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Building Codes in Illinois Seminar

Monday, November 25th, 2013

Leah Riley and Christopher Chwedyk join Lorman Education Services on a Seminar on Building Codes in Illinois.

Get 6 AIA/CES Credits and hear experts simplify building code issues and help you stay out of sticky complications – like permitting roadblocks, failed inspections and costly renovations. Avoid legal complications and schedule busters before they happen.

Register through this link and register with a 50% Savings!

 

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Q & A About California ADA Requirements

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

Triangle street sign with question mark in the middle

California ADA requirements can be confusing.  This is because California supplements the ADA with its own set of rules, as defined in the 2010 version of its state building code.  While this topic is impossible to cover in depth in this forum, we’ve prepared answers to many of the frequently asked questions about the subject.

 

Q: My building was completed before the ADA went into effect in 1992.  There are parts of it that do not comply with current standards.  Should I modify it to meet the strictures of the ADA and the California Building Code (CBC)?

A: Possibly, but a definitive answer to your question is impossible without an on-site inspection by someone thoroughly versed in California ADA requirements.  The areas of your building that are non-compliant may be eligible for a waiver if correcting them would present an undue burden on you.  Again, however, your situation requires an in-person visit to resolve.

 

Q: I want to remodel my building, but I’m concerned about ensuring its compliance with the law.  What do the ADA and CBC says about making remodeled buildings accessible?

A: If the project will add $130,000.00 or more to the building’s value, then you must fully comply with regulations regarding the building’s entryway, the travel path to the remodeled area, and any restrooms within the remodeled area.

If the added value is under $130,000.00, then you will need to invest 20% of the value’s amount in accessibility upgrades.  For example, assume that the remodeling project will add $50,000.00 in value to your property.  In that case, you must spend $10,000.00, or 20% of the added value, upgrading the property.

 

Q: How should I spend the 20% of the added value?

A: The upgrades should be performed in the following order of priority:

  1. Making entrances accessible.
  2. Making the route to the remodeled area accessible.
  3. Making at least one restroom for each gender in the remodeled area accessible.
  4. Supplying accessible telephones.
  5. Supplying accessible drinking fountains.
  6. Supplying accessible storage, parking, and alarms (if applicable to the location).

 

Q: What are the consequences for failing to comply with the ADA and CBC?

A: Failure to comply with the rules of both acts will expose your firm to the risk of catastrophically expensive litigation.  It will also put you in violation of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which assigns a minimum penalty of $4,000.00 for each violation of the ADA and/or CBC.  We should mention at this point that many lawyers in California make a habit of bringing litigation against non-compliant businesses.  One attorney in Sacramento has done so over 1,000 times, achieving settlements in multiple thousands of dollars.

 

Q: My company received a notice from a lawyer’s office stating that we are not in compliance.  In the letter, the attorney demands several thousands dollars from my firm as a result.  Should I take this demand seriously?

A: Yes, you should take it seriously.  However, that doesn’t mean you ought to simply pay the money.  Along with the letter, you should have received a notice advising your business that it isn’t required to pay anything, unless and until it’s found liable by a court of law.  We advise you to consult an attorney familiar with ADA/CBC regulations to evaluate your options.

 

Q: How can I protect my company from ADA/CBC lawsuits?

A: your single best course of action is to have your property inspected by ADA consultants, like the experts at Burnham Nationwide.  We’ll be happy to discuss your situation with you and check your location over thoroughly.  We’ll advise you on what, if anything, you need to do to avoid legal and financial penalties relating to ADA/CBC non-compliance.  We invite you to contact us today to find out more.

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Current ADA Ramp Requirements

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

handicap ramp

ADA ramp requirements were changed in 2010 as part of the updated accessibility guidelines released that year.  The following is a general summary of their contents.  For specific questions, we recommend contacting an attorney or ADA specialist.

 

Definition of a Ramp

For ADA purposes, a ramp is defined as an inclined, accessible route with a slope equal to or greater than 1:20.

