How To: Comply with ADA regulations

Though the Americans with Disabilities Act has been in effect for more than 15 years, it's important to periodically evaluate yourself to insure that you are within compliance. Most of the regulations affect interiors; however, certain rules exist for exteriors as well.

  1. Lettering on signs must be at least 3 inches tall. Use a capital “X” as the guide for height. You can use lower-case letters, but they should be light colored on a dark background or vice versa, and the finish must be non-glare, as in eggshell (non-glossy white) or matte.

  2. Outside areas must have at least one drinking fountain that is wheelchair accessible and one tall fountain for those who have trouble bending over.

  3. When considering access for wheelchairs and other mobility aids, you must consider your customers and your employees or volunteers — storage buildings and supply shops must be accessible.

  4. Steps are not an option for ADA compliance. A change in level can be no greater than a slope of ½ inch.

  5. Walking trails must also comply with a slope restrictions. For instance, maximum slope should be 1:12 (5 percent). In addition, the trail itself cannot slope side to side greater than 1:50 (2 percent). Not only do you want to limit how steep the trail is, but also limit the need for greater balance for standing or controlling the wheelchair. If you are trying to bring some pre-existing grades into compliance, know that if they are only slightly too steep, you can install wheelchair “rest stops” along the way.

  6. In the past, hiking trails and access to ponds and other waterways have been economically unfeasible to bring into ADA compliance. Concrete and asphalt are expensive and if you have miles of trails, in most situations, it is unreasonable to consider paving. There are now a few products that may help more trails comply with the ADA. You can install decomposed granite or limestone screenings when mixed with a stabilizer. If you don't use a stabilizer, they tend to get soggy. Even better are the stabilized engineered wood fibers (EWF). Trails constructed with EWF look more uniform and manicured than those with typical wood mulch, but the resulting surface is firm enough for wheelchairs and soft enough for some playground applications. Research has shown that, when properly installed, they can resist heavy rains without washing away — a major plus.

  7. Many facilities are installing Braille pavers at crosswalks and driveways, etc. Not only are these functional in alerting people to a change, but they also add variety and add to the design when you choose reddish-brown or sand-colored pavers with them.

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