Differences between A117.1-2009 and the 2010 ADA Standards

February 28, 2014

The most obvious difference between the 2010 ADA Standards and A117.1-2009 is Chapter 2. Chapter 2 of the  ADA Standards provides complete scoping for determining when and where accessibility is required. Chapter 2 of A117.1 does not include scoping but instead defers to the administrative authority that adopted the standard. Typically, the scoping comes from Chapter 11 of the IBC.

Aside from this bureaucratic difference, there are some major differences between the scoping and technical requirements of the ADA Standards and the IBC/ICC A117.1.

For example: Multiple Single-User Toilet and Bathing Rooms

Both standards start with the requirement that each toilet room and bathing room must be accessible.

ADA 213.2 Toilet Rooms and Bathing Rooms. Where toilet rooms are provided, each toilet room shall comply with 603. Where bathing rooms are provided, each bathing room shall comply with 603.

IBC 1109.2 Toilet and bathing facilities. Each toilet room and bathing room shall be accessible.

Then, exceptions are offered for existing conditions, private offices, transient lodging and medical facilities.

The exceptions for multiple single-use toilet rooms have one not-so-obvious difference:

ADA 213.2 Exception 4. Where multiple single user toilet rooms are clustered at a single location, no more than 50 percent of the single user toilet rooms for each use at each cluster shall be required to comply with 603.

IBC 1109.2 Exception 3. Where multiple single-user toilet rooms or bathing rooms are clustered at a single location, at least 50% but not less than one room for each use at each cluster shall be accessible.

The exception in the ADA Standards leaves out bathing rooms and only allows the exception for toilet rooms. It is unclear why bathing rooms were not included in the exception.

The result is that if you have multiple single user bathrooms in facility such as a truck stop, 100% of the bathing rooms must be accessible. A clinic that has 4 unisex toilet rooms would only require 2 accessible toilet rooms.

This interpretation has been confirmed by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation and addressed in Technical Memorandum 2013-10.




When is a toilet room required to be accessible?

January 14, 2010

When is a toilet room required to be accessible?

1991 ADAAG

4.1.3(11) Toilet Facilities: If toilet rooms are provided, then each public and common use toilet room shall comply with 4.22. Other toilet rooms provided for the use of occupants of specific spaces (i.e., a private toilet room for the occupant of a private office) shall be adaptable. If bathing rooms are provided, then each public and common use bathroom shall comply with 4.23. Accessible toilet rooms and bathing facilities shall be on an accessible route.

2004 ADAAG

213.2 Toilet Rooms and Bathing Rooms.  Where toilet rooms are provided, each toilet room shall comply with 603.  Where bathing rooms are provided, each bathing room shall comply with 603.

For new construction, the basic assumption is that all toilet facilities are required to be accessible.  Public use toilet rooms are those that are made available for use by the general public.  Common use toilet rooms are provided for any group of two or more people including employee-only facilities.

A common mistake is to assume that only public toilets are required to be accessible.  For example, an office/warehouse building with separate restrooms for the office area and warehouse area would require accessible facilities in both the office restrooms and the warehouse restrooms even if the public was not permitted to enter the warehouse.

Accessible toilet rooms are required regardless of the expected abilities of the intended users.  It may seem unlikely that a wheelchair user would work in an auto-body shop but that does not exempt the shop from the requirement to provide accessible toilet facilities.

Exemptions for New Construction.

Private Toilet Rooms: The 1991 ADAAG permits a private toilet room to be adaptable (see the definition of “adaptability”).  An adaptable toilet room will still require the clear floor space and minimum door widths, but the grab bars, accessible faucets and plumbing fixtures can be installed when needed by the occupant.  The 2004 ADAAG provides more specific exceptions for private toilet rooms: the door may swing into the required clearances of the fixtures (603.2.3 Exc.1), the seat height is not restricted (604.4 Exc.1), grab bars are not required if blocking is provided in the walls (604.5 Exc.1), knee clearance is not required under the lavatory (606.2 Exc.2), the height of the lavatory is not restricted (606.3 Exc.1).

