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.