covered by both these requirements and the Fair Housing Amendments Act. The Fair Housing Amendments Act requires that certain residential structures having four or more multi-family dwelling units, regardless of whether they are privately owned or federally assisted, include certain features of accessible and adaptable design according to guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This law and the appropriate regulations should be consulted before proceeding with the design and construction of residential housing.

224.5 Dispersion. Guest rooms required to provide mobility features complying with 806.2 and guest rooms required to provide communication features complying with 806.3 shall be dispersed among the various classes of guest rooms, and shall provide choices of types of guest rooms, number of beds, and other amenities comparable to the choices provided to other guests. Where the minimum number of guest rooms required to comply with 806 is not sufficient to allow for complete dispersion, guest rooms shall be dispersed in the following priority: guest room type, number of beds, and amenities. At least one guest room required to provide mobility features complying with 806.2 shall also provide communication features complying with 806.3. Not more than 10 percent of guest rooms required to provide mobility features complying with 806.2 shall be used to satisfy the minimum number of guest rooms required to provide communication features complying with 806.3.

806.2.1 Living and Dining Areas. Living and dining areas shall be accessible.

806.2.2 Exterior Spaces. Exterior spaces, including patios, terraces and balconies, that serve the guest room shall be accessible.

806.2.3 Sleeping Areas. At least one sleeping area shall provide a clear floor space complying with 305 on both sides of a bed. The clear floor space shall be positioned for parallel approach to the side of the bed.

806.2.4 Toilet and Bathing Facilities. At least one bathroom that is provided as part of a guest room shall comply with 603. No fewer than one water closet, one lavatory, and one bathtub or shower shall comply with applicable requirements of 603 through 610. In addition, required roll-in shower compartments shall comply with 608.2.2 or 608.2.3. Toilet and bathing fixtures required to comply with 603 through 610 shall be permitted to be located in more than one toilet or bathing area, provided that travel between fixtures does not require travel between other parts of the guest room.

806.2.4.1 Vanity Counter Top Space. If vanity counter top space is provided in non-accessible guest toilet or bathing rooms, comparable vanity counter top space, in terms of size and proximity to the lavatory, shall also be provided in accessible guest toilet or bathing rooms.

806.3.2 Notification Devices. Visible notification devices shall be provided to alert room occupants of incoming telephone calls and a door knock or bell. Notification devices shall not be connected to visible alarm signal appliances. Telephones shall have volume controls compatible with the telephone system and shall comply with 704.3. Telephones shall be served by an electrical outlet complying with 309 located within 48 inches (1220 mm) of the telephone to facilitate the use of a TTY.

Remeber that March 15, 2011 is when the new Standards become effective. They will be mandatory on March 15, 2012.

If you want to learn more about the new Standards, The ADA Companion Guide has the 2004 Guidelines with commentary and explanations throughout.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Help support service animal training

I have a great friend and colleague who spends her spare time training service dogs for people who are visually impaired.  She does it for the Southeastern Guide Dogs.  Suzanne Branch, owner of LUM, is the main trainer and has been doing it for 11 years.  I went out to eat once with her when she was training her dog.  It is incredible.  These dogs are so obedient and smart and my friend is so brilliant that she can train them to help the disabled get around.  And in order to be a trainer she has to keep the doggies from when they are puppies and raised them for a few years and then "graduates" them and turns them over to their new owner.  That in itself must be extremely difficult because you get so attached to the dogs.

Needless to say, they require food, vet visits and many more things which need funding.  Visit her blog and see how you can help! 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Do you have a transition plan into the 2010 Accessibility Standards?

Next month the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design will become effective. What does that mean to us as designers, building owners and builders? What happens in States that don’t use the ADA as their accessibility guidelines? What happens to existing facilities?

For new construction and alterations beginning (i.e. submitted for permit) on or after March 15, 2012, a covered public or private entity must comply with the 2010 Standards for new construction and alterations.
If construction or alterations start before March 15, 2012, you have a choice of following the 1991 or 2010 Standards. If construction or alteration might not start before March 15, 2012 (e.g., for a new project that is in the design stage), it will be safest to use the 2010 Standards for that project.

How do you decide which one to use?

You may want to consider the type of building and the types of alterations you contemplate before the compliance date. For example, an auditorium or theater with tiered seating have to follow less stringent requirements under the 2010 Standards (in some respects) than under the 1991 Standards.

