In July 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This law prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in places that are open to the general public. This includes schools, transportation, parks, stores, and most workplaces. The Act ensures that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.
The Act is divided into five Titles or sections
- Title I Employment
- Title II Public Services (State & Local Government)
- Title III Public Accommodations and Services Operated by Private Entities
- Title IV Telecommunications
- Title V Miscellaneous Provisions.
This article focuses on Title III – Public Accommodations and Services Operated by Private Entities. Facilities covered under Title III include hotels, restaurants, retail stores, schools, stand-alone offices, buildings, transportation sites, parks…virtually any establishment where an individual with a disability may have reason to enter or use.
In July 2010, Attorney General Eric Holder signed regulations revising the ADA standards for design. The new 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design became effective as of March 15, 2012 and set the requirements for new construction and modification of existing structures where it is feasible to do so without much difficulty or expense. The Department of Transportation (DOT) has additional standards that incorporate Title II and III of the ADA and apply to both vehicles and facilities. Exemptions to the ADA standards include places of worship (churches, temples, synagogues, etc.) and some private clubs. This may include daycare or schools managed by a religious organization. Although these facilities may be exempt from federal ADA standards, they may be subject to state or local access standards. As in most regulations, both federal and state and local ADA standards must be met; with the one providing the greatest accessibility overriding the other(s).
How do I know if my facility is accessible?
The term “accessible” is defined as easy to approach, reach, enter, speak with, or use.” Based on these terms, does your facility meet the definition of accessible? The ADA also uses these terms to determine if a facility is in compliance with their accessibility guidelines. Accessible sites do not contain barriers that limit or restrict their use to persons with disabilities. So, a facility is either accessible or it is not accessible; there is no partial accessible standard.
If you are in an existing facility, it’s in your best interest to perform a routine check to ensure you are complying with all the required ADA standards (federal, state, & local). Sometimes becoming compliant is making a few simple, relatively minor adjustments, such as adding signs, marking parking spaces, or changing some access door handles. Other compliant issues may take some structural modifications and seem costly, but it’s always easier and less expensive than facing fines and lawsuits.
To review a checklist for existing facilities, click to http://www.adachecklist.org/doc/fullchecklist/ada-checklist.pdf
If you are undergoing new construction, chances are your contractor(s) will make sure the new facility is accessible. However, it’s always a good idea to know what you are expected to comply with and to check with your designers, engineers and contractors to ensure they are following all the ADA standards that will be applicable to your facility. It’s better both structurally and financially to make sure all your accessibility standards are in place during the construction phase, rather than having to make modifications after your facility has been built.
To review the standards for new construction, click to https://www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/buildings-and-sites/about-the-ada-standards/guide-to-the-ada-standards/chapter-2-new-construction.
For more information or to view accessible standards for certain features, click to https://www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/buildings-and-sites/about-the-ada-standards/guide-to-the-ada-standards
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