The Newly Approved US Department of Justice – 2010 Standards for Accessible Design and How to Ensure Your Facility is Compliant.
It has been 20 years since the Department of Justice adopted revised Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards. On July 26, 2010 the Obama Administration announced the adoption of the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design. The adoption of the 2010 Standards is a victory for Americans with disabilities who have struggled to navigate spaces designed many years ago but has created a somewhat complex path for business owners, facility operators and designers in their understanding of the implications of the new Standards.
There are two parts to the revised 2010 Standards for Accessible Design which includes the rules of Title II and Title III and the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG). Title II applies to local, state and federal governmental entities, while Title III applies to public accommodations such as recreational facilities and commercial facilities. These rules require facilities to upgrade, as necessary, to accommodate persons with disabilities. There is a “safe harbor” ruling for facilities that fall under Title II and Title III rules, which allows for design components that complied with the 1991 Standards to remain in place until these facilities are subject to planned alterations. However, this safe harbor ruling does not allow for design components that were not covered under the 1991 Standards to remain in place. To determine whether the facility is covered under this safe harbor ruling, an analysis of all necessary design components must be conducted on a case-by-case basis by a licensed professional.
The ADAAG is developed by The Access Board, an independent Federal agency devoted to accessibility for people with disabilities. The Board develops and maintains design criteria (known currently as the 2004 ADA/ABA Accessibility Guidelines) and enforces accessibility standards at federally funded facilities. These Guidelines set the groundwork for the 2010 Standard for Accessible Design published by the Department of Justice – the same department that enforces the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Rules Title II and Title III created by the Department of Justice are currently in effect, however compliance with the ADAAG is not required until March 15, 2012, which regulate newly constructed as well as altered facilities.
How the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design Apply to You
The 2010 Standards for Accessible Design is the law while local Barrier Free requirements are the code. Councils such as the International Code Council (ICC) used the ADAAG in originally creating the current Barrier Free codes implemented by Local Jurisdictions. Local Jurisdictions require and inspect per the code, not the law, nor are they allowed to inspect per the law. Therefore, if your facility was built or altered following your local Barrier Free Code, your facility is most likely compliant. However, if your facility was not required to follow local codes, or if your facility falls under rules Title II or Title III, it is the owner’s; facility operator’s; and designer’s obligation to assure these buildings are compliant with the law. The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs recently addressed this issue in their Construction Code Communicator and hopefully other states will follow suit.
Next Steps in Remaining Compliant
The framework of the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design is providing a much needed examination of federal facilities. However, without proper analysis, your facility might be non-compliant. Being non-compliant with the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design may lead to a complaint with the Access Board to lawsuits for non-compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. How do I know if my facility is compliant? Does my facility fall under “safe harbor” ruling? Is my facility a newly regulated facility under the new Standards? What do I do if my building is not compliant? Your local jurisdiction “can allow, but cannot -- and will not – require, compliance with Federal law1” and therefore will not be able to spot items non-compliant per the Standards. In analyzing your facility start by reading the Standards alongside your local Barrier Free Code.
If this sounds like a daunting process, contact a design professional, like USA Architects who can expertly provide the proper course of action. A walkthrough of the facility will flag any non-compliant items and allow the creation of a list rated by priority. Design professionals are aware of your local code requirements and can help you understand your facility needs – both immediate as well as long-term.
1: NJ Construction Code Communicator Volume 23, Number 1 Spring 2011