Brian Black, Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association
|October 28, 2002|
With regard to the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines, the Access Board (Board) is familiar with EPVA’s commitment to improving the accessibility requirements established under federal law. An EPVA staff member has served as a Board member and was a participant in the Advisory Committee that drafted the report, “Building a True Community” on which these draft guidelines are based. Prior to that, EPVA served on the ADAAG Federal Advisory Committee that developed the draft “New ADAAG” that led to the new guidelines approved by the Board this fall. Additionally, an EPVA staff member serves with the Board representative on the ANSI Accredited Standard Committee A117 and works hand-in-hand with that representative to improve the accessibility requirements of the ICC International Building Code (IBC). With this background and commitment to accessibility, EPVA is pleased and encouraged that the Board has issued Draft Guidelines for Accessible Public Rights-of-Way, extending what is required for buildings and building sites into this area of the built environment.
The Board is familiar with the concept of “harmonization”, in which the Board and its counterparts in the private sector – participants in the A117.1 and IBC development processes – have attempted to minimize the discrepancies between their respective accessibility requirements. Virtually all affected parties agree that standardized accessibility criteria, especially technical criteria, will serve not only persons with disabilities but the designers and owners of properties regulated by these requirements.
Accordingly, the biggest problem EPVA finds with the proposed ADAAG Chapter 11 is ironically that is not harmonized with the technical requirements of the draft ADAAG issued in April of this year. Diagonal curb ramps that are permitted on a building site would be prohibited in the public right-of-way while, conversely, parallel curb ramps on city sidewalks would arguably not be allowed at the local supermarket. Detectable warnings would be required at curb ramps on quiet residential streets, but not in a busy shopping center. ADAAG would specifically require an accessible route from an accessible parking space to a centralized collection box or collection station if the parking were located in the right-of-way, but not if the parking was in a private lot.
Having tried to harmonize the model codes and standards with the moving target of a 1999 ADAAG NPRM and a 2002 “final” ADAAG draft, EPVA understands that coordinating parallel developments of technical and scoping requirements can be difficult at best. We also appreciate that the Board approved the final ADAAG draft a few short weeks ago, and to make substantive changes to that document in an attempt to incorporate new or differing requirements in the proposed Chapter 11 could stall the issuance of the new ADAAG for months, if not years. But “a ramp is a ramp is a ramp”, and the requirements for that ramp (and everything else) in the public right-of-way should, if possible, be consistent with what is required or permitted on a private building site.
The Board faces a dilemma that those of us dealing with the model codes and standards (including your staff) have been struggling with during this era of harmonization. On one hand, consistency between the national and federal accessibility requirements – and certainly consistency within ADAAG – is extremely important if the requirements are to be understood, adhered to, and enforced. Conversely, the “science of accessibility” should be permitted to advance, and improving the technical requirements for any given element should not be hindered simply because some earlier document contains provisions that are inconsistent with what we now know to be better for accessibility. (For example, the draft ADAAG provisions for assembly areas improve on the A117.1-1998 requirements, and the draft A117.1-2003 provisions build on the draft ADAAG requirements.) The Board has the responsibility of weighing the benefits of increased access for a particular element in the public right-of-way (such as curb ramps) versus the problems created by having different requirements for the same element, depending on whether that element in on a private building site or public street. Yours is not an enviable task.
EPVA has a number of concerns regarding the technical requirements in the proposed rights-of-way guidelines. We have also attempted to point out where differences between the proposed guidelines and the draft ADAAG may prove problematic.
One final point: The Board has dedicated hundreds of staff hours, joining a few of us in the private sector to try to convince both the A117.1 Committee and the voting membership of the International Code Council that harmonization is the right thing to do.
For EPVA, the harmonization argument has been a very effective way to increase the accessibility requirements in the model codes and standards. Resistance has been strong at times, with those who do not share our goals questioning why the codes and standards should change when the federal government seems unable or unwilling to do the same (given that the long-promised new ADAAG has yet to be finalized). This dynamic should be given considerable weight as the Board decides whether to increase accessibility for public rights-of-ways without making concomitant changes for building sites. “Harmonizing with the ADA” will become a weak argument if the Board cannot either harmonize with itself or provide compelling evidence that 1) similar elements in the public right-of-way are functionally different and should have different requirements, or 2) the chance to advance the “science of accessibility” through this proposal outweighs the problems a resulting conflict may cause.
