How Updated ADA Regulations Will Impact Your Business

Last September the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) published updates to its ADA regulations and adopted new design standards based on guidelines previously issued by the Access Board. The DOJ revised both its regulations for state and local governments (Title II) and its regulations for places of public accommodation and commercial facilities in the private sector (Title III).

While the revised regulations include a broad variety of new requirements, most requirements affecting pavement maintenance contractors were minor, focusing on specific industries or specific types of properties. The revised regulations take effect in March, and compliance with the 2010 standards will be mandatory in 18 months (beginning March 15, 2012) based on completion of the permit process or, if no permit is required, the start of construction.

As with any government regulations, the ADA standards are complex and can be difficult to follow, but the full text and detailed explanations of all the 2010 standards is available at www.ada.gov.

What follows is a brief analysis of the changes in the scoping and technical requirements for new construction and alterations resulting from the adoption of new ADA Standards for Accessible Design (2010 Standards) in the final rules for title II (28 CFR part 35) and title III (28 CFR part 36) of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

It is important to remember that these guidelines are the minimum requirements that must be followed throughout the country. In many instances states, counties, and cities have established their own guidelines which are often more strict, so contractors must know the requirements in the areas in which they work.

Accessible Routes: Section 206 and Chapter 4

Slope. The 2010 Standards provide, at section 403.3, that the cross slope of walking surfaces not be steeper than 1:48. The 1991 Standards’ cross slope requirement was that it not exceed 1:50. There was some consideration of increasing the cross slope requirement to allow a maximum of 12 in. per foot (1:24) to prevent imperfections in concrete surfaces from ponding water but DOJ felt that a cross slope not be steeper than 1:48 adequately provides for water drainage in most situations.

Accessible Routes from Site Arrival Points and Within Sites. The 1991 Standards, at sections 4.1.2(1) and (2), and the 2010 Standards, at sections 206.2.1 and 206.2.2, require that at least one accessible route be provided within the site from site arrival points to an accessible building entrance and that at least one accessible route connect accessible facilities on the same site. The 2010 Standards add two exceptions that exempt site arrival points and accessible facilities within a site from the accessible route requirements where the only means of access between them is a vehicular way that does not provide pedestrian access.

The DOJ declined to eliminate the exception that exempts site arrival points and accessible facilities from the accessible route requirements where the only means of access between them is a vehicular way not providing pedestrian access because the DOJ believes that its use will be limited.

“If it can be reasonably anticipated that the route between the site arrival point and the accessible facilities will be used by pedestrians, regardless of whether a pedestrian route is provided, then this exception will not apply,” the DOJ notes. “It will apply only in the relatively rare situations where the route between the site arrival point and the accessible facility dictates vehicular access – for example, an office complex on an isolated site that has a private access road or a self-service storage facility where all users are expected to drive to their storage units.”

In addition, the 2010 Standards retain the requirement that all elements on a required accessible route must be accessible; therefore, if the accessible route crosses a curb, a curb ramp must be provided.

Parking Spaces: Sections 208 and 502

General. Where parking spaces are provided, the 1991 Standards, at sections 4.1.2 (5)(a) and (7) and 7(a), and the 2010 Standards, at section 208.1, require a specified number of the parking spaces to be accessible. The 2010 Standards, at section 208, include an exception that exempts parking spaces used exclusively for buses, trucks, delivery vehicles, law enforcement vehicles, or for purposes of vehicular impound, from the scoping requirement for parking spaces, provided that when these lots are accessed by the public the lot has an accessible passenger loading zone.

The 2010 Standards also require accessible parking spaces to be identified by signs that display the International Symbol of Accessibility. Section 216.5, Exceptions 1 and 2, of the 2010 Standards exempt certain accessible parking spaces from this signage requirement. The first exception exempts sites that have four or fewer parking spaces from the signage requirement. Residential facilities where parking spaces are assigned to specific dwelling units are also exempted from the signage requirement.

Access Aisle. Section 502.3 of the 2010 Standards requires that an accessible route adjoin each access aisle serving accessible parking spaces. The accessible route connects each access aisle to accessible entrances.

When released for public comment some questioned why the 2010 Standards would permit an accessible route used by individuals with disabilities to coincide with the path of moving vehicles. The DOJ responded that the 2010 Standards appropriately recognize that not all parking facilities provide separate pedestrian routes, saying Section 502.3 provides the flexibility necessary to permit the most appropriate location of the accessible route to the accessible entrances.

“If all pedestrians using the parking facility are expected to share the vehicular lanes, then the ADA permits covered entities to use the vehicular lanes as part of the accessible route. The advisory note in section 502.3 of the 2010 Standards, however, calls attention to the fact that this practice, while permitted, is not ideal. Accessible parking spaces must be located on the shortest accessible route of travel to an accessible entrance. Accessible parking spaces and the required accessible route should be located where individuals with disabilities do not have to cross vehicular lanes or pass behind parked vehicles to have access to an accessible entrance.”

The DOJ notes that if it is necessary to cross a vehicular lane because, for example, local fire engine access requirements prohibit parking immediately adjacent to a building, then a marked crossing running perpendicular to the vehicular route should be included as part of the accessible route to an accessible entrance.

Van Accessible Parking Spaces. The 1991 Standards, at sections 4.1.2 (5)(b), 4.6.3, 4.6.4, and 4.6.5, require one in every eight accessible parking spaces to be van accessible. Section 208.2.4 of the 2010 Standards requires one in every six accessible parking spaces to be van accessible.

Direct Access Entrances from Parking Structures. Where levels in a parking garage have direct connections for pedestrians to another facility, the 1991 Standards, at section 4.1.3(8)(b)(i), require at least one of the direct connections to be accessible. The 2010 Standards, at section 206.4.2, require all of these direct connections to be accessible.

For ADA Updates on changes in some of the more obscure regulations visit www.pavementonline.com. For additional information or guidance on the 2010 standards, visit the Board’s website at www.access-board.gov/ada or contact the Board at (202) 272-0080 or ta@access-board.gov. Information on DOJ’s new regulations and use of the standards is available from DOJ at www.ada.gov or by calling (800) 514-0301.

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