If you alter a single-user toilet room, in many cases the 2010 Standards would require increased floor space compared to the 1991 Standards.

During the transition, you can't choose to follow one standard for part of a building and another standard for another part. In other words, all alterations to a building during the transition (from March 15, 2011, to March 14, 2012) must follow the one standard you choose.

What happens in a State that does not use the ADA as their accessibility guidelines?

One purpose of the 2010 Standards was to harmonize the federal requirements with state requirements. In about half the states, new construction and alterations already have to comply with a state code that is very similar to the 2010 Standards.

If you are in a state that has adopted the 2003 or 2006 International Building Code (including the accessibility standards of the American National Standards Institute, A117.1-2003), then when you build to your state requirements, you will be following most of the federal requirements already. But you will also need to follow the additional requirements that DOJ has issued "beyond" 2004 ADAAG.  These are found in the 28 CFR Chapter 36 Subpart D

In Texas, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation is reviewing the 2010 Standards to determine the next course of action. They are speculations that they will adopt the 2010 Standards and make it the Texas Standards at the same time as the Federal Standards. We will keep you posted as we find out. Until such time, designers will have to design to the State guidelines and use the more strict interpretation if conflicting with the 2010 Standards. 

What happens in existing buildings?

Both the 1991 and 2010 Standards generally require that when existing elements and spaces of a facility are altered, the alterations comply with new construction requirements. If there is an existing facility that meets the 1991 Guideline requirements, then The 2010 Regulations provide a "safe harbor" for those elements. Those elements do not have to be modified in order to meet the 2010 Standards, just for barrier removal purposes. You should document your compliance as to those elements, before March 15, 2012.

An element that does not comply with the alterations provisions of the Standards for that element is considered a "barrier." For example, a typical round knob on a door that should be accessible would be a barrier because it requires tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist to operate, contrary to the provisions of the Standards.  These must be removed as are readily achievable, but all non compliant items from 1991 should be fixed prior to March 15, 2012.

Another opportunity to remove barriers is when there is an alteration of an area containing a primary function.  Then you are required to not only make the new elements comply, but the path of travel to the altered area including the restrooms, drinking fountains and telephones that serve the altered area.  If those upgrades exceed 20% of the original construction cost, the Department of Justice considers this disproportinate and will allow you to defer the upgrades that are beyond 20%.  But they do want you to prioritize as follows:

1) An accessible entrance
2) An accessible route to the altered area
3) An accessible restroom for each sex
4) Accessible telephones
5) Accessible drinking fountains
6) Additional element such as parking, storage and alarms

What happens in buildings for which there were no standards before 2010 (that is, where the 2010 Standards establish specific requirements for the first time)

The safe harbor does not apply to elements for which there are no standards in the 1991 Standards, such as residential facilities and dwelling units, play areas, and swimming pools. DOJ lists these in the 2010 Regulation at section 36.304(d) (2)(iii)

Because of the new requirements, one of your top priorities during the transition to 2012 should be to evaluate those types of facilities and bring them up to the 2010 Standards by March 15, 2012, if they need to be accessible as part of program accessibility.  These will become part of the "barrier removal" as it is readily achievable to remove.

This is a good time to re-evaluate or update the self-evaluations and transition plans. A self-evaluation lays out your assessment of programs and whether physical changes need to be made to facilities. A transition plan states what buildings or facilities will be modified, how, and when, and names the people responsible for implementing the plan.

These tips highlight certain provisions of DOJ’s ADA regulations and do not constitute legal advice. The regulations and other DOJ materials can be found online at

Updated list for Accessibility Guidelines

One of my clients asked me yesterday why isn't there just one accessibility standard rather than having so many to follow....If I knew the answer to that I could probably cause Peace on earth....
But alas, since there are so many all I can do is help you to figure out which standard to use when.
Remember that March 15, 2011 is when the new 2010 Standards will become effective and States will have to adopt them (or not) by March 15, 2012 when they will be mandatory.

ADA Standards

The ADA applies to facilities in the private sector (places of public accommodation and commercial facilities) and to state and local government facilities. Standards issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) apply to all ADA facilities except transportation facilities, which are subject to standards maintained by the Department of Transportation (DOT). DOJ is in the process of adopting new ADA standards, and further information on this update is available on DOJ’s website . DOT has adopted new ADA standards which apply to bus stops, rail stations, and other transportation facilities.

