Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, enshrining in law regulations that ensure individuals with physical or psychological handicaps have equal access to commercial and public facilities and transportation systems.
For firms in the design, building and property development spaces, statutes pertaining to commercial and public structures are particularly important. Enterprises involved in the creation of physical structures must adhere to these regulations to accommodate the estimated 56.7 million disabled persons who live in the U.S., according to research from the Department of Health and Human Services. Of all the compliance standards established in the ADA, few are as important as those addressing parking and restroom areas.
The ADA sets out very specific regulations for the development of parking areas. First and foremost, builders must facilitate optimal site access, according to the U.S. Access Board. What does this mean? Disabled individuals must be able to use parking spaces that allow them to easily enter and exit buildings without harming themselves.
Under the ADA, firms must provide one accessible parking space for every six stock spots. The spaces should be located near entrances and be able to accommodate large vehicles like vans, which are commonly used by wheelchair-bound individuals and others with mobility issues. However, builders can install accessible spaces in another facility – such as a parking garage – that is separate from a primary place of business. That said, there are separate rules for parking garages and off-site lots, as these locations offer differing amenities. Facilities with multiple parking sites – this includes lots, decks or similar structures – must adhere to the predetermined spot ratio for each location.
Parking spots designated for disabled individuals should connect to access aisles – specially marked zones designed for easy offloading that are a minimum of 60 inches wide. Ideally, these fixtures should lead directly into concrete sidewalk ramps that accommodate wheelchairs and rolling walkers. The parking spaces themselves are to be no less than 94 inches in width. Those made to support vans and other similarly large vehicles must be at least 132 inches wide and angled. The ADA mandates that all accessible parking spaces feature signage identifying their intended use.
The legislation does not include guidelines for accessible spaces tailored to disabled motorists with electric cars. That said, DHHS advises developers to consider adding such spots. However, these spaces do not count toward the ratio established in ADA.
It is important that builders adhere to these guidelines when establishing new properties, as many disabled people report encountering serious transportation issues. In fact, more than one-third regularly find it difficult to navigate their communities, according to research from Harris Interactive sponsored by the Kessler Foundation.
In addition to ensuring that disabled individuals can easily find parking and enter commercial and public facilities, designers and developers must create indoor environments that are conducive to those with legally-recognized impairments. Restrooms are an area of key concern, as some disabled individuals may require specialized accommodations to feel comfortable and safe.
The ADA provides design guidelines for handicap-accessible restrooms, many of which were updated in 2010, Buildings reported. There are several essential measurements developers should keep in mind. First off, single-user restrooms have at least 30 by 48-inch sink access to qualify as compliant under the ADA. This means, entrance doors should not swing into this zone. Additionally, the center of the toilet must be 16 to 18 inches removed from the side wall, with a seat measuring 17 to 19 inches high. Lastly, there should be a circle measuring at least 60 inches from the side wall and another one 56 inches from the rear wall to accommodate full 360-degree wheelchair rotations.
Builders should also pay attention to smaller details such as finishes, as these are covered in the ADA. For example, the legislation stipulates that all faucets and soap dispensers be mounted 48 inches or less from counter surfaces. It also requires developers to mount mirrors no higher than 40 inches above the floor. For sinks, the maximum mounting height is 34 inches with at least 27 inches of knee clearance.
Grab bars are an essential component of ADA-compliant restrooms and should be mounted 33.6 inches above the floor and measure 36 inches for rear walls and 42 inches for side walls. Alarm system are similarly important and listed as a requirement in the ADA.
Developers installing multiple occupancy restrooms should mount urinals and water closets at least 17 inches off the floor.
Firms building commercial and public facilities are required to take these guidelines into account during all phases of the development process and ultimately erect sites that are user-friendly for all.