As architects our greatest contribution to society is the built environment. Ethically, it is our responsibility to design environments that all can use. In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was created, requiring a new standard of access to facilities that provide service to the public.
Accessibility is an important part of building design. Today we are going to look at who depends on daily accessibility, common issues found on existing properties, and how all of us have found accessibility issues very near to us.
Accessibility for All:
• When accessibility comes to mind, many of us think of individuals in wheelchairs. This is understandable since a person in a wheelchair is the symbol for handicap parking and seating. However, these are not the only individuals depending on accessible design.
• Anyone with a vision or hearing impairment also depends on accessibility design. Some features that come to mind are visual and audible sensors at pedestrian crossings. Braille on wayfinding signs throughout a building, especially for exit and restroom signs.
• The elderly often utilizes accessible design to maneuver through society. Enabling the elderly to access public spaces empowers them to continue being an active member of society.
• Obese Individuals along with pregnant women depend on proper doorway clearances at entrances and walking ramps to enter buildings, and aisle widths to move throughout a building.
Common Accessibility Issues to Resolve:
• Accessible path of travel through a developed site is often not code compliant. Often the slope of ground exceeds the maximum pitch, and abrupt level changes exceed the allowable dimension.
• Clearances at doors can make functionality extremely difficult for some. The required clearances depend on the door hardware type and user’s approach angle.
• Accessible toilet stalls are required to have 3 grab bars installed at specific locations and extending to specific dimensions. Often the length of the bars installed is incorrect, and only 2 of the 3 bars are installed.
• Curb ramps are often constructed to incorrect slopes that make them unusable, or are installed improperly, not allowing for the flat surface needed to maneuver out of the way of a vehicle.
Conscious from Covid:
• During the pandemic many of us were stuck in our homes waiting for the pandemic to end. Some gained a greater awareness of accessible issues within their residence.
• Some were living with elderly family members during this time to be closer to them. Having the elderly in your home for an extended period can show you accessible obstacles rather quickly.
• These findings caused a surge of accessible renovation work to occur on individual residences.
Since 1990, many clients have hired JL Architects to eliminate accessibility problems to properties nationwide. Often, we are hired by property owners because of an ADA lawsuit, and we are happy our professional knowledge can resolve their ADA needs. We also welcome the opportunity to consciously design for those in need of greater physical accessibly and have recently joined volunteer organizations to provide this service. If you are aware of any accessible issues, we would be happy to help you in any way we can!
-Nathan Houser, Architectural Designer