In the United States, commercial property owners are responsible for providing an environment that ensures the safety of guests, employees, and tenants. To achieve this goal, one has to do more than simply maintain the overall condition of their premises. In fact, many states and the federal government have specific building codes and regulations to guarantee accessibility for those who have disabilities.
One specific law that provides standards for providing access and accommodation to disabled persons is The Americans with Disability Act (ADA). This federal legislation provides additional requirements that property owners must provide to meet the needs of those requiring assistance in accessing a workplace, home, school, park, or place of business.
The Role of the ADA
Since 1990, the ADA has provided guidance and protected the rights of the disabled throughout the United States when accessing government facilities, as well as those considered public or private. This is essential to ensure everyone can access these locations safely and without impedance because of a disability they or a family member might have.
What properties are under this agency’s jurisdiction is quite broad and includes:
- Lodging (hotels, motels, etc.)
- Public venues like museums and parks
- Public transportation
- Schools and similar educational institutions
- Private homes, apartments, condos
- Office buildings
- Medical facilities
- Places of entertainment (amusement parks, movie theaters, etc.)
- And more!
As a commercial property owner, compliance with the ADA is vital. You must meet the standards of this law to avoid serious consequences, including fines or being shut down until necessary improvements are made.
For perspective, imagine you run a large apartment complex and have a management office onsite for the public to stop in and get information. Even though it’s located on ground level, your parking lot has a high curb to step up to get into the building. How would someone in a wheelchair or mobility issue overcome this curb? Ideally, you would have a paved ramp area to make access to this sidewalk possible, but if you don’t, you could avoid violations. After all, your leasing space is a public place of business where people go to get information and rent out your apartments.
ADA Compliance Checklist
Another challenge you must consider is whether your property’s features, like a walkway or parking lot, meet ADA standards. Below is a short checklist that shares some of the basic requirements your property must meet to be compliant with this important law:
- Have a reasonable ratio of handicap-accessible parking spaces compared to those that are not.
- Ensure any ramped walkways meet ADA construction guidelines.
- Install an automatic door to ensure easier access to your building.
- Keep all pavement features in good repair to keep access to your property free of hindrances.
- Keep your outdoor property areas well-lit and free of debris and clutter.
- Consider installing tactile pavement features on curbs to help those with visual impairments be aware of walking and parking lot dangers nearby.
- Ensure handicapped parking is sized according to ADA guidelines.
It’s especially important to regularly evaluate all asphalt and concrete pavement elements on your property. When conducting inspections, try to have an inspector present so you can better understand how the ADA requirements apply to your lots and walkways. You should also ensure that any commercial paving company you choose to make upgrades and repairs are well-versed in ADA compliance standards on the federal and state level of where you operate.
Other Considerations for Commercial Properties with Pavement
In addition to ensuring your existing property complies, you must be aware of these requirements when adding additional pavement to areas accessed by the public.
While the current ADA guidance doesn’t specifically spell out what materials are okay for ramp construction, try to ensure to incorporate the following features:
Adequate drainage to avoid water pooling
Meets the correct height and slope requirements
Concrete is the most popular material for constructing this type of pavement structure because it is absorbent and provides a surface that is easy to gain traction on. Plus, it’s easy to maintain and repair as needed.
Another important detail to remember is that if you’re adding in a new ramp, it might need a handrail. According to the ADA, ramps with a rise of six inches or higher must have handrails. This is crucial so that those who struggle with balance or simply need additional support won’t potentially fall and get injured.
Stairwell and Ramp Landings
If your office’s entryway is set higher than ground level, it requires a landing to fit enough ramp and stairs into your property to get up there. Any existing or future landings must meet the following ADA requirements when updating or installing:
Same width as the ramp or stairwell
At least 60″ long
At the end of the day, ensuring your commercial property is accessible and meets ADA standards is a benefit not just to your patrons but to your business as a whole. This isn’t simply about following the rules but ensuring the safety and accessibility of the public when visiting, doing business, or living on your property. When making updates or installing new features that are compliant, such as accessible parking spaces or curb ramps, always work with experienced pavement contractors who are familiar with both federal and state-level requirements.