Use This Helpful Checklist for Ensuring a Commercial Building is Accessible

Helpful Checklist for Ensuring a Commercial Building is Accessible By Roger Marx

As social consciousness continues to increase, the safety, rights, and welfare of minority groups are a top priority for business in 2021. While racial and gender equality have recently gotten significant exposure in the mainstream media, people with disabilities are another important group that must be protected in our public spaces.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 protects anyone who is qualified for a job from being discriminated against on the basis of their disability. A protected disability is described as an impairment that significantly limits or restricts a major life activity such as seeing, hearing, walking, speaking, or performing manual tasks. While the law directly addresses discrimination within the employer/employee relationship, it can also be applied to contractors, agents, customers, patrons, or visitors of the business.

As a result, it is paramount for owners and operators of commercial buildings to ensure that their facility is ADA accessible. To help in this regard, consider the following helpful checklist to maximize your building’s accessibility and guarantee ADA compliance.

Remove Unnecessary Barriers

Many people erroneously assume that the most recent ADA law is only applicable to new buildings and that older buildings that were standing prior to the latest rulings are exempt from compliance. As the ADA is a civil rights–not a construction–law, existing structures must be renovated to ensure ADA compliance.

As a result, one of the first renovations toward achieving ADA accessibility is to remove any existing barriers that do not impact the structural integrity of the building. A few examples of barriers to remove include:

  • Steps or ledges that could impede people in wheelchairs
  • Widening doors
  • Repositioning shelves in less obstructive positions

Fortunately, the latest office design ideas feature open floor layouts that tear down walls and create a less restrictive work atmosphere. Not only does this create a more open and inviting ambiance, but it makes modern commercial spaces naturally more accessible for those with disabilities. 

Provide an Accessible Approach and Entrance

While removing barriers is a standard for ensuring accessibility, it is far from the only consideration for modern commercial buildings. Under the updated ADA guidelines of 2010, commercial buildings must provide an accessible approach and entrance for the disabled.

Under this priority, the building must provide at least one accessible entrance from site arrival points, such as parking lots, public transportation stops, and public sidewalks, that do not require the use of stairs. This is most easily achieved through the use of ramps approaching the building. Doorways should either be motion-detected or button-activated, with clear signage indicating the location of the nearest ADA-accessible door.

These same standards must be applied to the building’s exterior and interior, alike. Once inside the building, professionals must have ramp or elevator access to all levels of the facility. If the work area for a disabled individual is any type of office or cubicle with doors, it must be renovated to allow for easy access, with automatic doors or doors that can be opened with one arm without the need for twisting and pulling.  

Facilitate Access to Goods and Services

Under this priority, all users of a commercial building must be able to obtain goods and services and be able to participate in activities without assistance. In accordance with this standard, entrances must provide accessibility to the main floor, lobby, and elevator. 

Hard surfaces that allow for easy movement of wheelchairs, walkers, and scooters, such as terrazzo or stained concrete floors, are the best options to enhance maneuverability. However, they should be treated with a non-slip finish and be clear of crumpled rugs or other obstructions. When making signs to indicate the locations of services within the building, tactile lettering and braille should be used. 

Make Top-Notch Restroom Accommodations

At least one men’s and one women’s, or one unisex restroom, must be accessible to those with disabilities. There must be clear signage and an accessible path directing those with disabilities to the nearest ADA-compliant bathroom.

The accessible bathroom must be equipped with an automatic door opener. There should be at least 32 inches of clearance from the face of the door to the stop when the door is open to 90 degrees. Inside the facility, there must be a clear path to all accessories, such as the toilet, sink, and hand drying station. Next to the toilet, ADA compliant grab bars should be mounted no less than 33 and no more than 36 inches above the floor. They should extend at least 42 inches and be no more than 12 inches away from the toilet’s rear wall.  

Ensure Access to Any Additional Public Services

To meet the standards of the law, buildings must make reasonable accommodations to ensure that anything accessible to the public is also accessible to those with disabilities. Some additional building features that must be accounted for include:

  • Public technology, outlets, and charging stations
  • Telephones
  • Drinking fountains
  • Fire alarms

While you may need to reference specific heights, the general rule is that these types of stations should be no more than 48 inches above floor level to accommodate those in wheelchairs.

The Best Tips for Commercial Building Accessibility 

Providing access for those with disabilities should be a top priority for commercial buildings in 2021. Whether building a brand new structure or renovating an old space, buildings must be ADA compliant. By using the aforementioned helpful checklist, building owners and operators can ensure that their commercial space provides top-notch accessibility. 

Roger Marx is a contributor to the Innovative Building Materials blog. He is a content writer for the construction and home improvement industries with an interest in landscaping, outdoor remodeling, and home renovation. Roger is focused on educating homeowners, contractors, and architects on innovative materials and methods of construction that increase property value and improve sustainability.