Good day ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the ADA Audio Conference Series, Best Practices in Design. At this time all participants are in a listen only mode. Later we will conduct a question and answer session, and instructions will follow at that time. If anyone should require assistance during the conference please press star and then zero on your touch-tone telephone. As a reminder this conference call is being recorded. I would now like to introduce your host for todays conference, Miss Robin Jones. Maam, you may begin.
Good morning and good afternoon to everybody, depending on where you are joining us from across the country. I welcome you to the New Year. We are now in 2008, and we have a lineup of programs through September, ready for you and todays program is just one of those. Todays session is fully titled Best Practices in Design: Balancing Local, State and Federal Requirements to Ensure Accessibility. We are joined by four speakers today, which is a little bit different than what we have had in the past, if you have joined us for other programs, in that we have representation from the federal level, from the local level, and state level as well as architects and designers. So we are going to have a host of individuals who are going to be talking to you from their various perspectives today. This program is being accessed by individuals in a variety of different modes, we have individuals on the telephone, we have individuals using streaming audio on the internet, as well as individuals who are joining us using real-time captioning. This program is being both recorded as well as a written transcript is being created so that it will be available on the www.ada-audio.org website within ten business days following the program. We ask that you, when you are getting ready to ask questions, that you take yourself off speaker phone, or direct your telephone in a way that does not interfere with you asking a clear, concise question, otherwise, we may have to cut you off. And we will have plenty of opportunities today for you to actually ask questions. I am going to kick right in and introduce our speakers and then turn it over to them. We are actually going to have two sessions today which you will have an opportunity to ask questions. Our first two speakers, Irene Bowen from the U. S. Department of Justice and Joseph Russo from the City of Chicago, will provide some remarks and presentations, and we will then take questions from their remarks. We will then be joined by Jack Catlin and Doug Anderson for the wrap-up remarks, and then they will also engage in question and answer as well. So just be prepared for two sessions of questions and answers today. Why dont I go ahead here, and I am going to start with my introductions of all four speakers at the beginning here, so that we can go ahead and just kick off and get started. Our first speaker is Irene Bowen. She is the Deputy Chief of the Disability Rights Section of the U.S. Department of Justice. She supervises investigations and litigations under Title II and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Irene was actively involved in the development of the Americans with Disabilities Act and was a member of the task force that developed the U. S. Department of Justices regulations to implement the statute. She has a long history of working with accessibility regulations, including work with the Fair Housing Amendment of 1988 and subsequent accessibility regulations for accessible multi-family housing. Joseph Russo joins us today as a Deputy Commissioner of Compliance for the Mayors Office for People with Disabilities at the City of Chicago. Prior to joining the City of Chicago, Joseph had spent 13 years with the U.S. Department of Justice as a Senior Trial Attorney and Supervisory Attorney in the Civil Rights Division, as well as two years as the Chief of the Disability Rights Bureau at the Illinois Attorney Generals office. During his time with the Department of Justice, he was involved in several high profile issues, including overseeing compliance during the construction of facilities used in the 1996 Olympic Games. He was involved in settlement agreements with the Empire State Building and worked heavily addressing the various accessibility issues of the AMC Theater chain. He also worked with the Illinois Attorney Generals office addressing various issues under the Illinois Accessibility Code and other civil rights statutes within the state of Illinois. As Deputy Commissioner of Compliance for the City of Chicago Mayors Office for People with Disabilities, he oversees the accessibility compliance unit which is responsible for reviewing compliance and applicable accessibility codes during the building permit process and assisting business and other entities within the city in their compliance with various disability rights laws. In addition he is overseeing the updates of the City of Chicagos self-evaluation and transition plan and serving as in-house counsel for the Mayors Office for People with Disabilities. Doug Anderson is another one of our speakers today. He for the past ten years has been focusing his career on assisting business and government organizations understanding and implementing various methods of Fair Housing and other disability compliance laws. He carries out this through his participation on a federal grant program related to ADA compliance at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and his consultant businesses on Fair Housing and the Americans with Disabilities Act. He has assisted many businesses and government entities in developing Fair Housing Act requirements and ADA compliance policies and programs while working with the LCM architects in Chicago. He was appointed to the U. S. Access Board by President Bush to serve as a member in 2003 and was recently re-appointed for another term. Additionally, he has provided over one hundred detailed trainings on the ADA and Fair Housing Act to various public and private entities. Fourth but not last by any means, is Jack Catlin, who has over 20 years of personal and professional experience with disability related issues. This expertise has led him to his involvement in the development of accessibility codes and standards for city, state, and federal agencies, national and international speaking engagements on accessibility compliance issues, and the development of accessibility compliance plans and consultations for many private and public entities. As a licensed architect and a member of the American Institute of Architects, Mr. Catlin is the first practicing architect to serve as chair of the U. S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, also known as the Access Board. And he has numerous accessibility presentations, including national and international venues. He has also provided a lot of training and accessibility consulting to various private and public entities. As you can see from their introductions, we have four very highly specialized and highly knowledgeable, experienced speakers today. And I think you will learn a lot from them on this particular topic. So why dont we go ahead and start. And I will turn my microphone over to Irene and Joe, and they will take it from here. So, go ahead.
Thanks, Robin. This is Irene Bowen. I am going to start with a Top Ten List. It is going to be sort of patterned after David Lettermans Top Ten but you will be able to tell I dont have writers. I did this myself. I dont have any union or non-union writers. And these are the Top Ten Tips for Access Compliance. Basically, it is to set a background and set the stage for the rest of the program, to just sort of give you a framework how we come at things, which basically is from the standpoint of first, enforcing the law, and second, encouraging compliance so that we dont have to enforce the law. And that second one is overall our main goal here in the Civil Rights Division. First of all, first rule: know the rules. That means know what standards to follow. It is pretty easy on the federal level, although when you hear about some of the exceptions that we might get into later it may not seem that way. But basically, if you have a Title III entity, which means a private entity, follow our Department of Justices ADA standards that we issued in 1991, and if you have a public, state or local entity, then you can choose to follow either the 1991 standards or the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards, known as UFAS. State and local codes, of course, you also will have to comply with and we will talk more about that later. So after the first rule, know the rules, is the second one: dont try to reach a federal code official, and dont try to reach an ADA inspector. We do not give you any kind of certification that you have done it right in advance. We dont have people who review plans, or design drawings. If we did, of course, the federal level would be even a bigger entity, a bigger bureaucracy. So dont reach for the phone and try to get a code official at the federal level. And dont go with someone who advertises themselves as an ADA inspector. If somebody hands you their card and says I am a private consultant and I am an ADA inspector, be a little leery. Because there is currently, as far as I know, nobody who is actually certifying people as inspectors with respect to the ADA.