1101.2 Referenced Standards. In its introductory comments, the Board mentions that the Federal Highway Administration is in the process of updating its Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). The Board should only reference established and published reference standards, and should refer to the 2000 edition if the FHA has not completed this work.
1101.3 Defined Terms.
Sidewalk. This definition does not work. In some communities in the Northeast, residential lot lines extend to the curb line (or even into the center of the street), with easements given to install village sidewalks, utilities, water lines, etc. The portion between the curb line and the adjacent property line may be 0 inches or, worse, a portion of the vehicular way.
1102.10 Stairs. The requirement for color-contrasting tread markings has a number of problems. Foremost, this is not a requirement in the draft new ADAAG, and the suggestion that stairs on rights-of-way are different due to variable lighting conditions is not persuasive. Certainly, exterior stairs on building sites or stairs in a dark restaurant are no more discernable than stairs on a public right-of-way.
Maintenance of these markings on stair tread subject to exterior conditions is also problematic. Rain, ice, abrasion from mud and dirt encrusted shoes will subject these stairs to far more wear than that applied to interior exit stairs. Finally, stairs installed in the new construction or alteration of a public right-of-way may be used to replace the old stairs or sloped walk to a single family home. The New York State Department of Transportation requires this when is rebuilds a state roadway in a residential area, and those stairs often extend ten or more feet into a person’s property. Under the maintenance of accessible features requirements certain to be imposed by the Department of Justice or Transportation when this section of ADAAG is eventually adopted, who will be responsible for maintaining these tread markings on private property?
1003 Pedestrian Access Route
1103.4 Cross Slope. In many urban and commercial areas in the Northeast, storefronts were built on a zero-lot line abutting the public sidewalk. Most older buildings are not accessible, though many have only a one-riser step to the front entrance. EPVA has been successful in working with many owners of such buildings to make the businesses accessible by asking the municipality to permit the removal of the existing sidewalk in front of the building entrance, then “warping” the sidewalk by pouring new concrete to consume the 4 to 6 inch riser at the building entrance. In many cases, the sidewalk is not wide enough to accommodate this and still allow any portion of the circulation path to remain level.
Requiring the entire width of a 48 inch wide pedestrian access route to maintain a 1:48 maximum cross slope will preclude this design option in many cases. Often there will be no other building entrances to alter to provide access into the business. While we appreciate the general need for an even cross slope on accessible routes and the problems that a 1:20 cross slope may cause for someone in a wheelchair proceeding down the sidewalk, we believe the opportunity to make a building accessible overrides this problem. Mandating a 1:48 cross slope in all instances will take a valuable tool from advocates working in older urban areas.
1103.8 Changes in Level. Changes in level that adjoin one another are not prohibited in the draft ADAAG, and in fact are fairly common in the built environment. A marble threshold to a tiled toilet room floor will typically have a ¼ inch vertical edge (to maintain the integrity and durability of the piece), then be beveled the additional 3/8 to 1/2 inch to the top of the threshold. If such “compound level changes” are permitted on sites and in buildings, they should not be prohibited on rights-of-way be requiring a 30 inch separation between the two.
1104 Curb Ramps and Blended Transitions
There is an internal inconsistency in this section. Section 1126.96.36.199 requires a landing at the top of a perpendicular curb ramp. Section 1188.8.131.52 requires a landing at the bottom of a ramp run. The issue is whether a curb ramp constitutes just the sloped section (suggested by 1184.108.40.206) or the entire system including any landings (suggested by 1220.127.116.11).
