Does your product meet the accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) or the recent Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008?

April 30th, 2010

This is a wake-up call for all businesses with a product!!!  Hire an accessibility consultant like Access Technologies Services, Inc. (ACCESS) for your product accessibility, or wait for the federal government specific product standards; the general standards are already in place… It’s your choice!  ACCESS has a product accessibility program with a statement saying, “Certification of product [specific product] to be accessible based on the accessibility requirements as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008, in the opinion of ACCESS.  ACCESS is a known leader in accessibility compliance with over 16 years of experience in this highly specialized field.

The Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008 (PL110-325), which became effective on January 1, 2009, requires in Chapter 126 equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities.  This means that all products must be designed and manufactured to be accessible to individuals with disabilities.  An example is medical diagnostic equipment.  When complaints came to the U.S. Department of Justice that medical diagnostic equipment was not being designed to be accessible, congress got involved and passed the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” and directed the Access Board to develop specific accessibility standards for medical diagnostic equipment.

Attorneys throughout the country are looking for “deep pockets,” and they are honing their civil rights law skills as they file lawsuits for non-compliance to the accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008, or the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Call us and use ACCESS for your product accessibility compliance program.  We are at your service!

  • Share/Bookmark

How does a property owner “win” non-compliance litigation?

April 19th, 2010

1.   The first line of defense is to have an accessibility audit that will identify all accessibility non-compliance items.

2.   Second, prioritize all the non-compliance items as defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

3.   Third, appropriate monies to eliminate the non-compliance items.

4.   Fourth, establish a timetable in years to eliminate the non compliant items.

In the opinion of ACCESS, the Americans with Disabilities Act is a reasonable law; therefore, for each of the four above items, one must ask the question, “Is it reasonable?”  We at ACCESS suggest a five year timeline.  The five year plan can be adjusted when monies are not available.

The above are opinions of Hank Falstad, AIA, Managing Senior Associate of Access Technologies Services, Inc. (ACCESS).  See our web site for additional information:  www.accessts.net.

  • Share/Bookmark

DOJ Adoption of 2004 ADAAG – Progress Report

April 15th, 2010

Everyone is asking:  when will the U.S. Department of Justice adopt the July 2004 ADA & ABA Accessibility Guidelines; Final Rule as its standard?  IT IS COMING!!!

The DOJ’s liaison to the Access Board reported that the DOJ has made “quite a lot of progress” on the various stages of internal review and approval. The draft final regulation has not been submitted to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which is the final step.  This final step can take up to 90 – 120 days to complete.

DOJ anticipates issuing its final regulation before the end of the current fiscal year, which concludes on September 30, 2010.

  • Share/Bookmark

ADA accessibility mindset – attorneys’ new “gravy train”

April 12th, 2010

PL101-336 (ADA) accessibility mindset:  please – may I – I request – I demand – I litigate!  Attorneys’ new “gravy train.”

Accessibility began with ANSI 1961, as a building code requirement. It was picked up in the federal civil rights law of 1965 and later in the Federal Rehabilitation Law of 1973.  If federal dollars were going into the project the Federal Rehabilitation Act was a requirement; for everyone else, it was voluntary and it did not work.  The disability community petitioned the federal government for the next 15 years, and in 1990 President George H.W. Bush signed in the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Realizing the Act could not be voluntary, enforcement was assigned to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights section.

I really believe the politicians involved with the Act of 1990 thought accessibility throughout the country would be in full accessibility compliance in a few years, as did I.  Surprise, surprise – today I see better accessibility compliance, but we are still very far away from full compliance.  There is a cost to accessibility compliance, and enforcement by the DOJ can only touch a fraction of 1% of non-compliance issues.  The private sector is starting to become more active in policing this civil rights law, using attorneys that are specializing in accessibility law.

In the opinion of ACCESS, there is much accessibility work yet to be done on old and new buildings throughout the United States.  The private sector with their specialized attorneys will be taking the lead in filing lawsuits because there is money to be made – follow the money, stupid!

The above are opinions of Hank Falstad, AIA, Managing Senior Associate of Access Technologies Services, Inc. (ACCESS).  See our web site for additional information:  www.accessts.net.

  • Share/Bookmark

What does litigation for accessibility non-compliance mean? It means $$MONEY$$!

April 3rd, 2010

1.   Very, very few cases will be from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation, and what these cases mean for you is money spent to correct your non-compliance items.  The interest of the DOJ is to get compliance to PL101-336, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA):  “PL” stands for Public Law, 101 stands for one hundred and first congress, and 336 is the number attached to the law.

2.   A case filed by an attorney for a handicapped individual or advocacy group means $$MONEY$$ in the form of extortion.  Most of these cases are settled out of court with a payment of between $50,000.00 – $100,000.00 to the attorney and the advocate, with some promise by the owner to make corrections to the facility to bring the non-compliant items into compliance.