dont expect a state or local official to give you an ADA stamp of approval. In other words, the state and local agencies arent enforcing the ADA, that is done only at the federal level and to some extent of course by private individuals through litigation. But the state and local officials dont enforce the ADA, they enforce their own codes and legislation. The fourth thing to remember: the ADA regulations set standards for accessibility andthis is in additionfurthermore, the ADA is a civil rights law. This is something that people sometimes overlook with respect to buildings, and I am going to give you a couple of examples. Most of you probably know that, for exterior doors, there is no maximum opening force under Justices ADA standards. There also is no requirement that you have an automatic door. So you can meet the standards, if you have a door to the exterior, even if it is too heavy for some people to open, and even if you dont have an automatic door requirement. But if you think about that for a minute, if the doors are so heavy and the person cant get in the door, then they dont have access to the entitys services that are carried out in the building or to their programs. So you may need to put in an automatic door opener to provide access to the building in order to provide access to the services and programs. Another example is parking. You may have complied with a number of parking requirements set out in the standards and the chart, but if you find that the population that visits the building and needs accessible parking spaces is higher than what you have allowed for, you may then need to provide more parking spaces, which is a separate issue from complying with the standards.
push for certification of your state or local codes and you will feel better if you have it. The reason I say this is that we have a provision, there is a provision in the statute that says that we should certify state and local codes for equivalency for ADA standards through a particular process that we have set up. If a state, for example, gets that certification, then it means that the designer, the builder, et cetera are all working from the state code. But they have some assurance that they are also complying with the ADA standards. Three of the states that are in the Great Lakes Region, I believe, are somewhere in the process of going for certification or asked for technical assistance. I dont know why we dont have very many certified in the Midwest, they all seem to be on the coast. But I would like to urge you to push for that in whatever state you are in because it does work out better for everybody to be reading from the same book, basically. A sort of a corollary to number five, push for certification, is number six: watch out for waivers. If you are building to a certified code and you get a waiver for a specific requirement then you no longer have the assurance I mentioned that you are complying with the ADA. So you may get a waiver at the local level, but that may be causing you problems at the federal level. Number seven, after watch out for waivers, is watch out for variances. Same thing again, if you get a variance from a state or local entity, may be causing you problems at the ADA level. And one thing I want to mention with respect to variances, waivers, equivalents, facilitations, et cetera, is that bigger is not always better. For example, if there is a requirement that you have a toilet stall that is 36 inches wide, dont think that 42 inches is better because it is bigger and you are going beyond the standards. There actually is a reason for that 36-inch stall related to how people use it. And making it 42 inches is going to cause a violation of the standards. It is not going to be something that is better than something you were supposed to do the first time. Number eight, and I know this is going to get a little confusing, I am going to try and keep it simple. But please remember there are no new Department of Justice standards. There are no new Department of Justice standards. The Access Board issued what everybody called a new ADAAG in 2004. Basically, these are the new guidelines for accessible design, and they have combined them into guidelines for the Barriers Act and the ADA, but those are not binding until a standard setting agency makes them into standards. For ADA purposes, that is us, the Department of Justice, and then DOT with respect to transportation. We have not adopted those as standards yet, so they are not binding for DOJ purposes. DOT has adopted them for transportation, so they will apply to bus stops, airports, et cetera for ADA purposes. So in the meantime, stick with the standards that we issued, became effective in 1992. We have done, I think some of you probably know that we have done an advanced notice, a proposal we are making to adopt those guidelines as standards. They are under review at the Office of Management and Budget as proposed rules. And in the next step, if OMB approves, would be that we would publish a rule that would propose to adopt those guidelines as standards. But in the meantime there are no new DOJ standards. And in fact you could be violating the existing standards if you think well, I am just going to go ahead and comply with the new ADAAG because it is better and more recent. That is not always going to happen but there are sometimes when it could, and I am going to give you two examples. One is with respect to scoping. In the new guidelines in some instances you can provide a smaller, a lower number of accessible seats in assembly areas and be in compliance. In the technical provisions area, the new guidelines have a minimum of 1 and a half inches between a hand rail and the wall, whereas the standards say you have to have an exact measurement of 1.5 inches. So you could be causing problems if you go with the new guidelines just as a sort of a blanket approach. Secondly, another thing to keep in mind is that we could go with stricter requirements when we do the standards, because the guidelines are minimums that we can exceed.
work with us, and we will work with you. Have a plan for ensuring access if you are a builder, designer, architect, owner of a building, et cetera, state and local government. Good faith effort goes a long way. Try to hire good architects, experts in their field. Get them to promise compliance in their contract documents, have them put it in writing. Check their work. And document, document, document. Document your efforts, document your progress, document your plans, document the inspections that you do. And then if you do happen to hear from us as part of an investigation or a review, you will have that documentation, which will mean a lot to us. In addition to having the documentation, I would encourage you to cooperate, be flexible and creative. And I think if you look at some of the agreements we have done, you will see that we are always coming up with new approaches to accessibility. And then keep your promises. Those are all good tips to keep us away from you, from the enforcement standpoint.
I know you have heard it before, but we are from the government, we are here to help you. One of our big efforts is in technical assistance. We have a website, which Robin is going to provide to you. On that website we have lots of materials that you can download or you can order print materials, alternate formats, et cetera. I especially suggest that you look at our technical assistance manuals and our tool kit which is relatively new. And we are coming out with a new CD-ROM in the next two or three months that gives you all of that information all in one place that you can use on your own computer. We also make presentations like this pretty much whenever we are asked, so we would encourage you to invite us to do that for you or your group. I will turn it over to Joe.
