There are a few of requirements in the 2010 ADA Standards that speak about ways that people get around. Some are described as either “circulation path”, “path of travel”, “accessible route” or “vehicular path”. Those all speak about either a car, wheelchair or pedestrian means of getting different places. In my experience, there is a misunderstanding about the difference between “circulation path” and “path of travel” and “accessible route”.
Path of Travel and Accessible route are mainly describing the “unobstructed” path that a wheelchair user would take.
But a circulation path is speaking about a path where any pedestrian would use to get around. As it pertains to Americans with disabilities, this term is used for persons who are visually impaired, but are still able to walk.
The idea is that a person who cannot see very well cannot detect certain hazards along the path that he will take to find his way around (i.e. the circulation path). This newsletter will discuss this concept and will give examples of some “circulation paths”
When a person who is visually impaired is walking to find their way, that is a description of his or her “circulation path”. Since they cannot see, we are required to make sure there are no hazards along their path. Those hazards are any objects located along the circulation path that are mounted higher than 27″ a.f.f. or lower than 80″ a.f.f. and projects more than 4″ onto the path.
….because the bar is a protruding object
A protruding object, cannot be detected by a cane which is one of the ways that a person who is visually impaired finds their way. Here is a video by the US Access Board that explains this topic.
What becomes confusing for people is the other terms in the standard. What is a circulation path? What is an accessible route? What is a path of travel? A circulation path is different than an accessible route. An accessible route is solely for people in wheelchairs. It must be a certain width and should be located so that people in wheelchairs can use it without much effort.
A circulation path, on the other hand, can be used by anyone. It describes the path that a person who can walk will be taking. And that can really be anywhere that leads you from one place to another. Below are some examples:
The obvious circulation path is a corridor. That is what most people think of when they see the words “circulation path”. Along a corridor, make sure the sconces are not mounted lower than 80″ a.f.f. if they are deeper than 4″.
A corridor is a circulation path.
A circulation path can be anywhere where people are walking. So from one side of the bar shown below to the other side is a circulation path and the counter should not project more than 4″ onto it.
The bar top projects more than 4″ onto the circulation path between one side of the bar to the other.
The path to the restroom door is a circulation path. The paper towel dispenser is mounted along that path and it is deeper than 4″, therefore it is a protruding object.
The paper towel dispenser in the restroom is located along the circulation path.
The circulation path to the desk has a display cabinet that projects more than 4″ onto it.
The display case is located in the circulation path to the desk.
The path to the restroom door is considered the circulation path. The drinking fountain is located on the circulation path of that door and it is a protruding object.
The drinking fountain projects more than 4″ onto the circulation path to the restroom door.
The drinking fountain in the photo below is also located along the circulation path too the restroom door. It is partially recessed, but since the bottle filler is not the same depth as the drinking fountain it does not provide cane detection.
The drinking fountain is located along the circulation path to get to the door beyond.
The circulation path to the lavatory has a hand dryer projecting onto it.
The path to the lavatory is the circulation path.
Any place in a plaza where people walk is part of a circulation path. The sculpture is located within the circulation path and the angled parts come down to less than 80″ a.f.f. and are considered protruding objects.
The planters were added at each angle as cane detection.
When discussing circulation paths, keep in mind that although an accessible route is a circulation path because that is where wheelchairs will go, a circulation path is not an accessible route. A circulation path is where ANYONE can go. There may be many more examples of circulation paths, so let’s keep them free from hazards and protruding objects.
As most of us know, the minimum clear widths along an accessible route that the ADA requires are 36″ minimum clear. But there are times when are allowed to be narrower or required to be wider. This newsletter will explain those instances.
Clear Width Reduction
In the 2010 ADA guidelines, section 403 gives us a figure to follow which explains that the 36″ wide clear width can be reduced to 32″ clear as long as the distance that you travel through the narrower width is no more than 24″ deep.
403.5.1 Clear Width. Except as provided in 403.5.2 and 403.5.3, the clear width of walking surfaces shall be 36 inches (915 mm) minimum.
EXCEPTION: The clear width shall be permitted to be reduced to 32 inches (815 mm) minimum for a length of 24 inches (610 mm) maximum provided that reduced width segments are separated by segments that are 48 inches (1220 mm) long minimum and 36 inches (915 mm) wide minimum.
But do both sides of the path need to be 24″ long the way it is shown in the figure above? Could one side be a wall or even a longer cabinet or obstruction? I was inspecting a restroom and found that condition. There was a cased opening to enter the toilet compartment area. One side of the cased opening was 8″ deep and the other side was the restroom wall which was longer than 24″.
This is the photo of the cased opening along the route to the sinks
This is the plan of the cased opening (where it says “Align”) which part of it is 8″ on one side and longer than 24″ on the other side. The opening was less than 36″ wide.
The guidelines allow this. As long as one side of the path is no more than 24″ long and it goes back to 36″ wide, it will be an acceptable condition.
Clear width at the approach to a toilet compartment
A clear path to a toilet compartment (both wheelchair and ambulatory) should also have a 36″ minimum clear width. Except that at the approach to the door it must increase to 42″ in width
604.8.1.2 Doors. Toilet compartment doors, including door hardware, shall comply with 404 except that if the approach is to the latch side of the compartment door, clearance between the door side of the compartment and any obstruction shall be 42 inches (1065 mm) minimum
The standard is giving us requirements for the door clearance only. The path to the toilet compartment is still required to have a 36″ minimum clear width. But the space to open the toilet compartment door and the maneuvering clearance (if the approach is on the latch side) must have a 42″ minimum clear width between the door and the obstruction
This photo shows the plan view of a path to the ambulatory toilet compartment.
In the plan view above you can see a furred out column in front of the toilet compartments. That fur out is located within the door maneuvering clearance of the ambulatory toilet compartment and it reduces the 42″ required width to 36″
This figure above shows the door maneuvering clearance at the latch side approach. A toilet compartment door will only require 42″ of clear width not 48″ like a standard door.
Along an accessible route you are required to have 36″ clear width. This width is required to be widened to 60″ every 200 feet. This is to allow people in wheelchairs and pedestrians to pass each other.
403.5.3 Passing Spaces. An accessible route with a clear width less than 60 inches (1525 mm) shall provide passing spaces at intervals of 200 feet (61 m) maximum. Passing spaces shall be either: a space 60 inches (1525 mm) minimum by 60 inches (1525 mm) minimum; or, an intersection of two walking surfaces providing a T-shaped space complying with 304.3.2 where the base and arms of the T-shaped space extend 48 inches (1220 mm) minimum beyond the intersection
Here is a video from the Access Board that explains it
Clear width at turns
When a wheelchair makes a ninety degree turn, a 36″ minimum clear width is allowed.
But when a wheelchair is required to make a 180 degree turn, like in a narrow corridor, or maybe in a queue line or library stacks, then the width will have to increase from 36″ to 42″ depending on what size the element they are turning around is.
403.5.2 Clear Width at Turn. Where the accessible route makes a 180 degree turn around an element which is less than 48 inches (1220 mm) wide, clear width shall be 42 inches (1065 mm) minimum approaching the turn, 48 inches (1220 mm) minimum at the turn and 42 inches (1065 mm) minimum leaving the turn.
EXCEPTION: Where the clear width at the turn is 60 inches (1525 mm) minimum compliance with 403.5.2 shall not be required.
For instance if the space that they are turning around is 60″ in depth, then the clear width can be 36″ min. If the space is 48″, then the clear width will have to increase to 42″
This video will give you some guidance on turning and wheelchair clearances
After almost 20 years in my business I am still learning things about the ADA and TAS. I want to share with you some things that might not be so apparent when you read the standards.
Location of Work Surface in a Residential Kitchen
When designing a residential kitchen that will be used by the public (e.g. a an assisted living resident room, a kitchen in an emergency personnel facility, an apartment for a resident hall director or RA etc.) the appliances that you choose will have to be compliant with the ADA and TAS. One of the requirements is typically missed or overlooked. It is the one pertaining to a work surface in a “residential kitchen”.
804.3 Kitchen Work Surface. In residential dwelling units required to comply with 809, at least one 30 inches (760 mm) wide minimum section of counter shall provide a kitchen work surface that complies with 804.3
804.6.5.1 Side-Hinged Door Ovens. Side-hinged door ovens shall have the work surface required by 804.3 positioned adjacent to the latch side of the oven door.
804.6.5.2 Bottom-Hinged Door Ovens. Bottom-hinged door ovens shall have the work surface required by 804.3 positioned adjacent to one side of the door.
Where a work surface is required and the kitchen has an oven, the work surface needs to be located adjacent the oven.
Keep in mind, this only applies to “residential” kitchens….not all kitchens. So a break room or common use kitchen not located in a residential dwelling unit (as defined by the ADA) does not require a work surface.
Clearance vs. Clear Floor Space
There are two concepts that are sometimes thought to be interchangeable in the ADA and TAS: “Clearance” and “Clear Floor Space”. Section 305 lists the requirements for “Clear floor space” . Clear floor space is required adjacent beds, under counters, lavatories, sinks, at operable parts for reaching, inside platform lifts, at drinking fountains, at toilet room fixtures, at washer and dryers, at saunas and steam rooms, at ATM, at signage, at work surfaces, at jury boxes and adjacent exercise equipment.
Some of the requirements are listed below from Section 305:
305.2 Floor or Ground Surfaces. Floor or ground surfaces of a clear floor or ground space shall comply with 302. Changes in level are not permitted.
EXCEPTION: Slopes not steeper than 1:48 shall be permitted.
305.3 Size. The clear floor or ground space shall be 30 inches (760 mm) minimum by 48 inches (1220 mm) minimum.
Any time that the words “clear floor space” is found in the Standards these are the requirements that must be followed. Some of those instances will be at the clear floor space to reach objects, a clear floor space at wheelchair seating in assembly areas or clear floor space at toilet rooms.
A clear floor space is required at the push button. The clear floor space needs to have a slope no steeper than 1:48 . This clear floor space is steeper.
