Everyone with a handicap should be free to go where they want and get the service they need without undue effort and time. The civil rights movement of the 1960s did an incredible amount of good helping to open up our society, making areas outside the home like the workplace, schools, and other public places more available to everyone. However, the original gains of that movement still left space for improvement to meet the need of persons with disabilities. After decades of hard work, a huge milestone was achieved on July 26, 1990, when the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) became law.
The ADA prohibits any discrimination against persons with disabilities by ridding areas outside the home free of any barriers. It is divided into five titles and if you have a business and you want to interact with as many customers as possible, Title III is the most relevant because it deals with public accommodations. Titled “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability by Public Accommodations and in Commercial Facilities,” this section of the ADA law established standards to make sure nonresidential spaces are accessible to everyone and general accommodations can be done for people with disabilities.
The ADA standards for accommodations apply to what the law terms public accommodation, defined as a privately owned area that is also open to the public. The list includes restaurants, hotels, theaters, banks, retail stores, doctors’ offices, schools, and other recreational spaces. An employee-only area may not have the same accommodations, but space in your business that is open to all has to truly make reasonable provisions so that a handicap will not bar anyone from access.
Under federal law, private clubs and religious organizations are exempt from ADA compliance. However, the ADA is only one part of handicap law. Many states have their own laws to ensure more stringent standards of accessibility for construction design, such as California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act. For this reason, it may be important to get the help of professionals like contractors who can supervise your property. An ADA contractor can inform you of ways to deal with potential building construction violations.
ADA compliance is enforced through lawsuits and complaints can cost you a great deal of money. Private individuals can build a case in court and report the offending company to the Department of Justice. Civil penalties for ADA violations will be under $55,000 for a first violation or $110,000 for any subsequent violation, and are only charged after efforts at voluntary compliance have proven unsuccessful. Compliance with the law requires only that you make readily achievable modifications to make your facilities and services available to everyone. Experienced ADA contractors can give you remodeling advice to make your property design of more compliant and accessible quality.
The law provides standards around issues that help facilities be more open to the public. Being up to code will help you avoid costly lawsuits, as well as allow your company to expand its customer base. At first, conforming to standards may not seem like the best prospect, but achieving ADA compliance can get easier than you think.
The official ADA website quotes a study commissioned by the Sears Department store. Sears made 436 accommodations between 1978 and 1992. Out of those, 69% had no cost at all, 28% cost less than $1,000, and only 3% cost more than $1,000. There is a general misconception that the job of getting more compliant is expensive. While remodeling a bathroom to make it handicap accessible is definitely not free, federal and state governments often give tax incentives and grants to make the compliance process much easier.
The following is a brief list of construction-related accessibility considerations contractors take note of for building projects:
Parking design is one of the most direct ways in which the ADA shows its influence. If you offer any parking for customers, a certain number of spaces within the shortest possible accessible entrance should be reserved. If your company building is large enough to have multiple entrances, accessible spaces should be dispersed to be close to each entrance.
Accessible parking space should have at least 60 inches of space. Each space should have 5 feet wide access aisles with hatch marks so people will not park in them. The surface of the space must be smooth, stable, and mostly level in all directions to ensure safe use. You must work to ensure that the accessible spaces and routes remain open and in good condition in all kinds of weather conditions. The spaces should be kept clear of snow, ice, or fallen leaves as much as possible. Furthermore, at least 1 in 8 of the total of accessible spaces must be van accessible. A van accessible space should be 11 feet wide, with access aisles adjacent to the passengers’ side.
A complete accessible parking space features a sign, at least five feet off the ground, that includes the International Symbol of Accessibility. Signs for van accessible spaces should include the additional phrase “Van Accessible.”
Each state’s Department of Motor Vehicles is responsible for assessing physical challenges that would necessitate using accessible parking, and issuing permits, consisting of distinctive license plates or placards. Local law enforcement is responsible for responding to unauthorized vehicles parking in accessible spaces.
Within the ADA, there are multiple provisions and standards that affect your entrances to ensure maximum accessibility. As not everyone is able to use stairs, a ramp with a slope of 1:12 must be provided as an alternative and a handrail must be provided if the slope is greater than 5 percent. The minimum width of the ramp is 36 inches, and the ramp can be no longer than 30 feet without a landing.