Thanks, Irene. This is Joe Russo. I am going to talk to you just a little bit about some of the perspectives that I have gained having worked both for the federal government and the state government and local government, and talk a little about some of the problems that arise for people. I will be fairly brief so that we can get to questions. The first thing I want to talk about is one of the common problems that we often see at the state and local level is that people mistake us for ADA enforcement groups. Irene touched on this. Technically speaking the only people that enforce the ADA or that can comment on it and have something behind what they are saying is really the federal government, it is a federal standard. And commonly we get a lot of questions, we have a lot of requests at both the state and the local level for us to come out and certify that a business is compliant. We do not do that. We dont certify that they comply with the ADA, with any other federal standard, and I dont know of any local government that does that. And if they do do it, they would be mistakenly doing that. So beware of any kind of attempt to do that. And this leads to my, I think, biggest point, is if you need a clarification on the requirements, in Illinois, for example, we have three sets of requirements at a minimum, that people have to comply with every time they do a building in terms of accessibility, whether it is new construction or alterations. They have got to comply with the federal standard if it is public accommodation or a commercial facility or local or state government agency. They have got to comply with the ADA. And if it is housing they have got to comply with the Fair Housing Amendments Act. On the state level they have to comply with the Illinois Accessibility Code. And on the local level, if they are in Chicago they have to comply with the Chicago Building Code, Chapter 1811. The important thing here is to keep your requirements straight and go to the responsible agency to get clarification. If there are questions about 1811, they should approach the city. If there are questions about the Illinois Accessibility Code, they should approach the Capital Development Board, which puts forth the requirements on a better, in the Illinois Accessibility Code. And if there are requirements under the ADA they have questions about, they should call the 800 line for the DOJ, or the similar number that you can call for housing in HUD. And the reason I say this is, we often get people who when we go and check their buildings they have misconstrued the different requirements. And, based on that, they constantly make mistakes trying to apply one law or the other, or try to get an exception from one or the other. Now, Irene touched briefly on being careful about variances, and also about waivers, and I just want to touch on that. We dont give those in the City of Chicago, but other areas in Illinois do. And one thing that came up a lot when we were at the state office is that people would believe they had somehow gotten a waiver from the Illinois Accessibility Code or the regulations that implement the ADA, and you cant. You cant get a waiver from either of those codes and/or requirements. And so I would be very, very careful about that. If you see somebody giving you a waiver or trying to give you a variance, remember that it is not going to get you out of all of the other code provisions at the state and federal level that apply. So what this really boils down to is, first and foremost, be prepared. If you are going to build a building, say, in a location like Chicago, you need to have check lists, surveys that apply to all of the standards that are applicable for your building and do that ahead of time. While you are in the planning stage, you should meet with local officials that are responsible for the various codes if you have questions about them. In Chicago, one of the things that we do, we think it is a great practice for other locations, is we allow architects and planners to come in and do something that is called Pre-plan Review, where they sit down with us and talk to us about any questions they have in the early design stages. I think any location that does that, if you have the opportunity to do that, you should do it. It is a great opportunity to cut off mistakes at the very beginning. Second, be aware of the differences in the codes and the requirements. A lot of times people will say that they believe there is a conflict. Now if you look at the ADA and you look at the Fair Housing requirements, they always point you to applying the most strict provision. So, if under the ADA you are required to have two parking spaces, and under the Chicago Building Code you are required to have four, you should have four. That is not a conflict; that just means that the local code is stricter and you should apply the local code. So get in mind in the preparation stage what is the strictest provision and apply that provision. Second in terms of looking at conflicts and comparisons, if you have a conflict and you really believe it is a conflict. If the ADA requires a blue sign, and the local code requires a red sign, you should talk to your local building officials about that. On a legal basis usually the federal law will trump it. You should work this out with your local officials and make sure that it really is a conflict and find out what their opinion about that is. There are very rare in accessibility. I think people believe there are conflicts way more than there are, and there are very, very few of them. There are a lot of complementary requirements where the local code is stricter or the federal code is stricter. And in those instances you should apply the strictest code. Those are not conflicts. If you get an interpretation from a state or local government, remember that it only applies to their code. This is very, very important. If the state code requires that a parking space be situated a certain way, and it is not obvious, lets say, from the requirement that is stated, make sure that it still meets the federal requirement. They may interpret it differently. There are a lot of cases about, all of the cases on the books about accessibility really are about interpretations of the law. And the way a state person, even an identical passage, it could be the exact same language, the state code official may interpret it one way, the feds may interpret it another. Be sure you look at the strictest interpretation and use that. The other thing I would say, just a comment about one thing that Irene said, is that she had mentioned that only the feds enforce the ADA, and then there is a private right of action for private people to do it. I would add one thing to that, several Attorneys General have asserted that they have the right to enforce it as well, including the Attorney General here in the state of Illinois. So you should be aware that there are people who are doing enforcement on the government side that are not the federal government. I would, however, pay special attention to the interpretations from the federal government. Most of the time the state AGs are going to follow those interpretations anyway. But you should be aware that some state AGs, including ours here in the state of Illinois, feel that they have the right to enforce the ADA under what is called Parens Patriae authority. So they are doing that. We were doing that at the AGs office when I was there. And you should be aware of that. So you may have an opportunity, if you have a complaint or if you are somebody who is being investigated, you may be being investigated by the state AGs office, be aware of that. And they will bring in the various provisions. Now in terms of the enforcement of the laws, I would be very, very careful if I was an advocate or if I was somebody who was under investigation to understand the different enforcement provisions. While the ADA only allows the Department of Justice to get damages, and then allows private parties to get attorneys fees, the DOJ can get damages and civil penalties as well under Title III of the ADA against private businesses. Our local law here in the state of Illinois, for example, allows for hefty, hefty fines, up to $250 a day per violation. Be very aware of the local requirements because they have, they come with a big punch. And if you are an advocate trying to get the job done, you can use the local requirements. You usually have to go to the AGs office, you will need to file a complaint. But there are other local provisions in other states that do very similar things to ours, and you should utilize those all the time. On the other side, for those of you trying to comply with the law, be aware that people have the right to go to their local Attorney General to file cases in some states on their own using the local laws, and some of those provide for much, much more drastic reparations. And you need to be prepared for that. And that is another reason to be very, very prepared when you are doing this work. Other than that, I would just say I am going to emphasize again, if you are on the building side of things, preparation and knowledge and get interpretations from the appropriate agencies. If you have a question about the state code, ask a state code official. If you have a question about the ADA, call the Department of Justice. Do not count on the state code officials to interpret the ADA for you. Even if their own code has identical language, it is not a binding interpretation. And it could very well be wrong. So with that I am going to close and let people ask any questions they have.
Thank you, Joe and Irene, and I think that is an important point as you hear both Irene and Joe talk about the fact that I dont care if you are in the city of Chicago, I dont care if you are in Minneapolis or you are out in San Francisco or whatever, there are going to be issues that are very unique to your state or your local jurisdiction in regards to the enforcement of building codes at the local and state level. And it is critical to understand there is a difference between them. And as you heard from Joe and Irene their tips in regards to how you should go about exploring those issues or understanding the interplay between those issues. So Operator, why dont we go ahead and give some instructions for participants to ask questions at this time.
Thank you, if you have a question at this time please press the 1 key on your touch-tone telephone. If your question has been answered, or you wish to remove yourself from the queue, please press the pound key. If you pressed the 1 key prior to this announcement, please do so again. Once again, if you have a question, please press the 1 key on your touch-tone telephone. Our first question, your line is open.
My question is for Mr. Russo. You referred to a pre-plan review process where architects were able to bring plans in and you said that they would come in and get a review. Come in where? What does that look like in Chicago?
Okay, I am sorry. In Chicago we have an interesting situation in terms of the way we are set up here. I work out of an office called the Mayors Office for People with Disabilities, and in the Accessibility Compliance Unit actually has an architect in the Department of Buildings who reports to us, who reviews all the plans for permitting under the accessibility requirements. You cant get a building permit, if it goes through him unless he approves it for accessibility compliance. What we have set up because we were starting to see in certain segments, especially housing actually was the biggest place where we saw a lot of problems, we set up something that is called the Pre-plan Review Process. And it allows architects to pay what is really a nominal fee to come in, and they bring in their early drawings or their early design plans and walk through them with our architect. He has several days a week where that is all he does. He sits down with them, I sit in on meetings where there are legal interpretations involved, and we give answers as to whether they are compliant or not. And then we help, we actually provide suggestions for bringing them into compliance. And that way in the early design stages they tackle a lot of the problems before they are up against permitting and they have constructions deadlines looming and they wont need to kind of redesign the whole facility. There will be minor issues that come up, but it takes care of most of the major issues. And we have found this to be extremely effective. I will say, though, that I think the set-up of this is unique and it is important. Because our architect reports to us, he is not under the pressure, I think, that a lot of building code officials are under to approve plans and move them out. Certainly there is that pressure, but because he works in our unit, he considers that his primary job to get compliance. So he will hold up any plans that are not compliant, and he is very good.
Excellent. Thank you.
