ADA Compliance Tips In Fewer Than A Thousand Words
By Paul A. Henderson, Esq. | Law Offices of Scott M. Clark, P.C.
With the plethora of lawsuits being filed over alleged non-compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") by a drive-by plaintiff, and our own Christopher Walker having his pithy correspondence to the attorney filing those lawsuits being included as an exhibit to the Attorney General's Office's efforts to intervene in those lawsuits, the ADA is a hot-button topic right now.
Compliance with the ADA is no trivial matter, and thousands of pages can be devoted to describing the minute detail involved in construction, compliance, and litigation over the ADA. Despite the ADA being a weighty topic, there are some brief points to address that should avoid some of the most common pitfalls facing owners and operators of residential rental properties.
The biggest issue right now is parking. Parking spaces aren't simply a matter of slapping up a sign flagging a specific space for disabled parking only. First, there are two different types of disabled parking spaces: "car" accessible spaces and "van accessible" spaces. Car-accessible spaces, otherwise known as "standard" spaces, must have a width of no less than 8 feet. In Phoenix, however, spaces in multifamily communities' parking lots must be at least 8.5 feet wide for regular parking and 11 feet wide for disabled parking, so the ADA minimum is trumped here. Each car-accessible disabled space must abut an access aisle that is no fewer than five feet wide, and this aisle must both extend the same length as the parking space (which for all parking spaces in Phoenix is at least 18 feet deep) and lead to an accessible route to the rest of the area. Each space must also be flagged by a sign that indicates it is reserved/restricted for disabled parking only, and the base of this sign must be at least 60 inches above ground level.
Van-accessible spaces have additional requirements. The ADA decrees that the van space abut an aisle that is 8 feet wide at the minimum, have additional signage that indicates the space is van-accessible, and must have vertical clearance of no less than 98 inches.
Disabled parking spaces also have minimum quotas for your parking areas. There is a sliding scale for spaces. For each multiple of 25 up to the first 100, you must have one (e.g., 3 disabled in a total of 51 to 75), one for each additional multiple of 50 up to 200, and then one for each multiple of 100 up to 500. For 500 to 1000 total spaces, no fewer than 2.0% must be disabled spaces, and for more than 1000, the minimum number is 20 plus one for each hundred spaces past that first 1000. Keep in mind that as soon as you cross a threshold, you must have the full number of disabled spaces – so always round up.
Van spaces further complicate this. For every eight disabled spaces, one must be van-accessible. If you have 9 disabled spaces, for example, then you must have 2 van-accessible and 7 car-accessible spaces.
Parking spaces aren't the only area of ADA compliance that is important to owners and operators, but they're the topic that has received the most attention recently. Accessible bathrooms for your public areas must have stall clearance of 60 inches from the side walls and 56-59 inches of rear wall clearance. Grab bars on side walls must measure at least 42 inches long and be located at most 12 inches from the rear wall, and, if there is one on the rear wall, it must be at least 36 inches long and have at least 12 inches of reach on each side from the center-line of the toilet.
These requirements are important whether you are constructing new parking areas or are replacing and re-striping current ones. However, when you are involved in any sort of re-striping (even something as simple as adjusting a small area), you cannot reduce the number of accessible spaces even if your plan for re-striping keeps you above the minimum. If you are forced to remove a disabled-only parking space, you must recreate it elsewhere. A 24-space lot currently with 2 disabled spaces must always have 2 disabled spaces, even though the ADA requires only a single space.
Other ADA Topics
In your units, are accessible apartments constructed so that there is sufficient clearance inside the unit for wheelchairs, that cabinets and sinks are designed to permit passage around and use by a mobility-impaired individual, and that there are no unnecessary steps or level changes? Front doors on accessible units must be flush with the ground (i.e., no stairs) and not constructed on impermissible level grades.
These may seem only like design issues, but if your community was not designed with them in mind, or some evolution of the community has caused you to fall out of compliance, you will need to come back into compliance as quickly as feasible.
ADA Issues of the Future
The next big issue will be website compliance with the ADA. This topic is too technical to discuss in this article, but key points that will be coming up will be text-to-speech functionality, magnification, and other visual-impairment accommodations. We'll be addressing this topic, and many others on ADA compliance, in the future.
For now, keep one important thing in mind: if you have any questions, never hesitate to ask your attorneys for advice. The Law Offices of Scott M. Clark, P.C. stands ready to assist you on all legal matters you, as property managers and owners, may face.