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5 Misconceptions About the Americans with Disabilities Act & 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990. This federal civil rights law prohibits discrimination based on disability and declares that people with disabilities must have equal access to all areas of public life, including employment, public services, public accommodations, and telecommunications.

Cover pages of the ADA Title III Regulations and the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible DesignOne year later, on July 26, 1991, the Department of Justice released the 1991 ADA Standards for Accessible Design to be used in the design and construction of new and altered buildings. These technical standards have since been replaced with the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design that we use today.

Despite the importance of the ADA and its enforcement over the past three decades, there are still misconceptions about what the law requires for buildings and facilities.

Below are five of the most common misconceptions that SWA’s accessibility consultants encounter when working with building designers, developers, and owners on ADA compliance. (more…)

Top 10 Violations of Accessibility Requirements Post Occupancy Caused by Untrained O&M Staff

Our accessibility consultants work with design and construction teams to ensure that facilities are compliant with the architectural accessibility requirements of applicable laws and codes. But once the building is operational, and management and maintenance is turned over to an entity not involved in the design and construction process, unintentional violations of accessibility requirements often crop up post occupancy.

It’s not uncommon for litigation to result from observations of violations made by testers that are caused by unknowing operations and maintenance staff.

Once a facility is complaint with accessible design and construction requirements, it must remain so for its life, so it’s important for everyone to understand how to maintain compliance.

Here are some of the more common violations of accessibility requirements that occur post occupancy: (more…)

Accessibility Tech Notes: Coworking Spaces in Multifamily Buildings

A floor plan of a coworking space for multifamily buildings.The rise in remote and hybrid work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has created a demand for spaces in multifamily buildings where residents can work from home. Developers are seeking to meet this demand by providing office and coworking areas as an additional amenity in residential buildings. In these coworking spaces, what accessible design requirements apply?

Accessible Coworking Spaces

Coworking spaces are a valuable amenity for building residents who prefer to work from home, but want separate environments for their professional and personal lives. Designing communal areas that are accessible to all individuals ensures that these spaces can be used to their fullest potential.

As an amenity provided to residents, coworking spaces in multifamily buildings must be designed to provide equitable access for people with disabilities, many of whom have seen a pronounced benefit because of the ability to work remotely. (more…)

Understanding Accessibility: Notable Changes in the 2022 New York City Building Code

As of November 7, 2022, the 2022 edition of the New York City Building Code is now in effect. As designers begin to work with the updated code, our accessibility consultants have been getting a lot of questions about what has changed from the requirements in the 2014 edition of the code.

Cover of the New York City Building Code.While it is important to read through the new code in its entirety to ensure compliance with all updated criteria, we have compiled a list of some changes related to accessibility that designers should be aware of, below.

SECTION BC 1106: Parking and Passenger Loading Facilities

8 Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

While the 2014 edition of the code was silent on specific requirements for electric vehicle parking, the 2022 edition provides scoping and technical criteria for charging stations and the parking spaces serving those stations. Where EV charging is provided for common use, at least 5%, but no less than one of each type of EV station must be accessible. (more…)

Understanding Accessibility: Section 504 & Its Impact on Residential Development

Laws and codes governing accessibility ensure that the built environment is designed and constructed to serve its current and future occupants.

The first step in the design process is to determine which disability rights laws and building codes apply to your project. One such law is Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. When does Section 504 apply and how do you ensure that your project meets all relevant requirements?

At Steven Winter Associates, our accessibility consultants help our clients comply with every regulation that applies to their project, whether it’s a new construction or a renovation. Below, we pooled our knowledge to answer the most frequently asked questions about Section 504 and how to apply it to residential projects. (more…)

Accessibility Tech Notes: Trash Chute Closet Design

As an amenity provided to building occupants, hoppers—otherwise known as trash chutes—are required to be accessible. Most commonly, hoppers are included in conventional trash rooms and not located in closets like the one depicted in the image below. The hopper/closet design is uncommon, but we do see it in a fair number of projects.

