Blog 11, July 2022
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became the law of the land in July 1990. Despite its more than three decades of existence, compliance is still lacking. For this compliance gap, one can point to facility owners either being unaware of their responsibilities, unable to meet the financial commitment of compliance, or even, in some cases, persistent procrastination has settled in.
Regardless of the cause, it’s been a long road for physical accessibility advocates – one that began more than 50 years ago with the Architectural Barriers Act. That 1968 law made removal of physical barriers mandatory in federal buildings (the ADA expanded reasonable accommodations to all public buildings).
The physically challenged and their advocates, as it relates to access to buildings and automatic doors, heralded the ADA’s signing by President George H. W. Bush as a triumph for personal freedom. Because, indeed, that is all this population ever wanted: the freedom to come and go as they please, unassisted, into and out of public buildings. Needing someone to hold open the door defeats that purpose.
In recent years, recognizing that physical barriers still exist, many states are taking up the slack and developing their own legislative solutions to encourage ADA compliance. Many states are also proposing or have already instituted grant programs to offer financial assistance to help remove physical barriers to building access. Many of these grants are aimed at public and private educational institutions, but others are available.
The upshot is that architects and building owners need to familiarize themselves with the laws and grants in their own states. The American Association of Automatic Door Manufacturers (AAADM) is a longtime advocate for safe and easy access to buildings and was pivotal in championing changes to the International Building Code (IBC) addressing accessibility issues.* As such, we strongly encourage all stakeholders to take all the necessary steps to comply with the ADA. And it can’t be overemphasized, should information gaps or concerns regarding resources persist, AAADM members stand ready to assist with compliance for physical access.
Before starting a project, check AAADM’s legislative roundup of active and pending legislation around the country and at the federal level: Read about https://www.aaadm.com/legislative-updates/index.html.
Physical access for all people to all facilities – for voting, shopping, dining out, accessing vital services, and more – is essential to the independent living of people with disabilities. Automatic doors are key components in bringing this sense of agency and freedom to people with physical and mobility challenges.
People with disabilities and their advocates are presenting compelling testimony in state legislatures that offer firsthand accounts of challenges they face in gaining physical access to facilities. AAADM stands with these advocates and supports their mission to ensure safe and easy access to public facilities, from retail stores to restaurants to state buildings and beyond.
*The IBC update for 2021 included a provision long sought by accessibility advocates: the mandated inclusion of automatic doors for entrances to public buildings. IBC 1105.1.1indicates that, in facilities meeting stipulated building occupant load thresholds, public entrances that are required to be accessible shall have one door be either a full power-operated door or a low-energy power-operated door. Learn more here: https://www.aaadm.com/pressreleases/AAADMIBCDealsVictorytoAccessibilityPR.pdf.
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