The ADA: Changes on the horizon

Because the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) can appear vague and open to interpretation, it can feel like a confusing and convoluted road map. Though the ADA was passed more than 25 years ago, many owners, architects and contractors do not give it the attention it requires and, even if they do, it’s hard to keep up because it’s evolving all the time.

Many property owners trust their architects and contractors to keep them in compliance. But this is a risky proposition. Architects often treat ADA as a building code, assuming the rules are black-and-white, when in reality it is a Civil Rights law that is open to subjective interpretation and must be thoughtfully approached.

“Close enough” is not good enough.

Furthermore, contractors may not know the intricacies of ADA. In the construction world, there often is a mentality of “close enough is good enough.” That just doesn’t cut it when it comes to ADA. When it comes to ADA compliance, don’t let a building permit and a Certificate of Occupancy give you a false sense of security.

ICC Standard Updates

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) 117.1 Committee of the The International Code Council (ICC) suggests and interprets accessibility standards that may be adopted by building codes jurisdictions at the national and state level. The new accessibility standards harmonize with ADA.

In the near future, the committee is amending standards that will have a major impact on property owners. The biggest impact will be felt in remodels to existing buildings and new construction, as they will be required to make these changes immediately.

The two big ticket items being altered for the next code cycle include turning spaces and wheelchair spaces. These and most of the other changes are about allowing more space for maneuvering a scooter. The mentality here is really “the bigger, the better,” but it may pose a big challenge for property owners who need to get remodels and new builds assessed for accessibility.

Brad-Gaskins-3Brad Gaskins has more than 30 years experience in the practice of architecture and a comprehensive understanding of professional practice nationwide. Brad brings a unique and valuable perspective to The McIntosh Groups practice and clients, with a specific expertise in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and national building codes.  Brad has gained recognition as an expert witness for clients with ADA compliance complaints. He represents NACS, The Association for Convenience and Fuel Retailing, as a full voting member on the International Code Council (ICC), American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A117.1, Consensus Committee on Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities. His objective is to share, with the committee for their deliberations, the potential impact of the standards on the convenience store and truck stop industry.

This article was originally published in Commercial Transformations, a McIntosh Group publication in Commercial Construction & Renovation magazine. View the original publication: Commercial Transformations Issue 1


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