Portable Toilets: Only 5% of single-user portable toilets in each cluster are required to be accessible.  Portable toilets at construction sites are exempt if they are used only by construction personnel (as if anyone else would want to).

Multiple Single-User Toilet Rooms: The 2004 ADAAG allows only 50% of single-user toilet rooms clustered at a single location to be accessible.  This exception is NOT permitted in the 1991 ADAAG.

Accessible Toilet Rooms in Existing Facilities.

The ADA does not “grandfather” existing facilities.    Even if alterations are not made, an existing public accommodation, such as a restaurant, must provide accessible features when it is readily achievable to do so.  Barrier removal is readily achievable if it is easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense.

The ADAAG does not impose requirements for alterations beyond that required for new construction.

In alterations, each altered element must be made accessible but altering one element does not necessarily require compliance for existing elements.  For example, if a faucet is to be replaced, it must be replaced with an accessible faucet even in the lavatory will not have the required knee clearance or be at the correct height.

Alterations Affecting Primary Function Areas.

Even if no alterations are planned for a restroom, renovations to the area served by the restroom may trigger compliance.  This is referred to as an alteration to an area containing a primary function. A primary function is a major activity for which a building or facility is intended.  Office and conference areas within an office building are considered primary function areas.  Hallways, restrooms, break rooms and other support areas are not considered primary function areas.  When an area containing primary function is altered the restrooms serving that altered area are required to be made accessible.  An alteration is defined as:

A change to a building or facility that affects or could affect the usability of the building or facility or portion thereof.  Alterations include, but are not limited to, remodeling, renovation, rehabilitation, reconstruction, historic restoration, resurfacing of circulation paths or vehicular ways, changes or rearrangement of the structural parts or elements, and changes or rearrangement in the plan configuration of walls and full-height partitions.  Normal maintenance, reroofing, painting or wallpapering, or changes to mechanical and electrical systems are not alterations unless they affect the usability of the building or facility.

In addition to affecting the restrooms, alterations to primary function areas will also require that the existing connecting routes, parking, drinking fountains and public telephones be made accessible if any of those elements serve the altered area.

Options for Existing Toilet Rooms

The 1991 ADAAG provides some exceptions for achieving compliance in existing toilet rooms:

  • A single accessible unisex toilet room can be provided if it is determined that compliance in the existing restrooms is technically infeasible. The unisex toilet must be provided on the same floor and in the same area as the existing inaccessible restrooms.  Signage is required to identify the location of the accessible toilet room.
  • In a multi-user toilet room, smaller accessible toilet stalls may be allowed if it is technically infeasible to provide the standard accessible stall or if a reduction in fixtures (to provide a double-wide stall) is not permitted by the plumbing code.

The 2004 ADAAG also permits the use of a single unisex accessible toilet when compliance for the existing toilet rooms is technically infeasible, but it does not allow the use of the alternate accessible toilet stalls.  Added in the 2004 ADAAG, in qualified historic buildings, the accessible unisex is not required to be in the same location as the existing toilet rooms.

For the purpose of these exceptions, technically infeasible is defined as:

With respect to an alteration of a building or a facility, something that has little likelihood of being accomplished because existing structural conditions would require removing or altering a load-bearing member that is an essential part of the structural frame; or because other existing physical or site constraints prohibit modification or addition of elements, spaces, or features that are in full and strict compliance with the minimum requirements.

Accessible Work Surfaces and Countertops: When and Where

September 22, 2009

As is the case with many technical requirements, the confusion is not how to make something accessible but when is it required to be accessible.

Counter-tops are a great example since not all work surfaces are treated equally.

5% of common-use work surfaces are required to have knee clearance and shall not be higher than 34″.