Once again if you have a question please press the 1 key. Our next question.
Hi. I have got a question for Irene and a question for Joseph. The first question for Irene is, do you know of a certification, or a state code that is particularly good? And also for Joseph, why do you think there are so many different codes? And my concern is that we are causing additional confusion for builders.
You want me to go first?
If you go to our website, www.ada.gov, you will see that there is a list of certified codes on there. I think there are six or seven at this point. And I cant say you know that one is better than the other. But if I were you I would just look at one of those. We also have the capability of looking at model codes and we are in the process of doing that. So I think once we come up with something on a model code that will be helpful to people.
This is Joe. You know, the reason for the abundance in codes, because there are many of them, I am not sure I know the reason. I think it is part and parcel of the system of government we have in the United States. I mean without sounding too lofty, the federal provisions obviously are going to move along more slowly. When rule-making takes place at the federal level, a lot of people get to weigh in across the country, whereas states and local governments tend to be more responsive to their local communities. So one thing that Irene brought up, which I think is a great example of this, is that there are no exterior door requirements for force under the federal code, and that has been that way since the ADA went into effect when I was working at DOJ with Irene actually. That has been this way the whole time, whereas in Chicago and the state of Illinois, we actually do have a force requirement on exterior doors. Because I think our smaller group of experts and rule makers and also our community as a whole allowed us to be more responsive to that need. Especially in Chicago, where the wind creates a door opening problem for a lot of people, it allowed us to do that. And now in the Chicago Building Code we even have some buildings that are required to have an automatic door. And I think you see that progress moves a little quicker, experimentation even to some extent, at the local and state level. And obviously if these things dont work out, it is a little bit easier to retract them. And then the feds kind of follow up when there is more of a consensus. And I think that is why you see that. And I think you cant stress enough how big the country is. There are different problems you know based on anything from weather to terrain. And people are tackling different issues and the architectural experts in the localities are coming up with different solutions and they make different decisions. I think right now our local codes here in Chicago are very good. CBC is based to some degree on, it is much closer I would say to the new ADAAG that has been developed, but not adopted by DOJ. And that has created a bit of a problem for us here because the Illinois Accessibility Code is based to the most part on the old ADAAG which is the current DOJ standards. So now there are some you know some differences that are creating some confusion in the designers. And that we are hoping at some point this is all going to get aligned and I think it will at some point in Illinois.
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I am calling out of the Disability Communications Access Board in Hawaii, in the conference center here. I have a question, besides the QA process, the planning review process that you use, and I am curious as to what other states and local governments are using. How do you ensure the QA process, or the plan specs comply all the way down to the constructability, or construction level on? Is there a method or process that you use?
Yes, that is an excellent, excellent question. The reason I can say that is I spent my morning looking at a survey, a design survey that we are starting to prepare in my unit for building inspectors to use out in the field. So we have had a good degree of problems here in the city with buildings being constructed that dont meet the designs that were submitted to us, at least, we suspect that that is the problem. And so we are in the process right now of working with our building inspection folks to try to develop an inspection plan. I think that is an excellent question. That is obviously the next problem that you have to tackle. I think you know what hopefully I will get to touch base with everyone in a year from now and tell you the program is working great. We are just developing it now. And we are, I would say we are really in the beginning phases. We are not even sure if we may have to pass some legislation or something to make this work. But at this stage we are looking at that as our next big challenge. We have got to get out in the field and ensure that these buildings are being built in accordance with the plans that were approved, and that is certainly a problem. And I tell you we are seeing that and I dont know if other people are having this problem, but we are seeing it a lot in housing. I dont want to suggest that I think housing developers are cheating or anything. Maybe it is a confusion about the standards or something happens with the construction teams. But we are clearly seeing plans we reviewed and approved not being implemented in the field the way they were given to us. So we are looking at that as the next big step for us.
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Hi, thank you. Joe, you had talked about several states Attorneys Generals that enforce the ADA. Do you know of any listing of which states Attorneys General do that?
I dont. Um, I know I dont want to commit another Attorney General beside the one I used to work for. But our understanding was that the New York folks were working on it. And I believe the California people. But I dont want to, I wouldnt take that to the bank. I dont know if they have actually done anything under any of the federal statutes or not. My understanding was at least that they were looking at it or had some investigations going. In Illinois, we actually, all of the cases we have filed at this point by the time I left were in state court but they had federal claims. And so I think that had worked out so far. I dont how they are continuing with it since I left. So I think there are probably a couple of states that are looking at it. You may want to just talk to your local Attorney General and ask them if they have any plans to do it. I will say there are arguments both ways. In whether it would you know in certain situations, I mean under Parens Patriae, you really have to have a case where you can show it is going to impact the community. That is really the principle, that you are kind of standing in the shoes of like the whole community. And you know that is not always easy. There were certain types of cases I think we felt we couldnt do. And I think that is probably you know you got to choose your cases wisely, I think, if you are going to do that.
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I am sorry, hello?
Yes, please go ahead.
Okay, sorry. Yes, without any further questions why dont we go ahead and move forward with our other two presenters. And I will call upon Doug Anderson and Jack Catlin at this point and then we will come back to questions and answers again.
