Reaching Out to Customers With Disabilities: Lesson 3 New Buildings, Additions, and RemodelingTwo constuction workers are operating a jack hammer.
Lesson 10: Information SourcesLesson 9: ADA EnforcementLesson 8: Cost IssuesLesson 7: Transporting CustomersLesson 6: Maintaining AccessibilityLesson 5: Alternate AccessLesson 4: Removing BarriersLesson 1: Policies & ProceduresLesson 2: Customer Communications Introduction: Welcome to the CourseLesson 3: Accessible Design

New buildings

Building a new building is a perfect opportunity to include accessibility and avoid the architectural barriers that people with disabilities confront in many older buildings. This is why the ADA requires all new public accommodations and commercial facilities to comply with design standards called the ADA Standards for Accessible Design (ADA Standards). These Standards make buildings and facilities usable by people who are blind or deaf or have limited dexterity or grasping ability, as well as people who have mobility impairments.

The aim is to ensure that all commercial buildings and facilities built in the United States since 1992 are accessible to and usable by everyone, including people with disabilities. The ADA sets accessibility standards for parking lots, sidewalks, entrances, corridors, rooms, service counters, toilet facilities, handles and switches, public telephones, and many other features. Complying with the ADA Standards allows customers or employees who have disabilities to enter a building or site, move through the halls or circulation paths, access the areas where goods and services are provided or where they perform their work, and use the restrooms and other amenities that are provided.

When ADA requirements are met during construction, the additional cost of the accessible features is generally minimal. In contrast, retrofits done after construction can be very expensive and disruptive. That is why it is important for businesses to remind their architects and contractors about the importance of complying with the ADA, especially at the early stages of planning a project.

The ADA and state or local building codes

Most new buildings and facilities have to comply with state or local building codes. Typically, building code officials review plans to approve construction and inspect the new facility several times before work is completed. In contrast, there is no inspector for the ADA. The building owner and those responsible for design and construction are responsible for complying with the ADA.

Many local codes contain accessibility provisions, but they are separate from the ADA Standards. To be sure that the construction complies with the ADA as well as the building code, both sets of requirements need to be followed. Fortunately, many of the accessibility requirements are similar. Where there are differences, it is best to follow the requirements that will result in greater accessibility.

To make things simpler, the ADA allows state and local governments to submit their accessibility provisions to the Department of Justice for a determination as to whether they are equivalent to the ADA requirements. When the provisions are certified as equivalent to the ADA, the building code inspection process ensures compliance with the building code and also serves as rebuttable evidence that the building complies with the ADA.

A link to more information on code certification is provided at the end of this lesson.

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last update September 16, 2005