4.1.3(18) If fixed or built-in seating or tables (including, but not limited to, study carrels and student laboratory stations), are provided in an accessible public or common use area, at least five percent (5%), but not less than one, of the fixed or built-in seating areas or tables shall comply with 4.32. An accessible route shall lead to and through such fixed or built-in seating areas, or tables

But sales and service counters can be 36″ high since the person with a disability is not expected to spend much time at a service counter.

Sales and Service Counters, Teller Windows, Information Counters.

(1) In department stores and miscellaneous retail stores where counters have cash registers and are provided for sales or distribution of goods or services to the public, at least one of each type shall have a portion of the counter which is at least 36 in (915 mm) in length with a maximum height of 36 in (915 mm) above the finish floor. It shall be on an accessible route complying with 4.3. The accessible counters must be dispersed throughout the building or facility. In alterations where it is technically infeasible to provide an accessible counter, an auxiliary counter meeting these requirements may be provided.

In a dining area, if fixed counters are provided, then 5% of the fixed counters are required to be accessible, even if accessible tables are provided. There are no technical requirements for loose furniture, the Texas Accessibility Standards and the ADAAG only regulate the fixed seating and tables. This is a common violation in employee break rooms and delis where a bar height counter may be provided for dining and the need for accessible fixed counters is overlooked.

5.1* General.

(1) Except as specified or modified in this section, restaurants and cafeterias, including snack bars and other areas for obtaining or consuming food or drink, shall comply with the requirements of 4.1 to 4.35. Where fixed tables (or dining counters where food is consumed but there is no service) are provided, at least 5 percent, but not less than one, of the fixed tables (or a portion of the dining counter) shall be accessible and shall comply with 4.32 as required in 4.1.3(18).

And as previously discussed, work surfaces that are provided for employees to perform their job are not required to be accessible. There are a few places where this can get confusing. For instance, a working laboratory is not required to have accessible work surfaces, but an almost identical student laboratory is required to have accessible work surfaces since it is not an “employee work area”.  The issue gets fuzzy when you may have a research laboratory at a university where students are receiving credit for working in the lab.  Let the university lawyers figure that one out, it’s what they are paid for.

Contrasting Curb Ramps and Detectable Warnings

May 13, 2009

To quote the TDLR Technical Memorandum 08-01, “With the intention of harmonizing both State and Federal requirements, the Department issues the following technical clarifications regarding surface texture requirements at curb ramps.”

TM 08-01 then goes on to confuse the issue further by treating differently curb ramps within the public ROW (right of way) and those that are not within the ROW.

From the Texas Accessibility Standards (italics denote a change from the ADAAG):

4.7.4 Surface. Surfaces of curb ramps shall comply with 4.5.

(1) Textures shall consist of exposed crushed stone aggregate, roughened concrete, rubber, raised abrasive strips, or grooves extending the full width and depth of the curb ramp. Surfaces that are raised, etched, or grooved in a way that would allow water to accumulate are prohibited.

(2) For purposes of warning, the full width and depth of curb ramps shall have a light reflective value and texture that significantly contrasts with that of adjoining pedestrian routes.

Contrasting curb ramp on private property.

Contrasting curb ramp on private property.

Per TM 08-01, section 4.7.4(1) & (2) do not apply to curb ramps within the public ROW.  Instead, these curb ramps shall have detectable warnings that comply with section 4.29.2:

4.29.2* Detectable Warnings on Walking Surfaces. Detectable warnings shall consist of raised truncated domes with a diameter of nominal 0.9 in (23 mm), a height of nominal 0.2 in (5 mm) and a center-to-center spacing of nominal 2.35 in (60 mm) and shall contrast visually with adjoining surfaces, either light-on-dark, or dark-on-light.

The material used to provide contrast shall be an integral part of the walking surface. Detectable warnings used on interior surfaces shall differ from adjoining walking surfaces in resiliency or sound-on-cane contact.