In the opinion of ACCESS, most owners think that with the payment of the attorney they are done, when in fact they are just beginning!  There is nothing to prevent a second, third, fourth and so on party from filing the same lawsuit.  To prevent such lawsuits, the owner needs a program to bring the property into compliance, which will require documentation of money spent and on which non-compliant item, as well as money to be allocated to other non-compliant items for each year, until the property has reached full compliance.

The above are opinions of Hank Falstad, AIA, Managing Senior Associate of Access Technologies Services, Inc. (ACCESS).  See our web site for additional information:  www.accessts.net.

  • Share/Bookmark

Side Wall Grab Bar at Water Closet where Insufficient Wall Space is Provided

March 26th, 2010

ACCESS has seen accessible bathrooms where the side wall of the water closet has a door opening preventing the installation of a 42 inch long grab bar projecting 54 inches off of the back wall.

The jurisdiction is ADAAG Sections 604.5.1 and 103.

Chapter 6 plumbing elements and facilities.

604 Water Closets and Toilet Compartments.

604.5 Grab Bars.

604.5.1 Side Wall.

“The side wall grab bar shall be 42 inches long minimum, located 12 inches maximum from the rear wall and extending 54 inches minimum from the rear wall.”

There is a requirement in ICC/ANSI A117.1-2003, Section 604.5.1 for a vertical grab bar at the side wall.  In the opinion of ACCESS, using Section 103 Equivalent Facilitation (see below), and the analysis of ANSI Figure C604.3.1(b) regarding the elements of a front or diagonal transfer, the addition of the vertical grab bar in conjunction with the horizontal grab bar on the side wall results in substantially equivalent or greater accessibility and usability of the water closet.  ACCESS suggests using a 60 inch long grab bar with a 90º bend at 36 inches; set that bar so the 24 inch vertical part is 40 inches to the centerline of the 24 inches off the back wall.

Chapter 1 Application and administration.

103 Equivalent Facilitation.

“Nothing in these guidelines prevents the use of designs, products, or technologies as alternatives to those prescribed, provided they result in substantially equivalent or greater accessibility and usability.”

The above are opinions of Hank Falstad, AIA, Managing Senior Associate of Access Technologies Services, Inc. (ACCESS).  See our web site for additional information:  www.accessts.net.

  • Share/Bookmark

Design and Height of Shower Spray Unit in Transfer Type Shower Compartment

March 22nd, 2010

The jurisdiction is ADAAG Section 608.5.1, 608.6, and 308.2.1.

Chapter 6 Plumbing Elements and facilities.

608 Shower Compartments.

608.5 Controls.

608.5.1 Transfer Type Shower Compartments.

“In transfer type shower compartments, the controls, faucets, and shower spray unit shall be installed on the side wall opposite the seat 38 inches minimum and 48 inches maximum above the shower floor and shall be located on the control wall 15 inches maximum from the centerline of the seat toward the shower opening.”

608 Shower Compartments.

608.6 Shower Spray Unit and Water.

“A shower spray unit with a hose 59 inches long minimum that can be used both as a fixed-position shower head and as a hand-held shower shall be provided.  The shower spray unit shall have an on/off control with a non-positive shut-off.  If an adjustable-height shower head on a vertical bar is used, the bar shall be installed so as not to obstruct the use of grab bars.  Shower spray units shall deliver water that is 120ºF maximum.”

Chapter 3 building blocks.

308 Reach Ranges.

308.2 Forward Reach.

308.2.1 Unobstructed.

“Where a forward reach is unobstructed, the high forward reach shall be 48 inches maximum and the low forward reach shall be 15 inches minimum above the finish floor or ground.”

In the opinion of ACCESS, shower spray units mounted on sliding bars are not in compliance with Section 308.2.1 because the slide that holds the shower spray unit top is typically mounted above 48 inches; one has to hold the shower spray unit, then reach one hand above 48 inches to lift the shower spray unit off the slide.

The better solution ACCESS has seen is when the shower spray unit is hung on a hook at 44 inches above finish floor, and the shower controller has a diverter valve in conjunction with a fixed shower head.  The diverter valve switches the water flow from the fixed, standard height shower head to the hand-held shower spray unit.

The above are opinions of Hank Falstad, AIA, Managing Senior Associate of Access Technologies Services, Inc. (ACCESS).  See our web site for additional information:  www.accessts.net.

  • Share/Bookmark

Jurisdiction for Condominiums which are Included in Hotel Rental Pools

March 16th, 2010

Question: What is the jurisdiction for accessible condominium units that are put into a hotel rental pool:  (a) Fair Housing Act, or (b) The Americans with Disabilities Act?

Based upon the Marriott opinion letter to William B. Ingersoll of Ingersoll and Block from John R. Dunne, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division, (please see the following link:  http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/foia/cltr004.txt), it is the opinion of ACCESS that when the condominium units are put into the hotel rental pool, they operate more like a hotel (transient lodging) than as a residence.  Therefore, the design criteria should be PL101-336, The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Thus, the guideline jurisdiction is the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG); Final Rule, plus the IBC 2006 and the ICC/ANSI A117.1-2003.