Evaluating the hopper/closet design to ensure that it’s accessible is more complex than one might imagine. Let’s go through how we would conduct an evaluation of the hopper/closet design.

How to Evaluate for Accessibility Compliance

Diagram of the hopper closet design.The image on the left depicts a trash chute closet (circled in red) in a residential building that’s accessed from a common hallway. The hopper is revealed when the conventional swing door is opened.

Step 1: Isolate the swing door

First, we’d think through how the conventional swing door is operated and used. We know that the door must be opened, which triggers requirements for maneuvering clearance on the common side of the door. Ample maneuvering clearance must be provided to support its use by those who might use a wheelchair or other mobility aid. (more…)

Trends in Healthcare: Hospital Gardens

“Trends in Healthcare” is a recurring series that focuses on exciting new designs and technologies we’re seeing in healthcare projects and provides best practices on how to ensure that these latest trends are accessible to persons with disabilities. We build on the wealth of knowledge we gain from working with healthcare design teams, construction crews, and practitioners to provide practical solutions for achieving accessible healthcare environments.


Accessible courtyardAccess to nature is known to promote healing and improve mental and physical wellbeing. The sights and sounds of the natural world have been proven to relieve anxiety, an attribute that can be immensely impactful in a hospital environment where patients, visitors, and staff experience increased stress on a consistent basis. With this in mind, hospital gardens that provide much needed respite have become an essential feature in many healthcare facilities. Even in hospitals built in places like New York City, where space is at a premium, healthcare owners and designers are prioritizing the integration of gardens and other natural spaces into facilities.

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The Devil’s in the Details: Common Accessibility Oversights with Peter Stratton

With all of the moving parts during the design and construction of a building project, one wrong move can compromise accessibility compliance. Unintentional oversights are commonplace when project teams don’t realize the importance of accessibility compliance and how it can make or break a project’s success. In the end, the devil’s in the details.

On this episode, we welcome back SWA’s Managing Director of Accessibility Services, Peter Stratton. Peter describes the top ten oversights made by project teams during the design and construction phases that typically lead to noncompliance with accessibility requirements. Learn why they happen, and how they can be identified and avoided in your project!

Follow along with Peter’s list of accessibility oversights below:

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Innovations in Accessible Products 2021

Our accessibility consultants are constantly on the lookout for new products that will make it easier for our clients to comply with accessibility criteria while meeting their overarching design goals. As manufacturers become more familiar with accessibility requirements under applicable federal, state, and local regulations and building codes, new or modified products continue to emerge, making compliance simpler and more stylish.

Here are just a few examples of accessible products that we have been recommending…

SafePath EntryLevel™ Landings

Safepath

SafePath EntryLevel Landings provide an affordable and easily customizable option to address non-compliant level changes at doors.

One of the most common issues we see in remediation projects, especially as a result of litigation, is a non-compliant level change at exterior doors. Very often, a step up of more than ½ inch is provided from the exterior to the interior surface, resulting in a barrier to access for a person who uses a wheelchair or other mobility device. SafePath provides a range of customizable ramps and reducers to help overcome vertical barriers to access at interior or exterior conditions. One of the product lines we have frequently recommended is their EntryLevel™ Landings. The product provides a compliant ramped transition (1:12 max) along with a level landing (1:48 max slope in any direction) to accommodate the required maneuvering clearance at doors. Because the landings are fixed in place and easy to customize, they provide a great option for clients looking to create an accessible building entrance.

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The New FHA Safe Harbors: FAQs

word bubbles with a question mark and exclamation point insideNow that HUD has adopted the 2009 edition of the ICC A117.1 Standard and the 2009, 2012, 2015, and 2018 editions of the IBC as additional safe harbors that can be used to demonstrate compliance with the design and construction requirements of the FHA, what changes? What do designers need to know before moving forward with selecting their chosen safe harbor? Here are a few of the most common questions that our Accessibility Team has been asked about the use of the new safe harbors since they became effective on March 8, 2021:

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