Here are some issues that continue to give us grief:
- During TDLR project registration please don't enter the same information in more than one of the Contact Info sections on the form (Building Or Facility Owner, Design Firm, Tenant). For example, if your client is the property owner, don't enter your email address for the property owner. If you are the tenant you are NOT the owner. Don't enter any Owner Agent information unless you have acquired an Owner Agent Designation Form from the property owner designating you as an agent. Without the form, anything you enter as the agent will not be recognized. All information on the Contacts page of the form MUST BE UNIQUE. If you fail to enter accurate information it will require that the record be corrected, something we do not do. You will need to email the TDLR at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION
Plan Review Reports
- Read the plan review report! Plan review reports are generated and issued prior to construction. Unfortunately, comments in the reports are not picked up in many instances, which leads to costly corrected modifications. It is extremely frustrating to be performing an inspection and realize that the violations being recorded, were the same violations noted in the plan review report. If you are not reading the report, and are not issuing revisions or addenda as a result, then you are probably not providing the best service for your client.
Inspections - The property owner's responsibility, not the tenant's
- Under Texas Architectural Barriers Law the person or persons, company, corporation, authority, commission, board, governmental entity, institution, or any other entity that holds title to the subject building or facility is responsible for having the building or facility inspected for compliance with the standards not later than the first anniversary of the date the construction or substantial renovation or modification of the building or facility is completed. The owner shall obtain an inspection from a registered accessibility specialist not later than the first anniversary of the completion of construction. Nowhere in the law does it mention tenants or lessees. Why? Because they have NO obligations under the law. Owners are responsible for everything that occurs in the building or facility, even tenant work. They are responsible for requesting the architectural barriers inspection and providing verification of completion of corrective modifications once violations are corrected. Unfortunately, some unwitting property owners abdicate their responsibilities under the law, believing that their lease agreements somehow relieve them of any obligations to comply. It's quite a rude awakening when the state's enforcement division and its prosecutors ramp up enforcement and levy costly fines on the owner for failure to comply. Go here and select Architectural Barriers under Search by License Program Type, then hit Search: https://www.tdlr.texas.gov/cimsfo/fosearch.asp
Residential Designers and Constructors
- We are thrilled that you have decided to try your hand at commercial construction, but you can take almost everything you've learned about residential design and construction and throw it out the window when it comes to the state and federal accessibility requirements. It's a whole different ballgame and you will do yourself and your clients a service to read the 2012 Texas Accessibility Standards and get familiarized with the requirements before designing or constructing a project. Almost every project we have reviewed and inspected that has had a residential designer and/or constructor involved ends up with a disproportionate number of violations. Our job is not to train or teach you the various requirements. You must show some initiative and learn the standards. There are a number of resources available online that can help. The U.S. Access Board, which is the federal agency from where all accessibility standards originate, publishes an excellent 'Guide to the ADA Accessibility Standards', here: https://www.access-board.gov/ada/guides/. This may be utilized as a companion to the 2012 Texas Accessibility Standards (TAS), found here: https://www.tdlr.texas.gov/ab/abtas.htm.
- Please stop grooving or scoring the surfaces of any curb ramps that are NOT located in the public right-of-way. Grooves were permitted years ago by the TDLR as an example of textured surfaces permitted back at that time. As of March 15th of 2012, there is no requirement that curb ramp surfaces located on a site have grooves, scores, paint, stain, or truncated domes. All that is required is a light broom sweep finish (aka typical concrete finish). If curb ramps are constructed with a textured or irregular surface it may cause an injury liability for the property owner since this is not required. It may also constitute a violation of section 302.1. Civil Engineers are the worst offenders and some are still specifying grooved curb ramp surfaces. If a building inspection department representative tells the construction manager or site super that he or she must treat curb ramp surfaces on the site...resist. Do not allow them to require you to treat curb ramp surfaces unless they can provide something in writing which requires it. If it is not in their adopted code of ordinances then they cannot impose a requirement. Talk to the Chief Building Official if an inspector attempts to require you to treat curb ramp surfaces. And don't allow to apply their public ROW curb ramp standards to curb ramps located on a private site.
Note: Only curb ramps that are located in the public right-of-way are required to have detectable warning surfaces (truncated domes). See the Proposed Public Rights-of-Way Accessibility Guidelines.