What sometimes gets conflated are the “clearance” at plumbing fixtures like toilets, showers and tubs. “Clear floor space” is defined, but “clearance” is not….except to describe its size and location.
608.2.2.1 Clearance [at roll in showers]. A 30 inch (760 mm) wide minimum by 60 inch (1525 mm) long minimum clearance shall be provided adjacent to the open face of the shower compartment.
The clearance is mentioned to let us know what size we need to provide and where it should be located…but it does not mention slope.
Unlike the clear floor space where a slope cannot exceed 1:48, a clearance at the shower for example is not defined. So the clearance at the roll in shower can have a slope that exceeds 1:48
This roll in shower has a slope up to the shower pan which is acceptable (although may not be recommended)
The ADA requires that different levels and floors within a facility be connected by an accessible route. An accessible route is a continuous and unobstructed way to travel from any point in a building or facility. Some ways to achieve an accessible route is through ramps or elevators. A method that is confusing is the use of a platform lift, wheelchair lift or chair lift. Those, even though they help to achieve access in some cases, are not always allowed as part of an accessible route. This newsletter will explain when they are allowed and when they are not.
But in new construction projects, you are only allowed the use of platform lifts in certain situations. Here are the only circumstances where you can use them as part of an accessible route:
206.7.1 Performance Areas and Speakers’ Platforms
206.7.2 Wheelchair Spaces: Platform lifts shall be permitted to provide an accessible route to comply with the wheelchair space dispersion and line-of-sight requirements
206.7.3 Incidental Spaces which are not public use spaces and which are occupied by five persons maximum.
206.7.4 Judicial Spaces: Platform lifts shall be permitted to provide an accessible route to: jury boxes and witness stands; raised courtroom stations including, judges’ benches, clerks’ stations, bailiffs’ stations, deputy clerks’ stations, and court reporters’ stations; and to depressed areas such as the well of a court.
206.7.5 Existing Site Constraints: Platform lifts shall be permitted where existing exterior site constraints make use of a ramp or elevator technically infeasible.
When you see the word “technically infeasible”, you may need permission (variance) from the State agency with jurisdiction of the Standards
206.7.6 Guest Rooms and Residential Dwelling Units: Platform lifts shall be permitted to connect levels within transient lodging guest rooms required to provide mobility features or residential dwelling units required to provide mobility features
206.7.7 Amusement Rides. Platform lifts shall be permitted to provide accessible routes to load and unload areas serving amusement rides.
206.7.8 Play Areas. Platform lifts shall be permitted to provide accessible routes to play components or soft contained play structures.
206.7.9 Team or Player Seating. Platform lifts shall be permitted to provide accessible routes to team or player seating areas serving areas of sport activity.
206.7.10 Recreational Boating Facilities and Fishing Piers and Platforms. Platform lifts shall be permitted to be used instead of gangways that are part of accessible routes serving recreational boating facilities and fishing piers and platforms.
And as part of an accessible means of egress as mentioned in 207.2
207.2 Platform Lifts. Standby power shall be provided for platform lifts permitted by section 1003.2.13.4 of the International Building Code (2000 edition and 2001 Supplement) or section 1007.5 of the International Building Code (2003 edition) (incorporated by reference, see “Referenced Standards” in Chapter 1) to serve as a part of an accessible means of egress
What constitutes a platform lift?
The scoping section of the 2010 ADA mentions platform lifts. But what about chair lifts? Are they allowed? what is the difference?
According to the technical standards 410
410.1 General. Platform lifts shall comply with ASME A18.1 (1999 edition or 2003 edition) (incorporated by reference, see “Referenced Standards” in Chapter 1). Platform lifts shall not be attendant-operated and shall provide unassisted entry and exit from the lift.
ASME A18.1-1999 and ASME A18.1-2003 address the design, construction, installation, operation, inspection, testing, maintenance and repair of lifts that are intended for transportation of persons with disabilities.
This document [The 2010 ADA Standards] does not permit the use of inclined stairway chairlifts which do not provide platforms because such lifts require the user to transfer to a seat.
The advisory explains the different types:
Inclined stairway chairlifts and inclined and vertical platform lifts are available for short-distance vertical transportation. Because an accessible route requires an 80 inch(2030 mm) vertical clearance, care should be taken in selecting lifts as they may not be equally suitable for use by people using wheelchairs and people standing. If a lift does not provide 80 inch (2030 mm) vertical clearance, it cannot be considered part of an accessible route in new construction.
The ADA and other Federal civil rights laws require that accessible features be maintained in working order so that they are accessible to and usable by those people they are intended to benefit. Building owners are reminded that the ASME A18 Safety Standard for Platform Lifts and Stairway Chairlifts requires routine maintenance and inspections. Isolated or temporary interruptions in service due to maintenance or repairs may be unavoidable; however, failure to take prompt action to effect repairs could constitute a violation of Federal laws and these requirements.
In summary, if the inclined chair lift meets the requirements of the ASME A18.1 then they can be used instead of a platform lift where they are allowed.