Thanks, Robin. This is Doug Anderson. I am going to talk just for a moment about going beyond the minimum standards when it comes to design and construction for accessible environments. As was mentioned in the intro, our firm does a lot of work with companies. And part of what we do is sometimes working with ADA and state or local standards and helping architects comply with those, and some of that work involves construction walk-throughs and a lot of that involves plan reviews. Some things that I wanted to mention that I think is particularly helpful for designers is, with the ADA and other accessibility codes, try to incorporate those to the extent possible into the initial design. If you get done with the design and then start trying to apply the ADA standards to that, sometimes it is going to maybe not look as good. You might have presented yourself with some challenges on the back end that you could have easily solved earlier on in the design process. So, I think that is something that we have found is very helpful. Another thing that we recommend to designers and architects is that where possible design within ranges, instead of at the minimums or maximums. An example of that is the maximum reach range for a forward approach is 48 inches. And for a light switch in a room, you know, if there is no reason why you cant put that at 44 inches, it is going to be usable by a greater percentage of the population and you are well within the range. Therefore, if the contractor is off by a little bit and mounts it at 45 or 46 inches, you are still compliant under the ADA standards. We find quite often because the ADA has these minimums and maximums, people will pick that number and put that into the documents. And you can say that the documents were drawn and designed within the ADA or the accessibility standards and compliant with that. But what actually gets built out in the field may not relate to that, or you might have some kind of problem. Another thing that Joe had mentioned, which I think is a great idea is some type of review process during construction. Quite often we will find a set of plans that have been designed correctly, but they run into some issues in the field and what actually gets built is a deviation of that that maybe the contractor didnt think was a problem or the architect didnt have his accessibility hat on and approved and said, Okay, I can do that. And on the back end, then you do run into problems. So if you can use a construction punch list when you are walking through buildings during the construction process and just quickly remind yourself of those accessibility elements that have to be there, we find that to be a helpful thing. And it saves getting to the very end of the project and then finding out Oh, gee, you know our bathrooms are one inch too small or something like that. Something that relates to that in catching changes that might affect accessibility is actually showing clear floor spaces on plans. That is a trigger to the architect and the contractor that, if you make a change, there is a little dotted line here around the toilet; Oh gee, that is my clear floor space requirement. And it helps people from making changes during construction that might violate that and it is kind of a trigger for designers to remember that and keep their accessibility hat on. I am going to turn and just talk through some of the elements of a building and sites. And look at the some of the things that maybe other standards, state standards, or the IBC might have, other model codes that might be something that you would want to consider in going beyond what the minimum ADAAG standards are. Starting off with parking. Something that I think is good practice is to try to design your parking so that people with disabilities dont have to pass behind other cars that are parked. That you have an opportunity to go from the access aisle hopefully directly to a pedestrian route. If you do have to travel through a portion of the parking lot, making it an area that will not require passing behind other parked vehicles. It might be difficult, especially with a minivan, to see someone in a wheelchair when backing up, and I think it is just, it works better. And quite frankly, having that direct route or a connection point to the sidewalk, I think, is just a better design. To the extent that you can use a universal parking design, with a 5-foot access aisle and an 11-foot wide parking space, that for one thing that keeps people from parking in the access aisle when you have a van-accessible space. And it provides the greatest flexibility for people with disabilities in being able to you know pull to one side or the other side of the parking space to give themselves some additional room. A standard that is being worked on by the Access Board is a public right to way standard. It has some additional things in there about curb ramps that arent part of the current standard but I think are good requirements. One of those has to do with, and this is also in the new ADAAG and some of the other model codes. Right now the ADA allows you to have less than four feet at the top of a curb ramp and it doesnt really define what the minimum amount of space is up there. The newer standards are talking about having at least 36 inches at the top of the curb ramp regardless of your side flare slope, and that really allows people to come up the curb ramp, have a level landing and then be able to turn, instead of having to use part of the flare of the curb ramp. Another thing that is in there that I think is very helpful for wheelchair users is having the grade break for the bottom of the curb ramp, or a regular ramp, be perpendicular to the run of the ramp. That makes sure that when you are coming down the ramp, both of your front caster wheels hit the grade break at the same time. And it is just a safer design. When we are talking about curb ramps, also I would like to encourage using the least slope possible. I think in the City of Chicago, you push for 1 of 14 maximum, dont you, Joe? Or even less slope if possible.
Well, yeah, I think what we do in Chicago is our view is that the we have the same language as the ADA does, so we say the least slope possible. You know we based it on the space available and stuff like that. And we strongly suggest as a best practice to design it no more than 1 in 14.
And that is a great thing, when we get back to this idea of designing within the range rather than going to the maximum. You have some room, if the concrete is off a bit and you end up with a 1 to 13 slope, you are still within the 1 to 12 maximum that the ADA allows. Some other things, the entrances were already mentioned as far as the provision of automatic doors where possible. With exterior doors it is reserved as far as the force to open, but this is a civil rights law and you do have to try to provide access one way or the other even if the standard does not defined a maximum force for opening that door. In that vein of thinking, another thing that I have seen, and I think the State of California requires this, is providing at least 24 inches to the right or to the left side of an entrance door, so that it gives you a little bit of extra room. Lets say maybe you have an 8-pound force on the door and it is not automatic, that 24 inches on that side does give a user a little bit more maneuvering space, and can maybe get a better angle for pulling the door open. Some other things that other states have are requirements that exterior routes be at least 42 inches instead of 36. I think that gives you a dynamic envelope that is a little bit better for tracking with a wheelchair. For designers, in particular, the 2% maximum cross slope can be a challenge in maintaining that through the construction process. And if you can specify a 1.5% slope, or even a 1% slope where possible, it keeps you away from running into problems with a completed sidewalk where your cross slope is 2.1% or 2.2%, which exceeds the maximum. With ramps, to the extent that you can, where a ramp landing empties into an intersection of another sidewalk, to the extent that you can keep the grade break at least 12 inches back from that intersection, that keeps the hand rails from protruding out into the other route. With elevators there are some exceptions in the ADA for buildings of less than three stories. And to the extent that you can work with your client and encourage elevators to be put in, I think it has some benefits. One being, if you hire a person with a disability, now you already have the access to the second level if that is needed. And also, for renting out that space on the second floor, I think it becomes a plus, as far as being able to rent you know an accessible space on that second level, as opposed to having an inaccessible level that where you have to provide alternative means of service. Some other ideas, in corridors and exterior areas where you have a door swinging into a route, trying to design things so you have at least 36 inches outside of the door swing, which might result in wider corridors or a wider sidewalk but it does certainly make it more accessible. The use of low pile carpet tiles instead of a carpeting that has a padding underneath it makes a carpeted surface easier to roll on. Detectable warnings, or some type of detectable detail: color contrast at the top of stairs I think this is helpful for people with low vision or no vision. To the extent that flush transitions between materials can be used, we see a lot of times, you will have a transition between vinyl tile to a carpeted surface with a little metal strip that gets bent over the tack strip. And quite often that does not meet your 1 to 2 bevel. And it looks innocuous but it can be a challenge for people using wheeled mobility devices. Just a couple of other things. Looking at bathrooms, to the extent that you can make all of your lavatories accessible in a toilet room, in lieu of just making one of them, from a visual standpoint it is nice to have them all at the same level. And if they are all insulated then you dont have someone searching for the sink that has the insulating material underneath it. In that vein I see a lot of designers using stainless steel sinks in bathrooms and the same issue with the hot water heating up the drain pipe. It could be the same thing with a stainless steel bowl, it will transmit heat quickly. And when you use those, I think they look nice, but I recommend providing insulation on the stainless steel bowl underneath to protect against burns. Some of the new standards have things as far as a vertical grab bar thats mounted above the horizontal grab bar in accessible toilet stalls and that is helpful for a lot of users. Providing a full length mirror in bathrooms, in addition to mirrors that would be over the sinks. And then again keeping your reach ranges within the range as far as if you put out towel dispensers at 44 inches instead of 48. Things like that, it really helps with the accessibility standpoint. Just a couple of the other standards that are in the works right now. As Irene has mentioned, you know the new ADAAG is not an enforceable standard. And there are some areas in there that are less stringent than the current ADAAG, so you do have to be careful. But there are some areas in there that are addressed, recreation areas and childrens standards and things like that, that are not in the current ADAAG. And if you are looking for direction in designing some of those areas, that would be some place that you can look. I mentioned the public rights of way standards, or guidelines. Outdoor developed areas is being worked on and then passenger vessels. Jack? I will turn it over to you to talk about some universal design ideas.