 

Slope Requirements

To comply with the ADA, ramps should have a slope between 1:12 and 1:20.  This matches the physical abilities of most people, whether they be ambulatory or in wheelchairs.  The maximum allowable rise for a ramp of any length is 30 inches.  In addition, ramps must have a minimum width of 36 inches.

 

Landing Requirements

Landings at both the ramp’s bottom and top must be level.  They must also meet the following requirements:

  1. They must be at least as wide as the ramp that leads to them.
  2. The landing must have a minimum length of 60 inches.
  3. If the ramp changes direction, then the landing must have a minimum size of 60×60 inches.

 

Handrail Requirements

  1. Handrails should be available on both sides of the ramp.
  2. Continuous handrails are required for dogleg (L-shaped) or switchback ramps.
  3. Non-continuous handrails must extend at least 12 inches beyond the length of the ramp, both at its beginning and end points.
  4. The space between the wall and the handrail must be exactly 1.5 inches.
  5. The top of the rail’s gripping surface must be between 34 and 38 inches above the ramp’s surface.
  6. Handrails must be solidly fixed; i.e. they cannot rotate within their supports.
  7. Where handrails terminate, they must either be rounded or else extend into a wall, post, or floor.

 

We can answer your ADA Questions

We specialize in helping firms of all sizes comply with ADA ramp requirements and much more.  Contact us with any questions or concerns you may have.

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A Look at the 2010 ADA Parking Requirements

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

handicap parking spot

ADA parking requirements are important for any business to be familiar with, whether it has a tiny lot or one with thousands of spaces.  The following is a partial summation of the regulations currently in force.  This is intended purely as a high-level overview; please direct specific questions to an attorney or ADA expert, such as those found here at Burnham Nationwide.

 

Overview

In 2010, the Department of Justice  (DOJ) released revised regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The new rules apply to commercial facilities, places of public access, and all levels of government.  The complete text of the guidelines appears in the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design.

 

Rules for Existing Locations

  1. Existing buildings and sites that are not undergoing major renovations are unbound by the new rules.  For example, the 2010 guidelines mandate a minimum of two van-accessible spots for parking lots with at least 250 spaces.  However, facilities that are currently in line with the 1991 directives need not be changed, until and unless they are significantly altered.  This is known as the ADA’s “safe harbor” provision.
  2. On the other hand, all new construction must meet the 2010 rules.

 

Revised Requirements for Accessible Spaces

The following chart shows current requirements for accessible spots:

 

Number of spaces in parking lot or facility

Required number of accessible parking spaces

1 – 25

1

26 – 50

2

51 – 75

3

76 – 100

4

101 – 150

5

151 – 200

6

201 – 300

7

301 – 400

8

401 – 500

9

501 – 1000

2% of total

1001 and over

20, along with 1 more for each 100

 

 

Also, one of every six accessible spots, or every fraction of six, must be van-accessible.  For instance, say a lot has 400 spaces.  Per the 2010 rules for ADA parking requirements, eight spaces must be accessible, and two of those eight must be van-accessible.

 

Rules for Adjoining Lots

In cases where a parking lot serves two or more facilities, accessible spaces should be dispersed, rather than concentrated in a single area.  For example, say a shopping center has 15 different businesses, with a total of 1000 spaces for all customers.  It will need to have 20 accessible spaces, and those should be spread across the lot (but still close to the merchants).

 

In cases where there is a single facility served by multiple lots, it’s permissible to group space requirements together.  For instance, imagine that a sports complex has a lot immediately next to it with 1000 spaces and another lot three blocks away that contains an additional 1500 spaces.  This creates a total of 2500 spaces, of which 45 must be accessible (with four of those being van-accessible).  However, since the act also requires that accessible spaces must be as close as possible to the facility, all 45 must be:

  1. In the 1000-space lot that adjoins the complex.
  2. As close to the facility’s entrances as possible.

 

Rules for Medical Facilities

Different rules apply to doctors’ offices, clinics, and hospitals than to other types of facilities.

