Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Don't Use The Word Handicapped

I was meeting with a client the other day and as we were discussing the improvements that he needed to make to his property, he kept referring to them as handicapped improvements.   After a couple mentions of the word, I explained to him the word handicapped was demeaning to those with disabilities and he should use the word disabled instead of handicapped.

The reason we use the word disabled instead of handicapped is because many individuals in the disabled community do not consider their disability a handicapped.   Many in the disabled community can have completely normal lives despite their disability so to describe them as handicapped would be totally inaccurate.

Using the word disabled instead of handicapped is hard for many of those in the design profession including architects, building officials and contractors because when the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was first sign into law, many would refer to the improvements as handicapped improvements and as time went on, the word stuck.

Now in 2014, we and I specifically need to make sure we all use the correct nomenclature and refer to individuals as disabled and the improvements that are made for the disabled are referred to as accessibility improvements.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Non-Conforming Detectable Warnings

Detectable Warnings are used to warn someone with limited or no eyesight that they are about to enter a dangerous area such as rail tracks, a vehicular pathway or even a water feature.   These warnings can literally be a life-savor for the blind.

Section 11B-705 of the California Building Code (CBC) details the specific requirements for Detectable Warnings.   Some of the information included in 11B-705 includes horizontal and vertical dimensions for the required domes as well as the horizontal spacing for the domes.  It also states that Detectable Warnings should be of a contrasting color and of a different texture from the surrounding surfaces.   There is even a mathematical formula within the section to determine if the required visual contrast is acceptable.

In addition to requirements for size, color and texture, CBC Section 11B-705.3 states that Detectable Warnings be approved by the Division of the State Architect (DSA).   This is important because several years ago, there were several products on the market that did not meet the requirements and deteriorated over time ultimately providing little or no warning to the blind.

The photograph above shows a Detectable Warning that is made out of stamped concrete.   As you can see from the photograph, the domes that warn the blind that they are about to venture into traffic lanes are badly worn and now provide little if any warning for the blind.  In addition, the stamped concrete provides no contrasting color to warn those with limited sight.  This is one of the reasons that Detectable Warnings are to be approved by the Division of the State Architect.  It’s also important to note that because the Detectable Warnings need to be of a type approved by the State Architect, they tend to be a little expensive, but are well worth the added expense as they provide a degree of safety for those individuals with limited or no vision.