Okay, thanks, Doug. I do want to take a couple of minutes to talk about universal design, what it is and how it can be applied. Universal design is an emerging design theory, started about ten years ago by Ron Mace, an architect down in North Carolina. Ron passed away a few years ago, but the application and the spreading of universal design is going to be his legacy. About four years ago LCM Architects was approached by Marca Bristo at the Access Living. Access Living is the Chicago independent living center and, as such, has a lot of clients with disabilities as well as a lot of employees with disabilities. They had been leasing space for their first twenty years of existence, and decided that the time was right to try to control their environment, to build an environment that suited them. And so they approached us, asked us if we would help them with the planning, and the design and the construction of this project which we gladly accepted the challenge, because we wanted the opportunity to be able to explore this idea of universal design as well. Access Living is a 50,000 square foot commercial office building on four floors with an additional floor of below grade parking and a roof terrace. So it presented us a unique challenge on an urban infield site to build a vertical building, that the primary users were people that had difficulty with mobility. Access Living wanted their headquarters to be a model of universal design. What did that mean? Well, first is understanding exactly what universal design is. Valerie Fletcher, the Director of Adaptive Environments in Boston has a definition that I like very much, and that is something along the lines that the universal design is a framework for the design of buildings, and not just buildings but product, information technology, anything that is created by human beings. But it is that framework is to be applied so that the end product is usable by the widest range of people. It allows people that have traditionally been limited by the design of the built environment, and by that I mean children, senior citizens, and people with disabilities to function with greater independence and dignity. Now very broad definition. Ron Mace and a group of students ten, fifteen years ago developed seven principles of universal design. I am not going to go through those different principles. But Access Living and LCM Architects held a symposium with the local disability community, with universal design and accessibility experts and tried to determine how we would apply those seven principles and that broad definition to the various design elements and areas within the building. And what I would like to do is take a couple of minutes and go through some of those to give you an idea of how we, how our thinking went, and how we arrived at various design solutions. And I will start with the beginning, the entrance to the building. This may seem perfectly logical, but in fact, it was a bit of a challenge. Our entrance is a no step entrance. One of the things about universal design is that it tends to, and it tries to, integrate all users in an equitable way. All codes, all accessibility codes and standards would allow for the Access Living entrance to have 2 or 3, 4, 5 steps and those steps would then have to be served by a ramp. Our challenge was on a difficult site, because of some below grade conditions, was to create a no step entry. We also wanted to ensure that people arriving via vehiclesprivate cars, taxicabs, minivanswould be able to be dropped off at an accessible location. The Access Living building is a midblock location. For those of you who use wheelchairs, you know when you arrive at a midblock location and there is no ramp to get from the street up to the top of the sidewalk, you usually end up getting dropped off at an alley or at the end of the intersection where there may be a compliant or maybe even a non-compliant curb ramp but it is the best you have. We wanted to provide a midblock access point. We used a ramp that was parallel to the curb. We did not have space to provide a perpendicular curb ramp to get up from the street to the Access Living building because that ramp would have gone across the sidewalk and provided a greater than 2% cross slope for people that were going east/west across the sidewalk, as opposed to north/south up and down our ramp. So we provided a parallel ramp. We also provided heat tracing underneath the sidewalk. Again, none of this is required by code. But heat tracing will melt ice and snow; in Chicago that can be a problem for two reasons. One, it can be slippery, and we wanted to provide a nonslip surface as best we could. Two, it would pull in, it could drag in contaminates into the building and we were very sensitive to keeping a very clean environment within the building. Our entrance vestibule provided a pair of three foot biparting automatic sliding doors. So when both doors were in an open position we had a six foot wide opening. This would allow people to go both in and out of the building at the same time and speed up entering and exiting the building. We had motion sensors at this vestibule. Not just automatic doors but motion sensors, so as one approaches the doors they open automatically without the use of the hands. A lot of people with disabilities are not able to push the door actuators that you see for the low powered automatic doors that are mounted either on pylons or on walls. There are many people that cant use those, either. So we provided motion sensors for hands-free operation both on the inside and the outside. And then we have a flush transition from the exterior sidewalk into the vestibule that has a walk-up mat, a recessed walk-up mat, and then into the actual building itself. We dont have any metal strips that provide a threshold. And thresholds can be very difficult for some people with mobility devices. Once we get inside to the lobby, the reception desk is located right on access with the entrance doors and close to the entrance doors. So one doesnt have to search to find where the reception desk is. So people with low vision, no vision, or communication disabilities do not have to ask or search. It is going to be very, very obvious. If a person is visually impaired they may have to ask the first time, but after that they are going to remember that all they have to do is walk about ten steps straight on axis through those vestibule doors and they will be at the reception desk. The reception desk is somewhat the reverse of what you see in most commercial office reception counters. Instead of a 42-inch high counter, we have a 38-inch high work desk with a side area, side counter that is 42 inches high. 42 inches high does work for some people with disabilities, but 30 inches is a better height for people with disabilities. It is also a good height for the work surface on the other side of the counter. So we basically have one counter with the reception desk, public side and employee side at the same height. Toilets; we have provided motion sensors for the water closets, for the lavatories, soap dispensers and the paper towel dispensers. We are starting to see more and more of these motion sensors, particularly at airports. And the technology is getting better and better. Now, so far what I have mentioned are things that we would recommend in any commercial office building, or any type of building. One of the things we have done at Access Living was an experiment. We provided in a fairly small footprint, we provided a doorless mens room and a doorless womens room. We designed it so that if it didnt work out, that if the employees and the clients of Access Living didnt like the idea of not having doors into the bathrooms, we could provide an accessible door very, very easy. But what we have provided is modesty partitions so like one in an airport, one cant see into the bathroom, but by walking around or pushing around a wall, it is very, very easy to get into those bathrooms. And again, the materials have changed from tile in the bathroom to a low pile padless carpet in the corridor. We have provided a flush transition by dropping down the height of the concrete below. By depressing the concrete under the tile we are able, knowing how thick the tile and thick the carpet was, we were able to provide a flush transition between those two different materials. Another unique thing about the Access Living bathroom is that we were able to provide hand wash sinks, sinks at the vanity and lavatories that were only 3 inches deep. Corian is a solid surface product that has a 3 inch deep sink that is integrated into a vanity top. We used that, and the reason we used that is because that allowed us to lower the top of the vanity by 2 inches and raise the knee clearance below by 2 inches. Instead of having a 34-inch high maximum counter top with 27 inches of knee space below, we have a 32-inch high countertop with 29 inches below. This allows people of short stature to be easily be able to reach the controls. It also allows the Chairman of the Access Living Board, who is a very big guy, and has 29 inches, his knees are 29 inches above the floor, to be able to approach this vanity from the front and get his knees under. He has told me this is the first time he has been able to do this in a public setting where he can actually approach the sink straightforward like everybody else. One of the things we are very proud of in the Access Living building is that virtually all of the products and the materials that we used in this building are what we refer to as off the shelf. By thinking about what was necessary, by working with the client Access Living, by understanding what their needs were, we were able to take the time to find products, find carpets, find finishes that met their needs. The workstation is a good example of that. We found a workstation, mint price workstation that provides adjustable plant, in other words, we can provide it virtually as large, long and deep as we wanted. It has an adjustable height work surface. And the storage and the files and the accessory tray are all adjustable in one inch increments. Now, not on a daily basis one can get this adjustability, but when an employee shows up, they can adjust their work surface height to what works for them. Lower if necessary the storage area, the above-counter storage areas so that they are within reach range. And provide accessory trays all within an easily reached environment. This is a system called the Answer System from Steel Case. We started working with Steel Case very, very early on, and we found these systems that are off the shelf, moderately priced, and very, very, very flexible. Because of the fact that there are five floors, four floors, three stories above grade and one story below grade, and we have a lot of people that cant exit the building via the stairs, we were very concerned about emergency egress. And so we provided areas of rescue assistance at each stair tower that was oversized. And we used rooms that would otherwise be provided, we provided them next to the stairs, for example, the lunch room is next to the stairs. The walls around the lunchroom and the door to the lunchroom has a 2R rating. And then we have provided a door straight from the lunchroom into the stair tower so that, that entire lunchroom can be used as an area of rescue assistance. We have elevators at the north end of the building. We have two elevator lobbies, this is somewhat unique. So we have doors at both ends of the elevators, so that people, again, using wheelchairs can enter the elevators without turning around, go to their floor and exit the other side. That gave us the opportunity to have elevator lobbies on both ends. One of those elevator lobbies has fire doors at the entrance to that lobby. So during an emergency, the doors close and that elevator lobby then can be used as an area of rescue assistance as well with direct access into the north stair tower. We also provide one evacuation chair in each one, in each floor in each stair tower. Visual alarms, we have provided those at optimum locations, and we have synchronized the flash rates on those visual alarms. Too many visual alarms and unsynchronized flashes can create seizure problems for some people. We have also been very sensitive to multiple chemical sensitivity issues. The building when it was done, when construction was completed, we had a two week flush out period with 100% outside air to get rid of all of the contaminants that out-gas from the building products, furniture and finishes. We had high performance air filters. So the point I want to make about this is with proper planning, sensitive planning, and understanding what materials and what products are out there, it is very, very easy to incorporate the seven principals of universal design when you know what the client needs and what is available. So I think Doug and I are both available to take questions, if there are any.
