Specifying ADA Products

Posted on - Monday, November 24th, 2014

When spec writers, architects or even builders specify products there might be some confusion about what products are actually good for people with disabilities.  Sometimes the cut sheets will have the universal symbol of design, but they may not exactly be accessible.  Other times there might be so many choices that it can get confusing.  This newsletter will attempt to give you some general guidelines on what to look for when specifying.

302 Floor and Ground Surfaces

Accessible ground and floor surfaces must be firm, stable and slip resistant.  This is typically achieved by specifying a product with a high static coefficient of friction (specific number is not specified anymore, but good as a guideline).

There are several products that might be good for LEED that will not be good for accessibility.  One example is decomposed granite.  In essesce, DG is a type of gravel that is loose.  It is not considered stable unless you use stabilizers.  The DG must be maintained in order to keep it stable.  If the ground gets wet  the decomposed granite will be muddy and no longer stable.  I don’t recommend this surface. If possible, don’t use it on accessible routes or parking, and try to limit it to non-walking surfaces


The photo above shows wheel marks where the decomposed granite is not stable and therefore not easy for people who use wheelchairs to use


Parking spaces must also have a stable ground surface, and decomposed granite for parking spaces are not recommended


Cut sheets for different products will sometimes show the universal symbol of accessibility on them.


The symbol is not regulated and anyone can place it on any product without actually being endorsed or reviewed by the DOJ or ADA agencies.  So be careful when specifying products solely on the symbol being placed on the cut sheet.  Here are some examples:

This feminine napkin dispenser has the symbol shown on the cut sheet and states that if mounted at a height no higher than 48″ a.f.f. to the operating mechanism that it would comply with the ADA standards.  What they did not tell you is that the operating mechanism itself was not compliant.  In order for it to be compliant, it will require no tight grasping and pulling to operate.  This unit requires tight grasping and pulling.



This is the unit installed which a person with disabilities may not be able to use

This paper towel dispenser in the cut sheet shown below also shows the universal symbol of accessibility, stating a similar claim that if mounted at a certain height, it will meet the ADA requirements.  This unit also did not take into consideration the operating mechanism.  Not only does the paper towels need to be tightly grasped and pulled to use, but if the paper is not out, the user will have to twist the red wheel by using their wrist to make the paper come out.


Pre-fab showers sometimes have incorrect information on their spec/cut sheets.  The height of the curb for either roll in or transfer shower must not be higher than 1/2″.  The shower shown below states that it is ADA compliant, but if you notice the dimension on the threshold it states that it is either 5/8″ or 2″,which are not compliant


309 Operating Mechanism

ADA section 309 states that “operable parts shall be operable with one hand and shall not require tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist. The force required to activate operable parts shall be 5 pounds (22.2 N) maximum.”

5% of lockers must have the proper operating mechanism.  Built in locks that require tight grasping and twisting of the wrist is not compliant.


The lockers shown above have the built in lock that requires twisting of the wrist to operate and it is not compliant with ADA guidelines


This locker shows a push button locking mechanism which is better for accessibility


One operable window per room or space must be accessible and follow section 309.  They must be able to be opened without twisting of the wrist or more than five pounds of opening force.  The handle on the picture above can be opened with a closed fist.


Pocket doors are hard to open without using your hands.  This operating mechanism is a good solution which opens up with using knuckles to release the handle

Upcoming CEU opportunities

Note: We will be at the TSA convention November 5,6 and 7

November 6- TSA Convention in Houston Texas! Early Bird Three Hr Seminar: Applying TAS in Existing and Renovated Buildings” 

November 13- Half Moon Class: Complying with Changes to Barrier Free Requirements: Determining which code applies to your project 10:45 a.m. Arlington Texas

November 13- CSI Dallas Meeting : Specifying for the ADA 7-8 p.m. in Addison Texas

If you are interested in Building Code seminars check out my colleague Shahla Layendecker with SSTL Codes

We are celebrating our 10th year of service to the building industry as a Registered Accessibility Specialist!  Mention this newsletter and receive 10% off your next review or inspection.

If you want to learn more about these standards, be sure to check out my books:

“The ADA Companion Guide”  “Applying the ADA” published by Wiley. 


 They are available for sale now. (also available as an e-book)

If you have any questions about these or any other topics, please feel free to contact me anytime.

If you have any questions about these or any other topics, please feel free to contact me anytime.

Marcela Abadi Rhoads, RAS #240
Abadi Accessibility
214. 403.8714

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