For the main entrance, there are a variety of door-types from which to choose. Dimensions for the ramp landing vary based on the type of door used and door openings are expected to provide a clear width of at least 32 inches, measuring from the open door to the opposite frame. To ensure a clear motion stepping inside, the door’s threshold must be less than a half-inch off the ground. There should also be at least 18 inches of clear space between the side of the door that swings out, and any obstruction or object in the space. Abiding by these ADA standards will enable individuals with disabilities full access to commercial services.
According to ADA law, a public bathroom needs to be accessible for any handicap. You can choose to include either separate accessible bathrooms, or create accessible stalls within the bathroom, signaled with the International Access Symbol.
Toilets must be 17 to 19 inches high, with a seat that can be easily lifted or put down. Automatic flush control is preferred, or you can put a flusher on the wide side of the stall, no more than 40 inches from the floor. The toilet paper dispenser should be within reach while sitting on the toilet, and no more than 19 inches off the ground.
There must be at least one separate stall that meets a few other specifications. In this stall, the centerline of the toilet must be exactly 18 inches from the side of the toilet to the wall, and with clear space more than 32 inches to the wall. If there are at least 6 stalls, at least one must be further outfitted with parallel grab bars on each side, and an outward swinging, self-closing door.
If there are no stalls, at least one toilet should have grab bars on both sides, with adequate clearing space. Each grab bar should be exactly 33 inches from the floor, and at least 54 inches along the side, and 36 inches long along the back.
ADA compliant sinks should have a clear space of at least 30 by 48 inches, and the counter height should be no more than 34 inches. If there are exposed pipes underneath, make sure they are insulated and that all corners are free of sharp edges to avoid injury. Faucets should be lever or push operated, or sensory controlled/automatic, running for at least 10 seconds.
ADA standards require that persons with disabilities be free to move around even outside a residential area. Persons in wheelchairs should not be restricted from any area open to all. This means you must be sensitive to handicapped needs by reducing clutter, rearranging furniture, and making your aisles wide enough so there are no barriers to access. Generally, the minimum width of a clear aisle must be 32 inches or more to allow a general wheelchair to pass through.
Also related to issues of access within your facilities, you should be aware of the height of any tables, reception, or sales counter, to ensure they are not so high as to restrict anyone from seeing beyond. Generally, there should be a 36 inches long part of the counter that should be between 24 and 34 inches high. Other parts of the counter can be higher, as long as they remain close to the accessible section. If there is an opportunity for customer self-service, the design of the area should avoid making a customer reach deeper than 20 inches, or higher than 44 inches.
The list of disabilities involves sensory impairments. Individuals with low vision or hearing are also protected from exclusion by ADA laws, and so you must find a way to accommodate their needs for alternative means of communication. This need can be met through pictures, written notes, captions, or the presence of a sign language interpreter for the hard-of-hearing. Blind and low-vision can be accommodated through braille or tactile signs, as well as messages that are spoken. Bathroom signs and other building notices need to include braille and standard pictograms.
After the building code and other design functions are taken into consideration, construction projects also need to take the ADA into account. Sometimes, construction is not done to take note of accessibility requirements. That is why it is better to deal with contractors who are pros at ADA compliance. But if you already have an existing establishment, you can always remodel your building to meet handicap-related needs.
Full compliance with the ADA requires a great deal of careful attention to detail and scrupulous concern for making sure every aspect of your business is as open to everyone as possible. ADA Compliance Pros can help your company navigate these regulations by connecting you to contractors to determine readily achievable ways of following this important law. ADA contractors are knowledgeable in construction and accessibility-related regulations that your present contractor might be particularly expert with. Today, it is best to ensure that we are getting the opinion of experienced professionals in this essential concern so that you can expand your customer base and include potential clients who would otherwise be excluded.
You may contact ADA Compliance Pros by email if you would like to avail the services of contractors. You may also call us on the phone and we will take the time to give you a complete design plan with the help of experienced pros who will be more than happy to assist you with remodeling services or construction projects.