Once again, if you have a question, please press the 1 key.
I have some questions from the online group while we are waiting for people to get queued in today. So why dont I go ahead and throw those out for you right now. Especially given the comments you just made regarding the Access Living building, because it is also a green building and such as well, the question from one of our participants says, as institutions and communities move toward building and construction of green buildings and structures, are there ADA issues that are arising?
This is Jack. No, what we actually found was there was, a lot of synergy between leeds, sustainability, green architecture and accessibility. The last thing I talked about is a good example of that. Clean air works for people with disabilities. Clean air works for everybody. Green buildings, depending on where you are located, may or may not have certain national standards they have to comply with regarding things like air quality. That is good for people with disabilities as well. So by having lower VOCs, by having cleaner air through high performance air filters, by flushing out buildings at the end of the construction period, you are improving the air quality for everybody. Our building is going to be a LEEDS Silver building, and we are very proud of that.
Okay. So there is not in any of the issues of trying to incorporate certain types of products and things of that nature, you have not run into anything where there is not a lack of an accessible counterpart or anything of that.
No, not unlike what Joe had mentioned in terms of conflicts between the federal standards and local standards. We didnt find any conflicts between accessibility standards and good green practice.
Because there really are no green standards at the federal level or anything at this point.
No, there are no standards for that.
That is being developed locally.
Well, there are guidelines. The LEED guidelines, there are no federal laws, but there are guidelines. LEED is an index of sustainability, if you will, of green design and it is a points system. To be a, there is four levels of LEED. There is LEED certified, silver, gold and platinum. The more points you get by incorporating certain elements into the buildings, the higher your rating is regarding LEED and presumably the greener the building, the more sustainable the building. There is some arguments, questions about whether that is true or not, but I think as an overall that is true. That to my knowledge there are no federal standards on sustainability in green design.
Another question before we go on here also from online, is that this individual is asking in general if anyone, and this could go to all four of you, could describe one or two of the ADA issues in private construction projects that are most confusing by architects? Is there one that comes up Irene more commonly or most commonly? I know that Doug you talked about a few as well. But if you had to say, if somebody put you on the spot and said one or two most commonly confused, would you be able to say those?
I dont know that I can point to one issue but I can say that one area where we see a lot of problems is toilet rooms, of all different varieties.
Size and clearance issues and things?
Yes, sometimes it is forgetting to put, not putting in an ambulatory stall. Sometimes it is just not getting the dimensions correct or not having the elements work in conjunction with each other correctly. That is the biggest, I think, interior issue that we have. Actually there are two, the other one is protruding objects. We see a lot of objects that protrude more than 4 inches. So that in an area that is not cane detectable, so that people who are using a cane arent going to be able to detect them. And that would include things like drinking fountains that are not recessed in alcoves or otherwise have a detectable surface. That would include telephones, to the extent that they exist anymore, public phones. Hand sanitizers in hospitals, that has become a big issue there. And house phones also can protrude. Those I think are the two biggest issues that we see on the interior. I dont know how, others may have other experiences.
I think, this is Doug, on the exterior we see a lot of site issues as far as slope and cross slope. I know I mentioned that in my presentation but I think that is something that trips people up a lot. And we see that both in public buildings and as well as even in housing developments. We see that as a major issue.
I think most people are very familiar with curb ramps that may have a running slope of 1 in 12 or 8.33% which is appropriate. But it is very seldom do you see the side flares, they are usually at 20 or 30 degrees, as opposed to the 20% or 30%, as opposed to the 1 in 10 ratio that is required. It is rare to see that the side slopes to be compliant. I think architects have done a fairly good job of understanding what the requirements are. Getting it all the way through construction can be a challenge. But I think civil engineers need to step up to the plate a little bit more and become a little bit more informed as to what the site requirements are.
We find a lot of newly constructed curb ramps that dont meet the standards, either the gutter pan or you know there are sections of it where the slope exceeds. So that is a tricky area.
And especially with the confusion related to the truncated domes now too. That with the suspension no longer being there, and people still havent caught onto that issue yet.
That is correct.
This is Joe. I think the biggest problem that we see or the biggest confusion we find, at least in Illinois, deals with residential housing. Applicability of which standard, depending on the type of housing that is provided, the size of the building, how many floors it is, I think that is the biggest area of confusion that we see. I think because the requirements at the federal level are not as, I guess they are not as solidified as the standards for the ADA. And then you are applying, really and actually in Illinois you are applying three different laws on the local level, you are applying the Illinois Accessibility Code which is part of the Environmental Barriers Act, you are applying if you live in Chicago, you are applying the Chicago Building Code Chapter 18-11, and then finally you are also applying the Illinois Human Rights Act. So there is a lot of confusion with that. And I think thats, we see more non-compliance in housing than probably almost anything else in the city of Chicago.
You know somebody asked a question earlier about why there are so many different standards out there. And Joe, I think you said you dont know, I dont either. But I think the future looks a lot better. And I would really encourage local municipalities to look at the IBC, the model code, the International Building Code. If it can be adopted universally across this country, and the people who write the IBC, the International Code Council itself, and the technical provisions they reference, the ANSI Standards and the Access Board have been working together the past five, six, seven years. I am trying to harmonize these three different standards. And if we can get the Fair Housing Act in there as well, as the Type B units under the IBC, I can see a future where there will only be two different standards. One is the private code standards, the IBC, the ICCs International Building Code, and then the federal governments civil rights laws, be it the ADA and the Fair Housing Act and we would be down to one. That the state of Illinois, for example, since we are in Illinois, and the city of Chicago would be adopting the IBC standard for accessibility and we would have just one standard throughout the country, at least 99.9%.
