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Accessibility’s Top Five from 2015

As we wrap up another successful year here at SWA, the Accessibility Compliance and Consulting Group would like to take a moment to reflect on some memorable achievements from 2015. Here are a few SWAwesome things we want to celebrate:

  1. An Anniversary. On July 26th, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) officially turned 25, providing an opportunity to reflect on how this law has changed the face of accessible design and continues to promote equal access for people with disabilities. SWA marked the milestone with a hugely successful twitter campaign #ADA25 SWAnniversary, led by our in-house expert Tweep, Theresa D’Andrea, Accessibility Specialist.

    UD Kitchen

    Universally designed kitchen showcasing products for enhanced accessibility.

  2. Accessible Products. We kicked off the year by rolling out SWA’s Product Guide for Enhanced Accessibility which was developed as a direct response to the needs of our clients. This guide showcases potential product solutions that can improve access to and usability of spaces and features contained within them for a wide array of building occupants. We’ve also recently established partnerships with more than a dozen new vendors. Stay tuned for more products to be added in early 2016.
  3. Health and Accessibility. We’ve made serious headway in championing the idea that designing for health is linked to designing for people with disabilities. SWA was appointed as Lead on Accessibility for AIA|DC’s Design + Wellbeing Committee and debuted our new role with a blog post published in Architecture DC. SWA was also invited to present next year at the AIA 2016 National Convention on the relationship between healthy design and accessible design. Be sure to come see us next spring in Philadelphia.
  4. Travel USA. This year, our accessibility consultants had the opportunity to travel to projects all across the country, from California to Florida. Particular travel heroes were Senior Accessibility Consultants, Harold Bravo, Certified Access Specialist in the State of California; and Jeff Heitert, Registered Accessibility Specialist in the State of Texas. And let’s not forget the countless industry presentations led by Senior Accessibility Consultant, Mark Jackson, who presented at Design DC in Washington, DC; the Build Expo in Dallas, TX; the 2015 AIA National Convention in Atlanta, GA; among many other.
  5. YOU. Last, but never least, we are grateful for another successful year with our clients, partners, and colleagues. Because of our diverse set of clients, we’ve had the opportunity to work with state and local governments, builders and architects, and others to create accessible homes, restaurants, retail stores, hotels, and more. The Accessibility Group wants to thank clients, new and old, who have helped us achieve our mission of creating safe and equitable spaces for people with disabilities.

Wishing you and yours a very happy, healthy, and accessible Holiday Season!Overview1-01 (2)

SWA Accessibiltiiy Group Photo_small

-The Accessibility Compliance and Consulting Group

A Tour of DURA, New York City College of Technology’s Urban and Resilient Solar Decathlon Home

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit the DURAhome, New York City College of Technology’s entry for the 2015 Solar Decathlon. This project is currently nearing completion at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Over the past 3 months, more than sixty students have toiled around the clock to finish construction in time for the contest, which will take place October 8-18 in Irvine, California. The Solar Decathlon is the U.S. Department of Energy’s biennial competition that challenges college and university student-led teams to design and build solar-powered net-zero homes that are affordable, energy-efficient, and aesthetically appealing.

TeamDURA’s focus was to create a prototype of post-disaster housing that is suited for New York City’s high-density urban environment, and could serve as a shelter in the aftermath of a catastrophic storm. As such, multifamily, multistory solutions were preferable to traditional single-family trailers, which have larger footprints. DURAhome consists of several prefabricated modules that can be packaged and shipped on standard-sized tractor trailers for quick response at low cost. These flexible modules can then be joined in standalone configurations or stacked for multifamily uses. Like the city, the DURAhome is diverse, urban, resilient, and adaptable.

NY City Tech Freshman Langston Clark continues work on DURA into the early evening.

NY City Tech Freshman Langston Clark continues work on DURA into the early evening.

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Victoria Lanteigne Talks Accessibility on DC Radio

SWA Accessibility

This week, SWA Senior Accessibility Consultant Victoria Lanteigne joined the program “Business Matters” on WPFW 89.3 FM in Washington, DC. Read more

An Insider’s Guide to Restaurant Accessibility

As a resident of Washington, D.C. for nearly ten years, I’ve spent a fair amount of time frequenting the city’s burgeoning restaurant scene. Much like my fellow Accessibility Consultants at SWA, even when we’re off the clock, we notice structural violations of federal accessibility laws on a daily basis. I would love to say that DC’s restaurant industry is an exception, but unfortunately there are still many challenges facing diners with disabilities in Washington.

Accessibility regulations that apply to restaurants are outlined under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Achieving compliance with the ADA can be a substantial task, but not without significant benefit. Recent statistics show that people with disabilities spend over $35 billion in restaurants a year. This is no small change for an industry with ever-increasing competition. Compliance also mitigates risk of litigation, which is particularly important as the U.S. Department of Justice and advocacy groups continue systemic investigations across the country.

Following are a few general rules of thumb to remember when providing equal access to guests with disabilities:

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The Access Files – The Truth is Out There

Peter Stratton

Peter Stratton, SWA’s Director of Accessibility Compliance and Consulting

SWA Access is the quarterly publication created by SWA’s Accessibility Compliance and Consulting Group to convey the importance of, and help  demystify the often complex world of accessible design, construction, and compliance. After all, as the group’s director, Peter Stratton, often says, “Sustainable Design is Accessible Design.”

Each edition of the newsletter features a section that answers specific questions asked during project work or public seminars. We will periodically post these items to Party Walls, but if there’s something you would like answered now, you can post your question in the comment section below and someone from SWA’s accessibility team will answer them (and in a timely manner!)

Q: Under the Fair Housing Amendments Act, are multifamily housing developments that utilize valet parking still required to provide a total of 2% accessible parking spaces serving covered dwelling units?

A: Yes. the guidelines require that accessible parking be provided for residents with disabilities on the same terms and with the full range of choices that are provided to all residents. Providing valet parking in lieu of self parking does not change this requirement. A minimum of 2% of the parking spaces that serve covered dwelling units must be accessible. Local code requirements may be more stringent when it comes to requirements for accessible parking. Find more information by visiting:
Supplement to Notice of Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines: Questions and Answers about the Guidelines.

Q: Is it true that HUD now accepts the 2010 ADA Standards (2010 Standards) as an alternative to the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS) for compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504)?

A: Yes. HUD issued a Notice, effective May 23, 2014, that permits recipients of Federal funding to use the 2010 Standards as an alternative to UFAS on projects subject to Section 504. However, HUD has deemed certain provisions of the 2010 Standards to provide less accessibility than is currently required by UFAS. So, be sure to learn about the exceptions if you choose to apply the 2010 Standards to your next project. HUD’s Notice remains in effect until the agency formally adopts an updated accessibility standard for compliance with Section 504.