For instance:

  1. 10% of the spaces surrounding hospital out-patient locations must be accessible.
  2. 20% of the spaces surrounding a rehabilitative facility must be accessible, provided the facility provides out-patient and/or mobility-related treatment services.

 

Parking Space Size Requirements

  1. Regular accessible spaces must be at least eight feet wide, while van-accessible ones must be at least 11 feet wide.  Access aisles for both types of spaces must be at least five feet wide.  This extra width is needed to give persons room to deploy mobility aids such as walkers, wheelchairs, etc.
  2. An exception to the 11 foot rule for vans applies if the adjacent access aisle is at least eight feet wide.
  3. Access aisles must be marked with hash signs to notify motorists not to park in them.
  4. Accessible parking spaces and access aisles must have smooth, stable surfaces that are level (or close to level) in each direction.
  5. Van-accessible spaces must have a minimum vertical height of 98 inches.  This allows for the height requirements of vehicles equipped with wheelchair lifts.

 

Accessible Space Signage Requirements

  1. Signs indicating accessible spaces must include the international accessibility symbol.  In addition, signs marking van spaces must include the phrase “van-accessible.”
  2. The lower edge of each sign should be at least five feet above the ground, to allow visibility for both drivers and law enforcement officers.

 

Exceptions to Signage Requirements

  1. Parking areas with less than five spaces are not required to have signs marking accessible spaces.
  2. In such cases, anyone may park in the accessible space, unless this is forbidden by local laws.
  3. Residential buildings such as apartments are excused from signage requirements, provided that each resident has an assigned parking space.

 

Maintenance Requirements for Spaces and Signage

Accessible spaces and routes should be kept in good repair and free of snow, leaves, ice, and other impairments to access and visibility.

 

Exceptions to ADA parking requirements

Certain types of facilities are not required to have accessible spaces, unless those facilities are intended for public access.  Examples include bus and trucking depots, parking lots around law enforcement centers, and lots where impounded vehicles are kept.  For example, a lot that is used exclusively for a municipality’s public bus fleet is not required to have accessible spaces.

 

Got Questions about the ADA? We have Answers.

Our ADA consultants possess the specialized knowledge needed to ensure that your business is ADA-compliant.  We also offer code consulting, permit expediting, and other building-related services.  We invite you to contact us if we can be of assistance in any way on your next project.

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Questions and Answers About ADA Compliance Requirements

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

ADA Compliance Requirements

Q: ADA compliance requirements apply to “public accommodations.” What does the term mean?

A: “Public accommodations” refers to places that are meant to be accessed by the general public. Examples include hotels, restaurants, parks, museums, libraries, schools (both public and private), day care facilities, medical clinics, and retail stores.

 

Q: Are there any public entities that are exempt from the ADA’s accessibility requirements?

A: Yes. Examples include religious facilities and private clubs.

 

Q: Are there limits on how much the ADA can expect of a public accommodation?

Y: Yes. The act cannot be used to force modifications that would “fundamentally alter” the nature of the service the accommodation provides. For example, the ADA cannot require a doctor who only treats burn victims to treat a person for deafness, instead of referring that individual to an appropriate specialist. This would force the physician to change his own area of specialization in order to accommodate the deaf person.

 

Q: Does the ADA require auxiliary communication aids for those with visual or auditory impairments?

A: To an extent, yes. Aids such as note takers or written notes might be required in an educational setting, for example. However, the act does not require public accommodations to provide auxiliary aids that would impose undue burdens on them. For example, a restaurant could not be forced to hire employees to feed persons who cannot hold utensils. These provisions are subject to interpretation on a case-by-case basis.

 

Q: Are there limitations on the act’s requirement to remove physical barriers to access?

A: Yes. Such removal is only required when doing so is “readily achievable.” Removing it must not necessarily entail excessive or burdensome difficulty or expense. For example, a hiking trail may be inaccessible to wheelchair-bound persons. However, altering it to give them access would be unreasonably burdensome on park officials

 

Q: I still have questions about the ADA. Can Burnham Nationwide help me?