If I could play devils advocate to that for just a minute. I agree with the need to have some uniformity. But I would act with caution. At the local level especially, where advocates have sometimes have a greater say, I think that there is an opportunity, and then sometimes it is reversed at the federal level, but there are different opportunities to protect certain things that you may like. There are changes in the new ADAAG some of which I am very aware of because they are issues I dealt with a lot when I was with DOJ, which I dont think are beneficial to people with disabilities and which I understand there is a measure of compromise but which I would not want our local code to adopt necessarily. While there are other things in the new standards, I mean the new ADAAG which they are adopted as standards by the DOJ that I think are good. I say uniformity is good, I say it to a degree. I mean I think these things should be looked at very carefully. Advocates should not give up and people with disabilities should not give up their rights to code officials and/or to code making bodies cavalierly. I think these things have to be looked at really, really carefully. And people should use it as an opportunity to either be more progressive in their locality, or to protect certain things. And look at it with a practiced eye. Even things some of the things that the Access Board has found, I will tell you that just my personal experience and then my experience as a litigator I dont agree with, and as an advocate. And I think some of them I do. And I think they are real great experts and they do good stuff. But I think as much as I think uniformity will help, and I am in favor of it to a degree, it should be done very, very carefully. And I would not just kind of wholeheartedly embrace any kind of uniform code.
Okay. Lets see if we got some questions from the audience at this point.
Yes, we do. We have eight questions in queue. Your line is open.
Thank you very much. I wonder if any of the speakers are aware of a building code, whether IBC or federal standards or local codes, that respond to the reality that actually there is no ideal height for wall mounted features, things like climate control thermostats or wall telephones, to the extent they still exist, whereas for example somebody needs to look very closely at it and or has a bad back and somebody that has limited reach. And my ideal example, my favorite example is going into an elevator in a public building, and on both sides of the door there is a control panel, and they are both low. So I when needing to look very closely, I have to get down literally on my knees to look at them closely. Or I am told also if somebody reads Braille it is pretty awkward to read Braille when you have to put your hand very low. And then the second aspect of the question about ideal building codes is building codes which require non-visual aspects of major appliances so that the people that cannot see the feature can use the controls non-visually. Thank you.
This is Jack. I know at the Access Living headquarters they had purchased some talking appliances and they found that to be very beneficial. To your first point, virtually every dimension that is in ADAAG or local accessibility codes as well is either a maximum or a minimum, or stated in a range. Telephones are not required to be mounted at a certain height. They just cant be mounted higher than a certain dimension, whether it is forward approach or side approach and that sort of height. So architects and designers do have a fair amount of flexibility in where these items are provided. And it is up to the architects in my opinion to understand what the need of the client is. Where there has been, using drinking fountains as an example, real issues about that, then the requirements at the federal level are that there be two different drinking fountain heights to accommodate that concern.
That was the thermostat?
The thermostat cant be mounted if it is covered, it cant be mounted in a commercial or public setting higher than 54 inches if there is side access to the highest control, or 48 inches if there is only forward access. If it is in a Fair Housing Act covered dwelling, then it is 48 inches. But 54 inches is pretty high. I mean, it can be that high.
But elevator controls, elevator controls are not -
Well, again, it depends on how the, we worked with Kone Elevator which was a good experience on the Access Living building, and we got the elevator buttons in positions that we think are beneficial to everybody. Wasnt exactly what the elevator industry wanted but we worked with them. We got them where we wanted them. So again thinking about the design and not just applying the standard answer to these things is a step in the direction of universal design. Remembering that accessibility is usually a minimum, a maximum or a range and there is pretty good latitude within those.
This is Joe Russo. You know one thing, if I could just comment. I think the truth about all these codes is that they are always a compromise, they dont really work for all people. And I think what we have seen, we are seeing now is people who are blind or visual impairments are weighing in a little bit more on what their needs are, which I think is a good thing. We are in Chicago actively working on a technology initiative because we are really concerned. But also see it as an opportunity to create a great deal more access. One thing I keep thinking about as you talked about the temperature controls, one of the things that is available now are wireless temperature control remotes. And so you could actually mount the wireless remote at an accessible height, but allow it to be taken off by someone who has reach issues, or who is tall, or has vision issues that can then utilize it. And there is going to be a lot of these opportunities with technology to go forward, but it requires planning. And right now a lot of this stuff is not within the accessibility requirements of the codes. And I think that is something that you know both the local governments and the feds are going to have to take a look at over the next years, because it is a reality. And just not having requirements in it is kind of ignoring the opportunity, I think.
This is Doug Anderson. There is some technology requirements for federal agencies under the 508 Standards but those have not trickled down to private entities yet. But it is really exciting to see some of the advancements in technology and how that is going to help provide access. I saw something recently on a thermostat where you would touch the thermostat and it would project in large numbers on the wall the settings for the thermostat. And it actually had a, you know a large button that you can push for up or down that was also projected and was motion activated. So you know, certainly things arent as good as they can be now. But I think in the future we are going to continue to see things get better and better in that arena.
Unfortunately I think at this time we are running out of our time of our session. And I know that we have many people who are still in the queue, and I apologize that we have not been able to get to their question. I know that there are resources available to help get some of your questions answered. We have a resource document produced as part of this program that is available to everybody, that lists the 800-number as well as the websites for both the U.S. Department of Justices Disability Rights Section as well as the U.S. Access Board. Again, their websites as well as their telephone numbers and we also have provided you with some resources for universal design and housing accessibility, including Housing First Accessibility First, which is a program funded by HUD, which is a technical assistance program for Fair Housing Act, as well as the North Carolina State University Center for Universal Design, which was referenced by Jack in his comments related to universal design and such. So you can contact those organizations for some additional information. Visit their websites for some additional information on this topic. You can also contact your Regional ADA Center at the 800-949-4232 toll-free number. And if you are not aware of which center serves your area, you can go to the website, www.adata.org and look at the clickable map for the center that serves your area. I want to thank our speakers for their time and their efforts today on this topic. We probably could have gone two to three hours on this particular topic with the amount of issues and interest that it does generate. But I do want to thank you and I want to thank everyone for your participation today. And I hope with that we see you for future sessions. Our session next month, moves away from architectural access and our session for the month of February is actually moving into employment and it is going to focus on disability, aging and older workers. And that session is held and scheduled for February 19, 2008. And our speaker is Michael Williams, who is a Rehabilitation Planning Specialist with the Department of Veteran Affairs and the National Program Office for Rehabilitation, Strategic Health Care Group. He has a lot of experience in this issue of older workers and we look forward to having him join us and provide us with some additional information in February. For more information on the Audio Conference Series go to www.ada-audio.org. We are also introducing a new Webinar Series starting in this month. Our first session will be next week on January 22. It is a legal issues seminar series being offered on online conferencing tool. Our first topic is regarding psychiatric disability and there is more information on the www.ada-audio.org website about that Webinar Series as well. So we invite you to visit and learn more about that. So thank you everyone. And everyone have a great day.