General Issues

This section of the rule addresses issues pertaining to the application of the final rule. Individual provisions addressed in this rule are discussed in detail under the Section-by-Section Analysis below.

The final rule provides alternate specifications based on children's dimensions as exceptions to specifications based on adult dimensions. As exceptions, these specifications are discretionary, not mandatory. This represents a change from the proposed rule, which provided mandatory requirements applicable to facilities or portions of facilities constructed according to children's dimensions. Also, the final rule focuses more clearly on elements used primarily by children than the proposed rule, which applied to "facilities or portions of facilities constructed according to children's dimensions."

Comment. Several commenters stated that it was not clear whether the proposed children's guidelines were mandatory requirements or permitted alternatives to ADAAG requirements based on adult dimensions. One commenter recommended that the children's guidelines be written as exceptions to ADAAG requirements.

Response. Generally, buildings codes and best practices specify that elements and facilities be provided at heights and locations appropriate for the primary user population served. Although children are rarely the sole occupant or user of facilities, codes and best practices often specify that elements such as drinking fountains, lavatories, and toilet seats be mounted at heights according to children's size where children are the primary users. The proposed rule was not intended to create a new obligation for covered entities to design or construct elements according to children's dimensions and anthropometrics. Instead, it applied mandatory specifications where building elements are designed or constructed according to children's dimensions and anthropometrics. In the final rule, the guidelines have been incorporated into ADAAG as exceptions to technical requirements so that these guidelines function as permitted departures from requirements based on adult dimensions where certain elements are designed for use primarily by children. The decision to use an exception is optional but will likely be determined where best practices or building codes call for design based on children's dimensions. Consequently, making the requirements of this rule discretionary should not affect the intended application of this rule as proposed. If an exception in this rule is used, then the technical specifications they contain or reference must be followed (although as with any ADAAG requirement, departures providing equal or greater access are permitted under the provision of equivalent facilitation at ADAAG 2.2).

Comment. A majority of commenters supported the approach taken in the proposed rule, including its organization as a special occupancy section. However, some considered the application and scope of section 15 too vague. The proposed rule's application to "facilities or portions of facilities" designed for children was an apparent source of confusion as some commenters noted that it was not clear which types of facilities were covered. Several commenters recommended that a variety of facilities be specifically addressed in the final rule, including museums, libraries, shopping malls, nurseries, day care centers, cafeterias, and others.

Response. For clarity, the final rule has been reorganized to focus more clearly on building elements designed for use by children instead of facilities or portions of facilities. The specifications of the proposed special occupancy section have been incorporated into ADAAG as exceptions to technical requirements based on adult dimensions instead of as a special occupancy section. These exceptions are usable regardless of whether the facility primarily serves children, such as a school, or equally serves adults, such as a museum, shopping mall, or restaurant. The basis for the exception is not the type of facility, but the provision of elements based on children's dimensions.

Comment. The proposed rule covered facilities or portions of facilities constructed according to children's dimensions and anthropometrics for ages 2 through 12. The dimensions of children aged 2 and older are reflected in many existing state and local education or building design guidelines and recommendations. With respect to schools or areas within schools serving children over 12 years old, most states apply design standards based on adult dimensions. A majority of comments did not support the proposed age range. While a few recommended broadening this range to cover children younger than 2 or older than 12, most favored reducing the range. These comments stated that children younger than 5, including those without disabilities, often need assistance or supervision in using elements such as water closets. Some recommended that children's guidelines apply where facilities or elements are designed for use by children over ages 4 or 5. A design firm that specializes in child care facilities recommended that access not be required to all toilet rooms serving children in child care facilities due to the space and cost impact. According to this commenter, toilet rooms in child care facilities are an "extension of the classroom" where, until age 5 or 6, children learn proper health habits.

Response. The final rule covers access for children ages 12 and younger. The age at which children independently use various building elements such as water closets varies. Also, adult assistance and supervision helps teach children how to use such elements by themselves. Thus accessibility, which includes features such as grab bars at water closets, is essential for children with disabilities to learn how to independently use water closets and other fixtures. For these reasons, coverage of children below age 5 has been retained in the final rule. However, a minimum age is not specified in the final rule since the decision to design a space or element according to children's sizes will typically drive the use of these alternate specifications. For example, if a toilet room is intended primarily for young children and is designed according to children's dimensions, then the alternate specifications will likely be used since the only alternatives would be ADAAG requirements based on adult dimensions or departures based on "equivalent facilitation" which provide equal or greater access. Toilet rooms not designed according to children's dimensions, including those that serve young children, do not have to comply with the alternate specifications. Exceptions of this rule for lavatories, sinks, and fixed seating and tables cover elements used primarily by children ages 5 and younger and address conflicts between current design practice and accessibility requirements. These are further discussed below in the Section-by-Section Analysis.