For commercial facilities and places of public accommodations in the private sector use The 2010 Standards for Accessible Design with ADA scoping

For State and Local Government Facilities (except transportation facilities) use the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design with Title II requirements, unless the municipality requires ANSI and therefore you will need to use both.   Although the new Standards are almost identical to ANSI.

The ADA Standards for Transportation Facilities deal with Transportation Facilities

ABA Accessibility Standards

The ABA applies to federally funded facilities. The General Services Administration (GSA) updated its ABA standards, which apply to most facilities covered by the ABA. Similar standards have been adopted by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) for postal facilities and by the Department of Defense for military facilities. The Department of Housing (HUD) is in the processing of updating its ABA standards, which apply to federally funded residential facilities.

For Federal Facilities (other than postal, housing, and military facilities)  use the GSA's AB Standards

For Postal Services facilities use the USPS ABA Accessibility Standards (also known as the RE-4 Standards)

For Military facilities use the Department of Defense ABA Accessibility Standards

Federally funding Housing use  UFAS (but in the new standards this will be replaced by HUD's standards)

State and Local  Accessibility Standards
Even though the 2010 Standards is a Federal law, each State and local municipality is allowed to adopt this or any other accessibility standard also.  The Access Board has a list of all the States and what Accessibility Standards they adopted

Note: A few friends on LinkedIn have sent me these corrections:

The Connecticut information listed is obsolete. The correct information is as follows:
Access Code- 2003 International Building Code Portion of the 2005 State Building Code of Connecticut- as amended on 2009 )

Washington State's code listing on the Access Board site is obsolete as well. WA has adopted the 2006 IBC/2003 ANSI and will shift to 2009 IBC/2003 ANSI in late July.

Multi-Family housing
The Housing and Urban Development office of the Federal Government has developed the Fair Housing Act Section 504 that deals with the discrimination of people with disabilities as it pertains to their renting or owning an apartment or dwellling unit.  There is a great handbook that they created that shows you graphically how to apply the Fair Housing Act Section 504
Public Rights of Way

Sidewalks, street crossings, and other elements of the public rights-of-ways present unique challenges to accessibility for which specific guidance is considered essential. The Board is developing new guidelines for public rights-of-way that will address various issues, including access for blind pedestrians at street crossings, wheelchair access to on-street parking, and various constraints posed by space limitations, roadway design practices, slope, and terrain. The new guidelines will cover pedestrian access to sidewalks and streets, including crosswalks, curb ramps, street furnishings, pedestrian signals, parking, and other components of public rights-of-way. Here is the draft of those standards Public Rights-of-way

There are others that are covered by the guidelines like parks, outdoor recreation facilities, prisons and more.  Check out the Access Board's website  and the ADA's website for more information

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Blind Design Paradox by William J. Martin, WJM Architect

I found this on Twitter @wjmarchitect

This Blog deliberately reduced the aesthetic factor to visual aesthetics to make a point. The paradox is useful since many people tend to think of aesthetics as derived only from visual beauty.

Designing for the visually impaired has obvious implications for the aesthetic factor. Designing a successful object or building is, in many cases, heavily dependent upon visual aesthetic. The Paradox of a designed building not needing a visual aesthetic, highlights the concept of "Appropriate Balance". The visually impaired building user is unable to appreciate the visual aesthetic and beauty in a visual aesthetic design factor. Focusing in on creating only visual beauty of form in this situation is not appropriate and is theoretically not relevant from the perspective of the building user.

By separating the visual aesthetics from the other two factors, the "Blind Design Paradox" takes the focus off of the visual beauty of design and highlights the important role of balancing all three factors.

Visual aesthetics alone does NOT constitute good design. The underlying point of this example demonstrates the role of the "Equilibrium of Appropriate Balance" when all three factors in the design interact.

In the "Blind Design Paradox", the "Appropriate Balance" between the factors is achieved not through visual beauty, but through the textural and acoustic design of architectural elements. In fact, the space could be visually unaesthetic, poorly proportioned, and devoid of any light or color. These normally important aspects of design are theoretically not important to a visually impaired building user since they cannot be visually perceived.

