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.