5 Challenges that Arise During an ADA Retrofit

5 Challenges that Arise During an ADA Retrofit

For those contemplating a remodel of their office, one of the most important aspects of the project is ensuring compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The most recent comprehensive ADA Standards for Accessible Design were issued in 2010. Today, if a client is renovating an older facility, or even an office remodeled six years ago, they may think they are compliant by still referring to the regulations that were current when their offices were built. The reality is that they’d be non-compliant, and that could cost a significant amount of time and money.

Here are the top five points to keep in mind when retrofitting and remodeling:

1) Lunchrooms: Counters cannot exceed 34 inches in height at the sink area and must have a 30 inch wide clearance below for a wheelchair to roll under the sink. The challenge here is finding smaller, compatible appliances, like dishwashers and under-counter refrigerators. While more manufacturers are becoming ADA height conscious, at times sinks and the rest of the counters are installed at two different heights. The microwave must also be offered at ADA accessible height and not be placed in an upper cabinet.

2) Restrooms: Restrooms are one area where several new standards have been added. All toilets must meet ADA unless the restroom is accessed only through a private office, is not for common or public use and is intended for use by a single occupant. A few alternatives are allowed in this case but the restroom must be able to meet ADA standards when the alternatives are removed. Current code requires additional unencumbered areas. The toilet must be placed in a clear space 56/59 inches front to back and 60 inches clear space from sidewall to sink edge. The sink must have a 30 inch side to side and 48 inch front to back clear area and the same size clear area must be offered between the sink and the toilet. Numerous other revised requirements for accessory and grab bar placement are listed in the standards.

3) Door Clearances: There are two important factors about doors. All doors must provide a clear width of 32 inches and must provide maneuvering clearances for those in wheelchairs. There are several standards for maneuvering clearances but the most basic for a front approach is 18 inches clear space at the pull side of the door and 12 inches clear space at the push side of the door. The ADA standards cover all types of doors, including hinged, revolving, sliding, manual and automatic.

4) Built-in Reception Counters:  A typical reception counter is 42 inches high. But with ADA regulations, an area no more than 34 inches high and no less than 36 inches wide must be provided. From a design standpoint, the 34 inch walk up counter height means much more of the receptionist’s worksurface contents are in full view, which usually is undesirable from a privacy and aesthetic point. One way to alleviate this is to offer both the shorter counter for wheelchair users and a higher counter for able-bodied individuals.

5) Signage: Not all signs are required to be both visual and tactile with braille. Some exemptions include building directories, addresses, company names and logos. ADA standards list character spacing, style and size requirements. A range of 48 inches minimum and 60 inches maximum is now the standard height to the baseline for tactile signage.

While these are just the highlights for some of the most common components of a facility, there are many more requirements that need to be met. In addition to individuals in wheelchairs, other disabilities have to be taken into consideration such as those hard of hearing or blind. Before you start, consult your architect or interior designer. It is a much more prudent – and cost effective – approach to be proactive in design than reactive.


For more information:


Get Adobe Flash player