You’ve been tasked with making sure your facilities are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. You’ve researched your options online, and it looks like there are ADA consultants across the nation, and they’re all the same. How will you choose a firm that will protect you from lawsuits, help you make your facilities accessible in an easy-to-manage program, and stay within your budget and timeline? Who will best guide you through this messy process and leave you with the certifications you need to prove you did your job?
- Are they QUALIFIED? Do the consultants have a construction, architecture/engineering background? Have they been certified by the ICC to perform the surveys? Were they trained by ADA experts in the field? Are they licensed architects? Their answers to these basic qualifying questions will help you understand their depth of knowledge in accessible design and whether the information they’ll provide you is correct and thorough. Otherwise, you could end up doing the same ADA program twice.
- Do they outsource any work to consultants? This is especially popular practice among firms that claim to be “national”. Why go through the trouble of qualifying them as a consultant if they’re going to give your project to someone who is not as knowledgeable? Make sure what you see is what you’ll get.
- How do they develop their checklist? A good first step to answering this is finding out how many questions are on their list. Is it 40 or 4,000? Do they use the Department of Justice’s online checklist? Or, did they build their own? Is it based on the 2010 ADA Standards for accessible design? Or, is it based on some other standards like the ATSM, ADAAG, or ABADAAG? Do they include the applicable state standards? The answer you’re looking for is an extensive, comprehensive checklist that is based on the 2010 ADA Standards as well as state standards that apply. The DOJ checklist alone is insufficient, and while it is good to know the other standards, they are not enforceable. Which brings us to #4.
- Do they understand that the ADA is a civil rights law, not a building code? Indirect consequences matter. The ADA begins with “No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability…” Just because something is not explicitly outlined in the ADA Standards, it doesn’t mean it is compliant. You need someone who is able to read between the lines.
- Finally, are they a full service architecture firm? An ADA consultant without the full-service element will leave you high and dry. Sure, they can do the survey and tell what is wrong (ex., “The grab bar is too high”) but a full-service firm will provide you construction documents to give to your general contractor to make the fix. Then, they can go back and certify the barrier removal and ADA compliance.