Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Eliminating Obstacles


Stairs are a big obstacle for wheelchairs.   If someone must access stairs to get to the main entry door of your facility then you are discriminating against the disabled because they can not enter and utilize the services of your facility as others can.

There are many ways to address this issue and make stairs accessible, but in general, they usually all involve a ramp.   The photograph shown above is one way to address the issue.   As you can see, a ramp has been added to the stairs that still allows the stairs to be utilized while providing a ramp for the disabled.   As a side note, some believe that a portable ramp will work instead of a permanent ramp; however, this is not necessarily true.   Those with disabilities should not be required to wait until an employee can find and install the temporary ramp especially since the ADA has been in effect for over 20 years now.

While ramps offer access to the disabled, it’s important to understand there are many requirements to be satisfied when constructing a ramp.   There are certain dimensions for the height and thickness of the handrail, and there needs to be a based at the bottom of the handrail so a wheelchair will not accidently run off the ramp.   There are also strict guidelines with regards to the slope of the ramp.

One of the issues about ramps that seems to confuse everyone is why the handrail is extended beyond the top and bottom of a ramp.   The answer to this is really very simple.   Many of those with disabilities are able to walk, but they are not very steady of their feet and any change in elevation such as going up a ramp causes them to be even less stable.  The purpose of the extensions at the top and the bottom is to allow someone that is not very stable on their feet to stop on the level surface at the top or bottom and hold on to the rail to stabilize themselves before they continue on their way.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

ADA Strategies

Last week in a telephone call I was reminded again as to how property and business owners struggle AGAINST the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).   In public most will say they support the ADA 100%, but when asked to make improvements to their businesses or properties to accommodate the disabled, many will spend thousands of dollars to “get out of it” instead of making the improvements and while they may be partially successful at “getting out if it”, most do not realize it’s only a temporary solution.

There are many ways businesses get out of making ADA improvements.   Some simply are reactionary and when they get a lawsuit for violations of the ADA they simply make an out of court settlement and consider it the cost of doing business.   This is unfortunate as this strategy does nothing to protect them against further lawsuits.   I have seen businesses get ADA lawsuits 3 and 4 times and each time they pay out several thousands dollars and still have not made any improvements that will prevent future ADA lawsuits.   This quite simply is a loosing strategy.

Another strategy is intentionally ignorance of the law.   I can not tell you how many property and business owners say to me they had no idea they were out of compliance with the ADA.   Along this same theme are owners who choose to only have isolated portions of their properties surveyed by an accessibility professional.   They somehow believe that if they don’t know about all of the violations on their property or in their business then they can claim ignorance of the law.   While not being a lawyer, I can certainly tell you this is not true and ignorance of the law is no a defense against an ADA lawsuits.

A third strategy commonly used by property and business owners is to try and comply, but do so by “cutting corners”.    This usually happens after a lawsuit has been filed and the property or business owner decides to address the issue in the cheapest manner possible.   This often involves blindly making corrections as described in the lawsuit and falsely believing they have fully addressed the problem not realizing that their property or business has several other violations that could and probably will be the subject of a lawsuit in the future. 

Property and business owners need to understand there is no defense for not conforming to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and they should enlist the services of an accessibility professional ( CASp in California ) to help them navigate the often confusing world of accessibility.   Not only does full compliance help to prevent lawsuits, it also increases revenues as there are many in the disabled community who only patronize properties and businesses that are fully compliant with the ADA.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Another Non-Conforming Parking Space

The photograph to the left is another example of a non-conforming accessible parking stall.   To the untrained eye, this accessible space probably seems to be acceptable, but a serial plaintiff driving by will see this accessible space as a good source of money………and they would be correct.

While everyone appreciates the building owner for making the effort, it really diminished the effort with its done incorrectly.   For starters, this is the only accessible space on the property and therefore its required to be a VAN accessible space.  In order to make the accessible space shown in the photograph a van accessible space, the aisle needs to be wider and more importantly, it needs to be located on the passenger side of the parking stall.   

Another violation is the ramp located in the space of the aisle.   There can be no ramps in the aisle and in fact, the parking space AND the aisle should be almost flat with just enough slope to provide for drainage. Instead of locating the ramp in the aisle, a curb ramp such as the one shown in the photograph at the right could be used.    If curb ramp does not work, then a standard ramp could also be used, as long as it’s separate from the accessible parking space or aisle.

Finally, there is no post or wall mounted signage for this parking space.   There should be an International Symbol of Accessibility (ISA) along with other assorted signs mounted to the column or a post in front of the parking space.   It should also be noted that I have not measured the size of this parking space, but the overall size of the accessible space is also suspect.