Use Accessibility Guidelines for ADA Compliance Plan

Wheelchair

Public colleges and universities and federally funded programs at private institutions must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines. A solid plan should provide site access, accessible path to buildings, accessible entrances to buildings, and accessibility to programs and services. Program areas include lecture halls, classrooms, laboratories, and studios. Support service areas include common use toilets, dining rooms, locker rooms, computer rooms, and lounges.

Program accessibility is the most difficult part of the plan to implement. Generally, the priorities start with modifications to toilets, showers, locker rooms, and drinking fountains. These are often the most expensive changes and sometimes are the most challenging in terms of architecture and mechanical infrastructure, especially in older buildings. Program accessibility requirements also apply to facilities that are leased by the institution. These can be as varied as private recreational centers, gyms, performance halls, and outdoor park and picnic areas. In some instances, an institution may find it’s easier and less costly to relocate a program to a different facility rather than retrofit the existing one or even build a new one.

The ADA Accessibility Guidelines may not be required for residential housing, since dormitories are defined as transient lodging and are covered under the Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA). That said, the FHAA states that any building with four or more units must include certain features of accessible and adaptable design. Since many universities and colleges have a range of different residential buildings on campus, it’s wise to determine the specific jurisdiction of each one before implementing accessibility modifications.

Once the programs and public services are accessible, a complete plan should address the other requirements of the Accessibility Guidelines. One provision that has profound implications for disabled persons is ADA Section 4.5, which pertains to ground and floor surfaces. The code requires that floor surfaces be “stable, firm, slip-resistant.” Slip resistance is necessary for shoes, crutches, and wheelchairs to aid in the safe conveyance of disabled persons. The frictional force of accessible pathways is measured as the static coefficient of friction (CoF). A standard walkway is required by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard to have CoF 0.5. As determined by Architectural and Transportation Barriers

Compliance Board (Access Board), persons with disabilities require a higher CoF. The Access Board recommended that CoF of 0.6 be used for accessible pathways and CoF of 0.8 be used on ramps. The easiest way to increase CoF in these areas is to cover the surface of the floor or ramp with non-slip tapes or treads. These simple enhancements to the floors and ramps improve accessibility and safety for the disabled population, while reducing slips, trips, and falls for all other students, faculty, and staff as well.

One final consideration for a successful ADA compliance plan is that some state accessibility codes are stricter than the federal code and may have additional requirements for schools owned by faith-based organizations.

When the ADA Accessibility Guidelines were passed in 1991, the intent of this regulation with respect to higher education was include public and federally funded institutions but not stop them from fulfilling their educational mission. Today there are more resources available to institutions to fulfill their responsibilities and become compliant. For more information on ADA Section 4.5 and compliance solutions for higher education, please call this toll-free number or let us contact you.

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