The above are opinions of Hank Falstad, AIA, Managing Senior Associate of Access Technologies Services, Inc. (ACCESS).  See our web site for additional information:  www.accessts.net.

  • Share/Bookmark

Location of Accessible Counters

March 10th, 2010

Question: Where must the accessible location be at a reception counter?

We begin by looking at the guidelines from the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board). This is a federal board responsible for writing guidelines for compliance to PL101-336, The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). That guideline is called the ADA & ABA Accessibility Guidelines; Final Rule of July 23, 2004, with an effective date of September 21, 2004.

Chapter 9 BUILT-IN ELEMENTS.
904 Check-out Aisles and Sales and Service Counters.
904.4 Sales and Service Counters.
904.4.2 Forward Approach.
“A portion of the counter surface that is 30 inches long minimum and 36 inches high maximum shall be provided. Knee and toe space complying with 306 shall be provided under the counter.”

This gives one the building blocks for the design of the accessible counter.

The scoping requirements are found in Chapter 2. In the scoping section, the accessible counter location is not defined.

Chapter 2 Scoping Requirements.
227 Sales and Service.
227.3 Counters.
“Where provided, at least one of each type of sales counter and service counter shall comply with 904.4. Where counters are dispersed throughout the building or facility, counters complying with 904.4 also shall be dispersed.”
Advisory 227.3 Counters.
“Types of counters that provide different services in the same facility include, but are not limited to, order, pick-up, express, and returns. One continuous counter can be used to provide different types of service. For example, order and pick-up are different services. It would not be acceptable to provide access only to the part of the counter where orders are taken when orders are picked-up at a different location on the same counter. Both the order and pick-up section of the counter must be accessible.”

ACCESS then goes to the basic law for guidance and uses the Americans with Disabilities Act Handbook of October 1991. Title III is Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability by Public Accommodations and in Commercial Facilities.

Title III Regulation.
Subpart B – General Requirements.
§36.201 General.
(a) Prohibition of discrimination.
“No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any private entity who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation.”

Service counters by their design have an orientation in which they are approached by individuals. That approach direction is frontal in most instances. The service counter by its very nature has a human element, and that is the individual providing the service. There is the eye contact and the waiting line that forms that defines the service counter front. It is and has been for many years the opinion of ACCESS that an individual is discriminated against if the portion of the counter where the general public forms a line does not provide an accessible portion of that service counter.

This is civil rights law, and to date ACCESS knows of no federal court case where a federal judge has ruled on this issue. Also, in the opinion of ACCESS, not having the accessible portion of the counter where the general public line forms is not a winnable position for our clients before a federal judge.

The above are opinions of Hank Falstad, AIA, Managing Senior Associate of Access Technologies Services, Inc. (ACCESS). See our web site for additional information: www.accessts.net.

  • Share/Bookmark

Required Bathtub Clearances

March 4th, 2010

Question: What is the clear floor space required in front of a bathtub?

This is one of these subtle changes we see in moving from the old to the new guidelines.

The ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities written by the U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) and published July 26, 1991, Section 4.20.2 states:

4.20 Bathtubs.

4.20.2 Floor Space.

“Clear floor space in front of bathtubs shall be as shown in Figure 33.”

Figure 33 shows a 60 inch minimum dimension.  This dimension is the same dimension as found in Figure 33 of ANSI A117.1-1986.  The ANSI A117.1-1986 was written before 1985, some 25 years ago.

The ADA & ABA Accessibility Guidelines; Final Rule, written by the Access Board and published July 23, 2004, with an effective date of September 21, 2004; in Section 607.2 Clearance states

607 Bathtubs.

607.2 Clearance.

“Clearance in front of bathtubs shall extend the length of the bathtub and shall be 30 inches wide minimum.”  Figure 607.2 illustrates that clearance for bathtubs.

ICC/ANSI A117.1-2003 Section 607.2 Clearance states:

607 Bathtubs.

607.2 Clearance.

“A clearance in front of bathtubs extending the length of the bathtub and 30 inches minimum in depth shall be provided.”  Figure 607.2 illustrates that clearance for bathtubs.


The challenge today is that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is required to litigate compliance to PL101-336, The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), from its standard.  The DOJ is in the process of making the July 23, 2004 document its standard, but until that happens, the DOJ is using the July 26, 1991 document, which was made the DOJ standard on July 1, 1994.

The people at ACCESS have specialized in accessibility compliance for the last 16 years and are of the opinion that the ADA is a reasonable act.  The Act is ruled upon by federal judges.

With that understanding by ACCESS, the 60 inch minimum dimension of 25 years ago is not applicable today, in the opinion of ACCESS.

The above are opinions of Hank Falstad, AIA, Managing Senior Associate of Access Technologies Services, Inc. (ACCESS).  See our web site for additional information:  www.accessts.net.

  • Share/Bookmark