A: Certainly. We are highly knowledgeable in all aspects of ADA compliance requirements. Contact us today for more information.

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ADA Consultants: How to Choose the Right One For Your Needs

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

How to Choose the Right One For Your NeedsADA consultants specialize in advising both businesses and public entities on how to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Passed in 1990, the law requires all public accommodations to be accessible to persons with physical challenges. Failing to comply with these regulations can cause a host of problems for property owners and managers, including fines, lawsuits, and negative publicity.

 

As with all professions, however, ADA consulting services vary in terms of the scope and quality of services offered. To ensure that the one you choose is worth the fees it charges, here are some things to keep in mind.

 

  1. There is no formal certification process for ADA consultants.  This is important to keep in mind, as some agencies claim that they are “federally certified” to advise on ADA-related matters. Avoid any consultants who make such statements.
  2. Guarantee of compliance is granted only by federal agencies and/or the court system, not by any private agency. Beware any services that claim to offer an “ADA compliance certificate” based on their own authority.
  3. The federal government wants businesses to be in compliance with the ADA. To that end, it offers its own training on how to comply with the provisions of the act. Any consulting agency worth dealing with will have attended such sessions. Be wary of any company that is hesitant to tell you how much training its representatives have and from where they obtained it. One-day seminars and “degree by mail” courses are not sufficient preparation for a career in ADA consulting.
  4. The same rules that set other good businesses apart from unethical ones apply equally to ADA consulting firms. With that in mind, be sure to ask the following questions of any prospective advisor:

1)    How long have you been in business?

2)    How many clients have you advised on ADA matters?

3)    May I have the contact information of past clients?

4)    Have any of your past clients ever been sued or fined for lack of compliance with the ADA?

 

We provide the above information because we’re convinced that, once you get to know us here at Burnham Nationwide, you’ll see that we not only meet but also far exceed the minimal standards for any legitimate ADA consulting service. We invite you to find out for yourself by contacting us today.

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Understanding ADA Compliance Requirements

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

ADA Compliance RequirementsThere has been a great deal of confusion over ADA compliance requirements since the Americans With Disabilities Act was first passed in 1990. Having a basic understanding of its requirements is a good starting point for dealing with many misperceptions surrounding its intent and effect on American businesses.

 

Purpose of the ADA

The act is meant to enhance the lives of those with disabilities, by removing barriers that hinder or prevent them from engaging in everyday activities such as shopping, dining, or attending movies or other public performances. Statutes that addressed these problems were in existence prior to its passages, but they were created and administered in a haphazard fashion. The ADA strives to create a set of uniform standards that facility owners and managers can understand and comply with.

 

Areas Covered by the ADA

  1. Currently existing facilities are required to remove existing barriers to access that may affect users of such devices as wheelchairs, electric scooters, walkers, crutches, or canes. These modifications are limited to what is “readily achievable,” which is a caveat in the act intended to avoid imposing onerous burdens on businesses.
  2. Not only does the ADA mandate the removal of such barriers, it also encourages businesses to install mobility aids such as ramps, over sized shopping aisles, and tables large enough for persons in wheelchairs to access. Other commonly expected modifications include door handles easily used by those with strength limitations and, for restaurants, seating that doesn’t hinder a handicapped person’s ability to eat in the establishment.
  3. Parking lot design is emphasized heavily in the ADA compliance requirements.

1)    At least one handicapped spot for every 25 spaces.

2)    Such spots should be close to the facility and on level ground.

3)    At least one of the spots must be set aside for vans equipped for disabled persons.

 

The ADA in the Real World

While the intentions of the ADA are admirable, many of the ways it has been used (or abused) have caused significant problems for unwary business owners, who have been the targets of aggressive attorneys or overly zealous government agents. The assistance of a qualified ADA consulting firm such as Burnham Nationwide can be invaluable in avoiding such incidents. Contact us today to find out how we can assist you with any compliance concerns you might have.

