Navigating the ADA Amendments Act of 2008

Recently, I was asked about the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 and how it affects facility managers. It’s a good question. Usually we hear so much about how the act affects human resources professionals, but what about facility managers?In researching the act, I came upon an article published on Today’ Guest contributor Katherine McGuinness wrote about the topic in March 2009, shortly after the amended act went into effect. The following review of ADA compliance, maintenance, barrier removal and access requirements serves as a good reminder for both HR professionals and facility managers to evaluate the accessibility of their workplaces.

ADA compliance

McGuiness had several tips on how facility managers should get started with compliance, including:
  1. Be prepared to use the 2004 version of the ADA Architectural Barriers Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADA/ABAAG)
  2. Be well on your way to implementing accessible design and construction protocols
  3. Ensure the maintenance of accessible elements
  4. Re-evaluate readily achievable barrier removal options
  5. Review accessible evacuation plans (or create them if they haven’t done so already)
In reviewing this information, I learned that ADA enforcement often cites failure to construct new and altered facilities to meet the ADA Accessibility Standards. Most facility managers assume architects and contractors will ensure full ADA compliance. This has not been the case.

ADA maintenance

The ADA requires that accessible elements in facilities be maintained, which McGuiness highlights in the article. This can include a wide variety of maintenance protocols:
  • Maintaining lifts and monitoring elevators regularly
  • Testing audible and visual alarms
  • Removing snow from accessible routes
  • Clearing storage areas (including around trash bins, bicycle racks, under elevator buttons, around accessible toilet stalls, near spaces around doors, and at telephones and drinking fountains)

Barrier removal requirements

Facilities that are open to the public are subject to the ADA’s “readily achievable barrier removal” requirements. This ongoing obligation requires facility managers and business owners to remove any architectural barriers that can be taken away “without significant difficulty or expense.”It appears compliance is meant to have a sliding scale. For example, a chain of retail stores (such as Barnes and Noble) will more than likely have a higher standard of what is readily achievable than a single, independent book store.Typical readily achievable barrier removal would include:
  • Providing a ramp to mitigate one to three steps
  • Making an accessible restroom stall from two standard stalls
  • Adding lever hardware to doors and sinks.

Access requirements

ADA’s access requirements are to include effective evacuation plans for people with disabilities. If a facility has an evacuation plan for its occupants, facilities managers should review it for protocols specific to the ADA. Some examples of this include:
  • Identification of rescue assistance/safe wait areas
  • Coordination with human resources to plan for those who have confidentially identified themselves as needing assistance in an evacuation
  • Identification and training of volunteers who can assist people with disabilities
  • Availability of back up mobility aids
Visit the American's with Disability Act website to learn more about the American’s with Disability Act.