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.