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Self-Storage Facilities and the Impact of ADA Building Guidelines

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

When thinking of the Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990 to ensure accessibility of buildings to the physically challenged, the mind often invokes images of public buildings, city structures, restaurants, stores and the like. Often forgotten when thinking of ADA building guidelines are storage facilities.

 

It’s easy to understand why such spaces are often forgotten. The original Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) passage of the law inadvertently omitted such facilities to fall under its purview, and the topic was inadvertently not addressed. As a result of this accidental neglect, the ADAAG Review Advisory Committee issued a recommendation to insert provisions into the law to cover self-storage facilities.

 

Consequently, storage facilities must have a set number of spaces that are accessible to their physically challenged customers. To that end, regulators set a percentage of such facilities to ensure accessibility. Generally speaking, 5 percent of the total area of a storage facility with up to 200 storage units must adhere to ADA accessibility standards. A full 10 percent of total space must be ADA-compliant for facilities having 201 storage units. A facility with less than 1 percent of such accessibility guidelines is thus deemed noncompliant.

 

The office portions of storage facilities are clearly explained in the original legislation, with guidelines set forth for such elements as ramps and door size. However, complying with ADA building guidelines as they relate to individual storage units can be a bit more confusing because some of the safeguards set forth by ADA for general construction are often at odds with the layout of a typical storage facility. Take slopes, for example. In typical construction, self-storage facilities must allow for a slope to be built into the grading that allows for water run-off away from the building. However, by one interpretation, ADAGG guidelines bar such slopes within five feet of each unit. Naturally, this creates special challenges in terms of the design of self-storage facilities.

 

To ensure compliance, some facility operators go through considerable expense, such as outfitting some units with electrical door openers in lieu of roll-up doors requiring manual operation.

 

Given the inherent confusion in the ADA verbiage, it is critical for storage facility operators to ensure they are in compliance with the law. The urgency is heightened in light of steep fines associated with non-compliance. Civil penalties for noncompliance begin at $50,000 for the first infraction and could top $100,000 for subsequent violations. Then, of course, there are attorney’s fees to consider.

 

In July of 2010, addressing the original neglect of storage facilities, the U.S. Department of Justice issued revamped regulations for commercial buildings built or substantively altered before January 1991. The new regulations—this time also addressing self-storage facility compliance—went into effect in January of 2012.

 

The new regulations cover areas once at odds with mainstream construction, such as entry lips, required at commercial buildings but at odds with self-storage design. The updates detail the need for entry lips not to pose as a hindrance to a person in a wheelchair that might impede that person from entering a storage unit. Rental offices, bathrooms, and parking areas are also now more expansively covered with revamped guidelines to clear up lingering confusion on what constitutes accessibility.

 

Those confused about such ADA requirements are urged to contact regulatory agencies to clear up any issues. The U.S. Department of Justice has set up an office specifically dealing with ADA issues housed in its Civil Rights Division. The telephone number for the agency is (202) 514-0301. The snail mail address: P.O. Box 66118, Washington, D.C. 20035-6118. Another source of information is the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, reachable at (800) 872-2253. The physical address is 1111 18th Street NW, No. 501, Washington, D.C., 20036.

 

However, if all of this seems a bit overwhelming and confusing, why not contact Burnham Nationwide? Our experienced staff can help you navigate the laws and codes and find out just which ones are pertinent to your project and how to go about following them.

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ADA Building Requirements: Handrails

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

In designing a structure to meet the highest ADA building requirements for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the overall result can truly be said to be the sum of its parts.

 

Strict adherence to the smallest of details needed to meet regulatory standards reflects the workmanship in complying with the highest rigors to design an ADA-adherent edifice. Take handrails, for example—literally, if you like, take a tape measure to these elements to begin to understand the strict nature of ADA adherence!

 

Generally speaking, ADA guidelines call for handrails to be installed between 34 inches and 38 inches from the surface—that is to say, the ground, ramp or sidewalk. Many regulators recommend splitting the difference in case of any confusion, suggesting installation at the 36-inch mark.