The ADAAG(1991) and the revised ADA/ABA Guidelines(2004), do not specify contrast for curb ramps.  The contrast is a requirement for the detectable warnings which are required to be provided on curb ramps.

There is no conflict for curb ramps within the ROW; the contrast is only required on the detectable warnings.  The remainder of the curb ramp may be plain concrete.

If a curb ramp is not located within the ROW, section 4.7.4(2) still applies; the full width and depth of the curb ramp shall contrast with adjoining pedestrian routes even if detectable warnings are not used.

Don’t try too hard to understand it.  This story is not over.

An accessible roll-in shower for two.

March 19, 2009

A major complaint of building owners is the requirement for accessible showers.   Anytime showers are provided for public or employee use (regardless of job description), an accessible shower is required.   If showers are provided at a refinery locker room, accessible showers are required; a small shower room adjacent to an employee only fitness center…accessible;  a high-end Spa….accessible; even if it’s only provided to gain a LEED* point, an accessible shower is required.

The complaint is that there are only two options for an accessible shower: a 36″x36″ Shower with a folding seat or a Roll-In Shower that is 30″ x 60″ minimum.

Transfer type accessible shower. 36" by 36" fixed dimensions with a seat.

Transfer type accessible shower. 36" by 36" fixed dimensions with a seat.

Roll-in shower. 30" by 60" minimum, no seat required.

Roll-in shower. 30" by 60" minimum, no seat required.

No one likes to use the smaller shower with the seat because the seat takes up too much space.  The roll-in shower works well for larger gang showers, but it does take up a lot of real estate.

So I came up with this concept: Take a standard roll-in shower, make it a bit bigger than the minimum, add an additional shower head and provide a shower curtain that can divide the shower into two individual showers.  I can’t find anything in the rules that would prevent this design.

A compliant roll-in shower with two curtains and two shower heads.

A compliant roll-in shower with two curtains and two shower heads.

* Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.  Showers are sometimes provided to gain a LEED point so that people can presumably ride a bike to work and get cleaned up.

Accessible Means of Egress and Entrances

November 20, 2008

In a previous post, I had discussed requirements for accessible means of egress in new construction: Grade Level Accessible Exits

While all means of egress are required to be accessible in new construction, it is not a requirement for renovations or alterations.  From the Texas Accessibility Standards:

4.1.6(1)(g) In alterations, the requirements of 4.1.3(9), 4.3.10 and 4.3.11 do not apply.

Section 4.1.3(9) requires accessible exits in the same number as code required exits and permits areas of rescue assistance (ARAs) to be used when conditions preclude accessible exits;

Section 4.3.10 requires that accessible routes shall also serve as means of egress, and;

Section 4.3.11 defines (ARAs).

Therefore, an existing facility that is being altered is only required to have one accessible entrance.  Extra, existing, exits and entrances (nice alliteration) are not required to be made accessible.

Even if an existing entrance is being altered, it is not necessarilly required to be made accessible:

4.1.6(1)(h)* Entrances: If a planned alteration entails alterations to an entrance, and the building has an accessible principal or primary entrance, the entrance being altered is not required to comply with 4.1.3(8), (except to the extent required by 4.1.6(2)), unless the altered entrance will become a principal or primary entrance by design or function. If a particular entrance is not made accessible, appropriate accessible signage indicating the location of the nearest accessible entrance(s) shall be installed at or near the inaccessible entrance, such that a person with disabilities will not be required to retrace the approach route from the inaccessible entrance.

Now according to section 4.1.5, additions are to be regarded as alterations.  But this does not mean that the new exits from an addition are exempt from access.  “Each space or element added to the existing building or facility shall comply with the applicable provisions of 4.1.1 to 4.1.3…” including accessible exits and/or the provision of ARAs.

You may be wondering why accessible means of egress are not required in existing buildings.  But keep in mind that the Standards are a minimum requirement.