1104.3.3 Surfaces. EPVA believes the introduction of gratings, access covers, or other appurtenances into the sloped section of a ramp may make that ramp difficult to negotiate or dangerous to use. We also believe that, in new construction, these elements should not be located in ramp landings. However, in urban areas access covers for utilities or traffic lights are often located precisely where the upper landing of a curb ramp would be, and to prohibit their existence in this space could make the installation of a curb ramp at an inaccessible intersection prohibitive, if not impracticable. Also, this is not considered a problem in the draft ADAAG, and curb ramp designs that are permitted on building site should also be permitted in the right-of-way.
1105.5 Pedestrian Overpasses and Underpasses.
1105.5.3 Approach. This section permits the use of a ramp with a 60 inch maximum rise to approach a pedestrian overpass or underpass. There are three problems with this allowance.
First, we cannot imagine an overpass or underpass where the total vertical rise would be less than 60 inches (if it is “overpassing” a creek, it’s a pedestrian bridge, not an overpass). Second, our experience is that ascending a 60 inch vertical rise with two 30 foot ramp slopes at 1:12 and an intermediate landing is extremely difficult for most people using manual wheelchairs (this is supported by research Steinfeld did in the 1970s at Syracuse University). Conversely, if ramps can serve as accessible routes for unlimited rises in the draft ADAAG, there is no reason that the requirement should change for rights-of-ways.
The only practical way to provide accessible overpasses and underpasses is with elevators at both ends. We support the Board’s decision to permit Limited Use/Limited Application elevators in addition to elevators complying with 407 in these applications. The Board should also specify that elevators installed in these applications shall not require a key for normal operation.
1107 Street Furniture.
1107.5 Public Toilet Facilities. The exception for single-user toilet facilities clustered at a single location should only apply to portable facilities, where the amenities provided by the accessible and inaccessible units are similar. All permanent public toilet facilities should be accessible.
This would not be inconsistent with the cluster allowance found in draft ADAAG because, while single-use toilet facilities found in buildings typically provide the same amenities, this may not be true with street furniture facilities. At one time, a manufacturer in discussions to provide his units in New York City had inaccessible units that were self-cleaning, where the inaccessible units lacked this feature. Moreover, while “cluster” is a somewhat ambiguous term it is generally understood where a doctors’ office has a group of single-use rooms or where a line of portable toilet units are put down for a street fair. It may not be so clear with permanent facilities that are “clustered” on a number of scattered blocks in a city –are two units, one on Fifth Avenue and 46th Street, the other on Sixth Avenue and 47th Street (two linear blocks apart) a “cluster” because the next two units are within a block at Seventh Avenue and 33rd Street? We do not believe so, but are concerned that “cluster” could be misapplied this way.
1108 Detectable Warning Surfaces
1108.1 General. The Board’s Section-by-Section review indicates that an in-line grid pattern of truncated domes is responsive to the concerns regarding the impact of the domed surface on wheelchair maneuvering. This is not true if the lines are not oriented to the direction of travel, and this section should require that the square grid pattern provide dome lines parallel with the running slope of the ramp.
1108.2.1 Curb Ramps and Blended Transitions. The requirement for locating the detectable warning surface on a curb ramp between 6 and 8 inches from the curb line will place that uneven surface on a 1:12 slope precisely at the point where a wheelchair user will be entering the vehicular traffic lane. If grates and access covers are prohibited on curb ramps, even if flush with the ramp surface (see 1104.3.3), why does the Board require even greater disturbances in the ramp surface here?
Should the Board decide to include a requirement for detectable warnings at curb ramps in the final guidelines, the 24-inch minimum strip of truncated domes should be located at the top of the ramp run. If this is sufficient to provide warnings at rail crossings and platform boarding edges, it is sufficient to warn someone walking down a city street that the expected curb ramp (and adjacent city street) is a stride or two away.
1109 On-street Parking
1109.3 Perpendicular or Angled Parking Spaces. Where angled parking is provided, the access aisle should be located on the passenger side of the accessible parking space. This is where most persons in wheelchairs transfer to and from automobiles and where lifts are located on vans. Unlike perpendicular parking spaces, angled parking spaces are extremely difficult to back into to be able to use an access aisle to the left of the accessible parking space.
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