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Accessibility

Codes. Regulations. These words can cause anyone involved in a construction or renovation project to shake their head and grumble. It often seems like codes only exist to make life more complicated and to make projects more expensive, but it’s important to understand why they’re in place.

Just imagine that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) didn’t exist. The building you’ve been working on is finally completed, and the grand opening has arrived. The air is filled with congratulations and excitement from everyone in the crowd, all but one. A young girl sits quietly in a wheelchair. Her eyes scan the area, searching for something. You follow her gaze and try to figure out what she’s looking for. Then it hits you – there’s no ramp – no way for her to get into the new building. Her dad appears, lifts the chair over the stairs, and pushes her inside. As you watch her disappear, your mind’s eye takes you through your newly finished pride and joy. But now you visualize it from a different perspective. You see the girl is unable to enter the bathroom because the doorway is too narrow. She can’t drink from the water fountain because its design blocks her chair from getting close enough for her to reach the water spout. You realize that the building you were so proud of moments before has many issues for people who face the challenge of disabilities.

The ADA has been in effect for over 24 years. The act is written to help ensure that buildings are safe and accessible for anyone. Accessibility requirements have been incorporated into the International Building Code (IBC). Considerations include access to buildings, access through the building, access to public restrooms, and other measures to provide accommodation. From parking spaces and stair railings, bathroom facilities and fitting rooms, codes are in place to ensure that all new buildings are accessible.

That begs the question, what about old buildings? Regulations state that any readily achievable renovations must be completed to allow compliance with accessibility requirements.

So, next time you want to grumble because of the cost and complexity required to meet ADA regulations, remember the young girl from our story.

For more information about accessibility regulations, contact Michael Doyle.

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