In the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, many businesses are scrambling to get back to business as soon as possible. Often, it’s just a matter or replacing carpet and putting on a new roof, but in some cases, major reconstruction is required.
Regardless of the urgency, all reconstruction must be made in compliance with applicable building codes, including the ADA.
But what is required by the Texas Accessibility Standards?
Unlike the ADA, the Texas Accessibility Standards is only applicable if the facility is renovated or altered. If an alteration is made that affects or could affect the usability of or access to an area containing a primary function (i.e.- alterations to conference areas or guest rooms), the alteration shall be made so as to ensure that the accessible route to the altered area and the parking, restrooms, telephones, and drinking fountains serving the altered area, are readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, unless such alterations are deemed disproportionate to the overall cost of the alteration in terms of cost and scope.
Reconstruction is not always considered an “alteration that affects…the usability of or access to an area containing a primary function”, requiring compliance for the existing restrooms, parking, drinking fountains and public telephones.
When a facility is being reconstructed after a disaster, any individual elements that are being replaced or altered, shall be made accessible. If, for example, doors are being replaced as part of a disaster recovery, the hardware on those doors would be required to be lever-type, even if the doorway itself was not accessible.
Typically, if a space is being altered, it is required to be made accessible. However, work limited to the removal and replacement of sheetrock and finishes within toilet rooms does not automatically result in a requirement for the restrooms to be made fully accessible, especially if none of the plumbing fixtures are being removed/relocated and none of the partitions or doors are being altered.
Remember, if reconstruction includes an alteration to an area containing a primary function, it may be necessary to bring into compliance the existing parking, restrooms, drinking fountains and public telephones that serve that area.
It is recommended that any substantial reconstruction work be reviewed by an accessibility specialist to determine if architectural barrier removal will be required.