The visually impaired building user appreciates the beauty, not visually, but through the textures and acoustics of architectural elements while utilizing the function of the spaces designed for them.

The "Aesthetics Factor" is affected by refining it as the beauty of the physical texture and acoustical properties of the materials selected by the designer to create the aesthetic and balance the functional and economic requirements. In this example the primary effort is not put into creating the visual beauty of form. This factor utilizes tactile and acoustic beauty to create the aesthetics of the design.

The "Functions Factor" is affected by the design of space that needs to make use of material textures not visual material appearance. An example of this is flooring texture to communicate room type and function, wall textures to assist users in locating and orienting themselves, and even acoustic cues designed into the building. This factor considers the functional purpose of the building to make it perform for the visually impaired building user and balance with the aesthetic and economic factors.

This is an example of the Armor Tile product called Advantage One
The "Economics Factor" is affected by the re-allocating of economic resources to obtain the appropriate diversity of textured materials and acoustic cues necessary to realize the design and accomplish a balance with the function and aesthetic factors. This factor considers the reasonable availability of these materials or whether new materials or technologies will need to be developed. This should also reasonably consider the economic means of the user as defined by the resources allocated to accomplish the construction of the design.

It is important to understand that even in this theoretical example, the Formal Aesthetic Factor is not eliminated or even decreased in importance. It has shifted from visual beauty to tactile and acoustic beauty and still must be balanced with the other factors to achieve equilibrium and maximize the "Econo-functional Aesthetic Balance". If the Three Factors are appropriately balanced the equilibrium created will transcend the sum of its parts. This creates architectural beauty that is far more profound.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Ed Roberts Day

This Blog post was copied from the blog Posted by Diana Z. on Jan 23, 2011 5:38:40 PM in Community Life

Ed Roberts was an international leader and educator in the independent living and disability rights movements. He was the first student with significant disabilities to attend the University of California at Berkeley, and the first person with a disability to serve as director of the California Department of Rehabilitation. Roberts was a co-founder of the World Institute on Disability. In designating every January 23 as “Ed Roberts Day” Congress acknowledges the accomplishments Roberts made in helping reduce barriers, increase access and improve the lives of persons with disabilities across the country.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Abadi Accessibility News in Review

As the year 2010 comes to a close and 2011 begins, I wanted to share the hightlights of our Blog and our little company.  For those who don't know me so well, I'm an architect who has a passion for accessibility and to help designers and building owners incorporate the ADA guidelines and standards within their designs.  So I developed this Blog to share information with you!

So here is how 2010 developed....

January: Started out the year busy,, inspections, assessments, seminars, newsletter, blog, LinkedIn groups, learning twitter, facebook and networking! 

February: Was asked to be part of a book by my friend Tabitha Ponte called "To Become An Architect: A guide, mostly for women).  This is an excellent guide and all the proceeds go to the Women In Architecture Fund which allows young women to pursue their dream to be an architect!

March: Got interviewed by Joseph Blythe on BlogTalk Radio on how I use Twitter as one of my marketing tools

April: "The ADA Companion Guide: Understanding the 2004 ADAAG" was published by Wiley and Sons.  It was my first book and a culmination of the work I've been doing for the past 8 years!

June: Went to the AIA convention in Miami and was blown away by all the great speakers, including Daniel Pink who is not an architect but inspired us to design for greatness.  There I met Tabitha Ponte in person!

July: Celebrated the ADA's 20th anniversary.  We organized an awesome ADA Awareness day which was filled with speakers, tours and case studies throughtout the day!  We also found out that the 2004 ADA had been adopted!

August: Presented at METROCON10 for interior designers in Dallas Texas.  We learned more about the new ADA and what is coming up in the next 2 years. And was interviewed by Travis Blythe on CelebrityURadio

September: The 2010 ADA Standards was published by the Department of Justice and we had 18 months to implement the changes.  We are looking forward to making those standards more clear!

October: I presented at the Texas Society of Architects convention in San Antonio about the new ADA. There were 450 architects in my class!  I was so honored that all of them came, and the feedback was also great!   Got to present also with my good friends Jamie Crawley, Bob Borson and Laura Davis about Architects and Social Media! And I got to meet Cameron Sinclair and hear about his awesome organization Architects for Humanity

November and December: Spent time with family and rang in the new year with the renewed hope that a great year is about to begin!

Happy New Year!!!!