The ADA Final Rule: Neither Final Nor a Rule

In 1998, the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) issued an amendment to the 1991 Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) entitled "Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities: Building Elements Designed for Children's Use: Final Rule.

10/01/2000


In 1998, the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) issued an amendment to the 1991 Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) entitled "Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities: Building Elements Designed for Children's Use: Final Rule."

Under ADA, the Department of Justice is responsible for drafting regulations-including accessibility standards consistent with the guidelines issued by the Access Board-for newly constructed and altered state and local government buildings, places of public accommodation and commercial facilities. The Department of Justice has not yet adopted the new guidelines for disabled children's accessibility. As a result, they are, at present, "advisory only and are not to be construed as requirements."

Nevertheless, designers and specifiers would do well to apply the standards recommended in the Final Rule, says Arnie Wilke, a product manager with Milwaukee-based Bradley Corporation, a maker of plumbing fixtures and equipment. The reason? "Because they make sense and they will eventually be adopted by the Department of Justice," says Wilke.

While the ADAAG-as originally drafted-did not provide accessibility requirements based on children's dimensions, the guidelines did include a provision permitting departures from ADAAG requirements that provide equal or greater access. "Not surprisingly" says Wilke, "designers have sought more specific guidance and technical criteria in the area of children's dimensions, giving rise to the Final Rule."

Access for children

The Final Rule provides alternate specifications based on children's dimensions. As exceptions, these are discretionary. The Final Rule covers access for children 12 or younger and encompasses drinking fountains, water closets, toilet stalls, lavatories, sinks and fixed or built-in seating tables.

For example, for lavatory fixtures, vanities and built-in lavatories, the ADAAG requires: a maximum rim or counter height of 34 inches; an apron clearance of at least 29 inches; a minimum knee clearance of 27 inches; and a minimum toe clearance of 9 inches-all based on adult dimensions. The guide also specifies that the clear floor space below the fixture must be 17 to 19 inches deep.

The Final Rule provides an exception for these specifications in cases where lavatories are used primarily by children, ages 6 through 12. These lavatories are permitted a minimum apron clearance and knee clearance 24 inches high, provided that the rim or counter surface is no higher than 31 inches. The final rule also allows an exception under which lavatories used primarily by children younger than five need not provide these clearances if space for a parallel approach is provided, says Wilke.

Amendments to the ADAAG to accommodate disabled children are based on the Access Board's feedback from parents of children with disabilities; accessibility consultants and designers; and government entities, including state departments of education and commissions on disability, local school districts and federal agencies.

"It is only a matter of time before the Department of Justice adopts the Final Rule, and plumbing designers would be wise to prepare for its implementation," says Wilke.

Copies of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities: Building Elements Designed for Children's Use: Final Rule are available on the Access Board's Web site atwww.access-board.gov.





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