Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Guest Blog: New Accessibility Standards, Part I

by Jeromy G. Murphy, AIA, RAS

The U.S. Department of Justice has adopted the new 2010 Standards for Accessible Design (2010 SAD) effective March 15, 2012, for the design and construction of State and local government facilities and public accommodations.

In future posts, I will cover the major technical changes to be found in the new Standards. But first, what does this mean for the current Texas Accessibility Standards?

The Texas Architectural Barriers Advisory Committee took the first step towards adopting new State standards at their public meeting on Nov. 15, 2010. All committee members were present. The Advisory Committee consists of nine building professionals and persons with disabilities who are tasked with reviewing and commenting on any proposed changes to Architectural Barriers rules or procedures.

On the suggestion of Architectural Barriers Program Manager, Robert Posey, the Advisory Committee divided the task into three workgroups: Technical, Administrative Rules, and Implementation.

The Advisory Committee will meet again in January 2011 to review their progress. The stated goal is to have a new Standard to coincide with the March 15, 2012 date set by the Department of Justice for the 2010 SAD.

It was my misconception that a new State accessibility standard would require legislative action. However, TDLR general counsel, Brad Bowman, clarified that rulemaking at the agency level is not predicated on legislative action. Chapter 469 of the Texas Government Code gives the authority to adopt “standards, specifications, and other rules ...that are consistent with standards, specifications, and other rules adopted under federal law.” Prior to adopting the new Standard, there will be a 30-day period for public comment.

John Torkelson, representing the Texas Registered Accessibility Specialist Association, spoke in favor of adopting the 2010 SAD as is with no State-specific changes. This received support from TDLR Staff and Advisory Committee members. Often national chains must alter their store designs to conform to State-specific accessibility standards. A State standard consistent with the Federal standard would benefit architects, owners, and contractors that do work in multiple States.

In his report to the committee, Mr. Posey suggested that TDLR would allow, through the variance process, the use of the 2010 SAD prior to the planned implementation in 2012. The caveat is that should a designer choose to use the new Standard, they will be expected to apply the Standard in its entirety and not pick and choose technical requirements. For example, the 2010 SAD only requires that 50% of single-occupant toilet rooms in a group be accessible, but it prohibits the lavatory from overlapping the clear floor space at the water closet. The Texas Accessibility Standards permits the lavatory to overlap the water closet clear floor space, but requires all of the toilet rooms to be accessible. TDLR will not allow mixing these to have only 50% accessible with lavatories overlapping the clear floor space.

To hear the latest from TDLR, subscribe to the TDLR List Server

And check back here on the TSA blog to learn more about the upcoming changes.

Jeromy G. Murphy, AIA, RAS

No comments: