But it’s for employees only….

August 10, 2009

There seems to be some confusion on the applicability of the Texas Accessibility Standards and ADA within employee only areas.

First off, just because you are a CEO or a Doctor does not mean that you are superhuman and above the law.  The rules that apply to a Janitor also apply to a fancy-pants CEO or an ivy-league Doctor.

Now then, there is a difference between

Employee Only Areas

…..and

Employee Work Areas

Employee only areas may include work areas but they also include common use areas such as break rooms, locker rooms and toilet facilities that are not made available to the general public.

3.5.21 Common Use.

Refers to those interior and exterior rooms, spaces, or elements that are made available for the use of a restricted group of people (for example, occupants of a homeless shelter, the occupants of an office building, or the guests of such occupants).

Common use areas are required to be made accessible even if they are employee only.

Employee work areas, however, are not required to have accessible elements such as counter-tops, storage, sinks, etc.  Instead, employee work areas shall be designed so that a person with a disability can approach, enter and exit.

4.1.1(3) Areas Used Only by Employees as Work Areas. Areas that are used only as work areas shall be designed and constructed so that individuals with disabilities can approach, enter, and exit the areas. These standards do not require that any areas used only as work areas be constructed to permit maneuvering within the work area or be constructed or equipped (i.e., with racks or shelves) to be accessible.

Believe it or not, I have heard owners and architects make the claim that an area need not be accessible because a person with a disability could not perform the job.  That is for ADA Title I to determine.

There are a few areas where access is not required:

68.30 Exemptions

Raised Areas. Areas raised primarily for purposes of security, life safety, or fire safety, including, but not limited to, observation or lookout galleries, prison guard towers, fire towers, or lifeguard stands;

Single Occupant Structures. Single occupant structures accessed only by passageways below grade or elevated above standard curb height, including but not limited to, toll booths that are accessed only by underground tunnels;

Restricted Occupancy Spaces. Vertical access (elevators and platform lifts) is not required for the second floor of two-story control buildings located within a chemical manufacturing facility where the second floor is restricted to employees and does not contain common areas or employment opportunities not otherwise available in accessible locations within the same building;

Specific Employee Work Areas. Employee work areas, or portions of employee work areas, that are less than 300 square feet (28m2) in area and elevated 7 inches (180 mm) or more above the ground or finish floor where the elevation is essential to the function of the spaces; and dumpster pads/enclosures that are accessed exclusively by employees;

…and Fire Stations

68.104. Elements, Spaces and Accessible Routes at Fire Stations. (New section effective March 1, 2007, 32 TexReg 884)

At fire stations, common use spaces and elements accessed exclusively by fire-fighting personnel or other emergency responders are only required to be adaptable. Additionally, at multi-level fire stations, levels accessed exclusively by fire-fighting personnel are not required to be served by an accessible route. Public spaces and elements within these facilities must comply with all applicable technical standards.

In the case of the poor CEO that is forced to live with an accessible office, there is some good news, her private toilet room is permitted to be adaptable rather than fully accessible.

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Fair Housing Act – Covered Units

July 21, 2008

Question: Do all apartments have to comply with FHA requirements and clearances or can apartments funded with private money be exempt? For example, would all interior apartment doors need to comply with the 2′-10″ door width even for apartments funded with private money?

Scroll to the bottom for the short answer…

This is a common question.  The FHA design requirements apply to multi-family housing regardless of how it is funded.  There will be additional requirements for some federally funded facilities.  In a multi-story building without an elevator, the design requirements apply only to the units at grade (CAUTION: some buildings may have more than one floor at grade).  In a multi-story building with an elevator, all units on all floors are subject to the design requirements.

Dwelling units subject to the design requirements are referred to as “covered units”.  Covered units must comply with Design Requirements 2 thru 7.

Requirement 3 is “Usable Doors”.  Unlike an accessible door, a usable door does not require lever hardware or accessible maneuvering clearances.  Additionally, while an accessible door must have a clear width of 32″ minimum, a usable door has a clear width of 32″ nominal.   This permits the use of a 2′-10″ door with a 31-5/8″ clear opening.

Nom-i-nal, adj.

1. Not really.  The architect had a nominal understanding of the building code.

Actually, nominal is better defined as “so-called”, such as a 2×4 is actually 1-1/2″ x 3-1/2″.

All doors that require user passage within covered units shall be usable.  Doors serving shallow closets or other spaces that do not require user passage may have smaller doors.

I know this is a long way to answer the question above, but in short:

Yes, Yes.