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What is ADA compliance?
ADA compliance is determined by the Americans with Disabilities Act, which ensures that buildings are ADA compliant in order to provide easy access for people with disabilities. ADA compliance requires that public buildings provide wheelchair ramps, accessible entrances and restrooms for people who are disabled. ADA compliance also covers building codes which make it illegal to discriminate against people because of their disability when it comes to housing, hiring practices and other areas.
ADA compliance covers a broad range of disabilities, from those who are deaf or hard of hearing, blind or have visual impairments, physical disabilities and even those with learning difficulties.
ADA compliance is determined not only by the ADA but also by state and local building codes which must meet ADA guidelines for ADA compliance to be mandatory. ADA compliance is also not limited to buildings; ADA guidelines also require ADA compliance in parks and other public spaces which provide recreational opportunities. ADA-compliant homes must make it easy for people with different disabilities to access the home as well as all rooms and features within it.
ADA-compliant homes can benefit everyone, as someone who uses a wheelchair may have aging parents or relatives who come to visit. ADA compliance can also be important when it comes to selling your home, as ADA compliance is one of the top 5 features buyers look for in a home.
There are many state and federal laws which regulate how accessible a building must be to people with disabilities. The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) is probably the best known, but local zoning ordinances may have requirements as well. The ADA spells out minimum guidelines for compliance, while some other regulations require more specific design criteria which strike a better balance between the goal of accessibility and architectural style.
It is vital that builders understand ADA guidelines, even if they aren’t directly responsible for designing the accessible aspects of a building. This will help to ensure ADA compliance during construction, but it can also show architects where changes need to be made in order to achieve ADA-compliant design. Failing to plan ahead can be extremely costly and frustrating. It is better to hire an ADA consultant early in the design process than to try retrofitting a building that isn’t ADA-compliant.
ADA compliance begins with understanding the ADA guidelines and requirements, and then planning around them. For example, there must be at least one ADA-compliant route through a house, and this must be clearly marked. The ADA also requires at least one ADA-compliant entrance (preferably two) where the door is no more than 48 inches off of the ground or floor.
Sometimes there may not be space for an ADA compliant entrance, which means that the ADA guidelines dictate that a ramp be included instead. Ramps must have handrails, and there are minimum rises and runs which will depend on the steepness of the incline.
Wheelchair ramps can seem daunting to someone who doesn’t need them or how they work, but ADA guidelines are quite specific about safety requirements. These ramps must be ADA compliant, and cannot have any stairs or steps.
ADA guidelines also cover thresholds, door sills, electrical outlets, sink heights and the height of counters within reach of someone in a wheelchair. ADA-compliant entrances must allow room for a wheelchair to enter and exit the building smoothly, and may include ADA-compliant ADA ramps.
ADA guidelines require that at least 50% of all public entrances (including the main entrance) be ADA compliant. This includes not only access to the building, but also restrooms and other common rooms which are open to the public. ADA-compliant doors must meet exacting standards for ease of use and ADA-compliance.
ADA and state and local building codes often require wider ADA compliant doors than the ADA guidelines specify. ADA-compliant doors must also provide adequate room for turning space for someone using a wheelchair, and the ADA guidelines specify a minimum width of 32 inches.
ADA-compliant entrances must include power door operators if they are controlled with a handheld remote or other switch. ADA-compliant ramps have very specific specifications, and ADA guidelines cover handrails, slope, width and the materials used. ADA-compliant ramps must also be as level as possible with no more than a 5% maximum incline. ADA guidelines require that the end of any ADA-compliant ramp be cut off at an angle which is between 1:2 and 1:3.
ADA guidelines call for entrances to public buildings to be marked with visible signs which are at least 60 inches above the floor or ground, but this may vary depending on how high traffic areas are. ADA-compliant door handles are required to be at least 34 inches high, and ADA guidelines specify that door hardware cannot require more than five pounds of force to open. ADA-compliant entrances must provide room for turning space when the door is open.
ADA guidelines specify that wheelchair ramps and entrance thresholds cannot have any obstructions or slopes greater than 1:48 in slope. ADA guidelines require that there be at least 36 inches of headroom clearance (54 inches in some places) and ADA guidelines cover electrical outlets, light switches and other ADA-compliant fixtures.
ADA guidelines call for at least one handicap accessible restroom in buildings which require an ADA compliant entrance, and this is sometimes separate from the rest of the building’s restrooms. ADA-compliant entrances to public buildings must be clearly marked with signs which are ADA-compliant and detectable by a person who is blind or visually impaired.
ADA-compliant entrances must have a surface which is firm, stable and slip-resistant. ADA guidelines also cover thresholds, door sills, electrical outlets, sink heights and counter surfaces within reach of someone in a wheelchair. ADA guidelines call for power door operators to be ADA compliant when controlled by a remote or other switch.