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Beyond ADA

The Division of the State Architect (DSA) provides design and construction oversight for K–12 schools, community colleges, and various other state-owned and state-leased facilities to ensure that they comply with all structural, accessibility, and fire and life safety codes. To promote consistent knowledge and application of the California Building Codes, as well as information for successful plan review and construction of projects under DSA’s jurisdiction, DSA offers classes through its DSA Academy.

The mission of the California Commission on Disability Access (CCDA) is to promote disability access in California through dialogue and collaboration with stakeholders including, but not limited to, the disability and business communities as well as all levels of government.

In order to achieve this mission the CCDA is authorized by California Government Code Sections 14985-14985.11 to act as an information resource; to research and prepare advisory reports of findings to the Legislature on issues related to disability access, compliance inspections and continuing education; to increase coordination between stakeholders; to make recommendations to promote compliance with federal, and state laws and regulations; and to provide uniform information about programmatic and architectural disability access requirements to the stakeholders. The California Commission on Disability Access (CCDA) is a 17-member independent commission consisting of 11 public members and six (6) ex-officio non-voting members. The CCDA was established through legislation (Senate Bill 1608 – Chapter 549, Statutes of 2008) enacted during the 2007/2008 legislative session.

For example, their 2018 Annual Report to the Legislature published January 31, 2019 began developing a disability access toolkit for the restaurant industry. And while the COVID-19 lockdowns temporarily shut down restaurants everywhere, it won’t be forever. Indeed, the lockdown is actually the time to re-think accessibility, since dealing with the virus in terms of public safety will be also required, and the Codes do NOT cover anything related to virus protection AND accessibility.

The toolkit features federal and state disability access law information, solutions for businesses, tips for making operations accessible to guests with disabilities, and financial resources to support physical access improvements. The word document is available for review. It contains helpful guidelines for consideration in the design of a restaurant for accessibility (i.e., page 11 contains six insights BEFORE You Lease or Purchase a restaurant space).

And of course, the CCDA report covers litigation. Interestingly, in 2018, the Commission received significantly more complaints filed in state and federal court and significantly fewer prelitigation demand letters – representing a 97 percent decrease compared to 2017.

Another resource is the United States Access Board. The U.S. Access Board is a federal agency that promotes equality for people with disabilities through leadership in accessible design and the development of accessibility guidelines and standards for the built environment, transportation, communication, medical diagnostic equipment, and information technology.

For example, on May 5, 2020 the Board issued guidance on toilet and bathing facilities and drinking fountains. The Toilet Rooms (chapter 6) is a comprehensive overview explaining ADA standards for these rooms. It’s really everything you need to know in one place.

The Board also has a research program on the study of accessibility relating to architecture and design, communication, and transportation. A key mission of the Board is developing and maintaining accessibility guidelines and standards under several different laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This includes design requirements for facilities in the private and public sectors, transportation vehicles, telecommunications equipment, and Federal electronic and information technology. Most Board research projects are designed to develop information for its use in writing or updating these design criteria. The Board welcomes information on research initiatives related to accessibility and accessible design. The Board maintains a strong interest in coordinating research with other entities and in exploring potential partnerships. For more information about the Board’s research program, contact Dave Yanchulis, Director of the Office of Technical and Information Services, at ta@access-board.gov.

The Building Code Forum is another resource for design professionals. This is a free forum to the public due to the generosity of the Sawhorses, Corporate Supporters and Supporters who have upgraded their accounts. It is a centralized hub where people contribute information, exchange ideas and drive toward a thorough understanding of meeting specific standards like ADA. You would be surprised and pleased at the amount of discussion going on in their accessibility forum.

James V Vitale, AIA, LEED AP, CASp, RC Executive Director, California Commission on Disability Access wrote in “The Importance of ADA Compliance” in Concrete Construction’s letters to the editor in 2010 that, “As an architect specializing in accessibility, it gives me hope that civil engineers may finally be getting the idea (for ADA Compliance).” He pointed also that, “the civil industry’s books of standard public works details are woefully lacking in understanding…as to what meets Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines minimums, or ‘exceeds’ them.”

Vitale also has taught, ““The Ten Steps to Access” Common Sense Considerations based on ADASAD 2010 & CBC 11B. His presentation provided recent examples from city, state, and federal projects. The presentation also included a review of the changes to CA disabled access regulations, CBC Chapter 11B, that took effect in Jan. 2014.

One of the designations to consider when consulting on ADA especially in California is CASp. A certified access specialist (CASp) is a person who has been tested and certified by the state that business owners can hire to assess accessibility. SB 1608 sets up a process whereby business owners can voluntarily hire a CASP to inspect their buildings to ensure compliance with disability access standards and obtain an inspection report as proof of inspection. A business implementing recommendations of a CASP would be entitled to a 90 day hold on any legal proceedings and is eligible for an early evaluation conference. “CASp” refers to Certified Access Specialist. The designation was created by California Senate Bill 1608 which became law 2008, and can be found in Civil Code sections 55.3 et seq.

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