 

Ah, but then it gets trickier when allowing for handrail surroundings. ADA guidelines place peripheral posts—vertical or horizontal—at no greater a height than of 8 feet. It is recommended that posts be placed every six feet from center to center to ensure compliance.

 

Handrails or grab bars, along with any adjacent wall or surface, must be free of anything sharp or abrasive. ADA building requirements also call for 3/16” holes to be drilled onto handrails in mounting them to their brackets. Affixing handrails and grab bars to their respective brackets disallows rotation.

 

To the untrained eye, adherence to such minor details into overall construction can easily be missed. Even without such mandates, Burnham Nationwide has built its reputation on paying attention to details large and small in designing projects to the highest of specifications. Think of Burnham as you plan your next design project. For further insight, it might be helpful to contact a Burnham specialist to see what they have to offer and how they can help you understand the ADA building requirements pertinent to your job site.

 

Adherence to ADA standards is crucial, heightening the importance of having a designing partner of the highest caliber. Since its inception, Burnham has built its reputation on adhering to the highest workmanship standards.

 

Beyond merely following the law, ADA compliance also is critical to a company’s bottom line. Since ADA passage in 1980, a cottage industry of sorts has emerged centered on lawsuits filed for noncompliance. Much of this litigation revolves not around the ubiquitous ramps, but the less visible handrails that are central to ADA compliance. Retailers and restaurateurs have been especially hit with mounting litigation over inadequate handrails, as attorneys aggressively secure clients looking to file lawsuits in search of financial recovery. Sometimes, the pickings are easy. In one notable case in California, one plaintiff went down a stretch of highway to find noncompliance, filing 20- lawsuits in one 24-hour period as a result!

 

ADA noncompliance can result in thousands of dollars worth of fines. In terms of litigation, expenses could easily be exponentially greater. In another example, one plaintiff in Fort Pierce, Fla., was awarded $1 million in damages in 2010 after suing her apartment complex over a faulty handrail.

 

For the sake of your business, it is important to ally yourself with a reputable consultant. With more than 50,000 building permits under its belt since its 1989 founding, Burnham Nationwide has ample experience with ADA compliance. Our very name alludes to a commitment to quality projects, honoring famed Chicago architect and urban planner Daniel Hudson Burnham who imbued greatness to every endeavor—big or small. So think about Burnham Nationwide as you contemplate your next project, and don’t forget to “like” us on Facebook!

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ADA Building Requirements for Elevators

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

When constructing or renovating a building, it is very important to be aware of ADA requirements. These requirements are quite specific and ensure that physically disabled people are able to access all parts of the building. Keeping ADA building requirements in mind when planning the construction or remodeling will help you to get a permit faster and avoid having to redo a large portion of the work. Following is a quick overview of important ADA requirements regarding elevators.

 

Specific Requirements

 

Every building that is over three stories in height must have at least one elevator. Large buildings may have a service elevator; if this building is only for employees, then it does not necessarily have to meet ADA requirements regarding wheelchair space. However, all other elevators in the building must have a 54″ depth by 80″ width. In short, there should be enough space for a wheelchair-bound individual to enter, maneuver to reach the controls, and then exit the elevator.

 

The call buttons must be either raised or flush, and they have to be at least three quarters of an inch in diameter. Furthermore, the buttons both inside and outside of the elevator must be within the reach of a person who is in a wheelchair or power scooter. All public buildings are also required to have raised and Braille floor designations on both jambs.

 

The elevator must stay open automatically for at least three seconds and the two-way communication device in the elevator cannot be more than 48″ from the floor. There must also be both a visual and audible signal indicating that the elevator has reached a designated floor. This signal must also indicate which elevator is answering the call.

 

Staying abreast of all the ADA building requirements can be a challenge. However, there are companies that can help you review building plans and make sure that the elevators and other aspects of the building are ADA compliant. Burnham Nationwide specializes in providing services of this nature and can ensure that the plans for the construction or renovation of a building meet all ADA requirements.

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