- Please stop designing accessible sinks with doors under the sinks, thereby obstructing the required clearances. This is a big-time violation of the ADA standards. It is simply not permitted under 306.1 and 201.1(II). Many have tried to use Exception 1 to section 606.2, claiming that the clear floor space is not required because it is a kitchen sink, when in fact it is a breakroom sink. If the room or space does not have fixed or built-in cooking facilities then it is not a kitchen and sinks located in that room or space are NOT kitchen sinks, so you don't get to use the exception! All sinks that are required to be accessible by the standards must have open and unobstructed toe and knee clearances underneath the sink. Curtains and doors are never permitted. If you've been getting away with it and question what we are saying here, please call the ADA Help Line at the Civil Rights Division at the United States Department of Justice and ask them what they think. 800-514-0301 (voice), 800-514-0383 (TTY)
Private Restrooms and Private Bathing Rooms
- There are NO exemptions for private restrooms and private bathing rooms, such as those serving an executive or owner's office. Our biggest gripe here is that designers think that if the restroom is connected to, and provided for, a single-occupant office that it does not have to comply with the standards. Not true! There are a few exceptions spread throughout the standards and the department issued Technical Memorandum TM2013-19 (8 years ago!) listing the exceptions. The most significant problem is that designers don't think they have to provide a Turning Space inside the restroom or bathing room, nor do they have to provide a water closet clearance that is not overlapped by a lavatory. This is an epic fail since there is not an exception for a turning space or an encroaching lavatory. Here are the ONLY exceptions to making these spaces 100% ADA compliant:
- Toilet and Bathing Rooms / 603.2.3, Exception 1: Door Swing.
- Water Closets / 604.4, Exception 1: Seats, 604.5, Exception 1: Grab Bars.
- Lavatories and Sinks / 606.2, Exception 2: Clear Floor Space, 606.3, Exception 1: Height.
- Bathtubs / 607.4, Exception 1: Grab Bars.
- Shower Compartments / 608.3, Exception 1: Grab Bars.
- For existing buildings and facilities, do take advantage of Safe Harbor. It is very important that you hire a RAS that has experience working with the old 1994 standards. Many people use the term grandfathering, however, there is no such term under state or federal ADA standards. Safe Harbor generally permits that existing facilities and elements that were previously constructed to comply with the old standards do not have to be incrementally upgraded to comply with the new standards, based on the scope of work that is occurring. See Section 202.4.
Restroom Renovation (Existing) - Loss of Safe Harbor
- If there is a restroom that was constructed to comply with the 1994 Texas Accessibility Standards, and the restroom is not being renovated or altered, then the restroom would likely be eligible for Safe Harbor and would not require incremental upgrades to comply with the 2012 Texas Accessibility Standards based on the Section 202.4 scope of work that is occurring. Only normal repairs and maintenance may occur in a restroom that is covered by Safe Harbor. For example: If a single floor tile has broken and it creates a safety issue then the floor tile may be replaced. If the pipes underneath a lavatory have broken then the pipes may be replaced (so long as the minimum required knee and toe clearance is maintained). If a toilet paper dispenser has broken loose from the wall, then the toilet paper dispenser may be reinstalled in the same location. HOWEVER, there shall not be any renovation or alteration of the restroom for the purpose of refreshing the space or modernizing it, or for whatever reason beyond normal repairs and maintenance without losing the benefit of Safe Harbor. If Safe Harbor is lost, then the most consequential change will be the 60-inch minimum clearance required around the water closet under the 2012 Standards (604.3). In that case, the lavatory must be moved outside the water closet clearance. In short, if a restroom is covered by Safe Harbor then you should leave it alone, except for normal repairs and maintenance. Don’t forget, there is an inspection that will be performed after the completion of construction, and if it is discovered that the restroom fixtures and/or floor/wall tiles were replaced, then violations may be recorded if the restroom does not FULLY COMPLY with the 2012 Standards.
Water Closet Locations
- Water closets are required to be located 16 inches minimum to 18 inches maximum to centerline from the front edge of the water closet per section 604.2. We are still seeing designers specify that water closets be located 18 inches to the centerline. This does not provide the contractor with any tolerance! Water closets installed more than 18 inches will be in violation, whereas under the previous standards we could allow an inch either way of 18" as a tolerance. Under the 2012 TAS, the tolerance is 16 inches to 18 inches, no less and no more. If you must specify an exact dimension please specify 17 inches (1'-5") to the centerline.
Figure 604.2 Water Closet Location
Toilet Paper Dispensers
- We are seeing toilet paper dispensers dimensioned or installed 36 inches from the water closet rear wall to the leading edge of the dispenser. That was 9 years ago! The requirement is 7 inches minimum to 9 inches maximum to centerline from the front edge of the water closet! Here's an easy trick for a contractor; Take a tape measure and measure the distance from the back wall to the front edge of the water closet, then add 8 inches to that. Center the toilet paper dispenser here. Voila!
Figure 604.7 Dispenser Outlet Location
- Stop specifying and/or installing large bulky toilet paper dispensers with toilet paper rolls long enough to wrap around the moon 3 times. Most of the time these HUGE dispensers require the user to tightly grasp the paper product and pull downward to dispense it. This is a violation of Section 309.4 of the state and federal ADA standards. Toilet paper dispensers should dispense the paper freely without requiring tight grasping to operate. Look, we know that you want to save money by not having to replace the roll as often, but seriously, if a person with a disability cannot unroll the paper then you should have bigger concerns than saving a few bucks!
- Hi-Lo drinking fountains that are not installed in an alcove and are projecting into a circulation path or route need to have a cane-detectable skirt installed under the higher unit (never under the lower wheelchair accessible unit!). PLEASE. When you order the units, order a skirt, and make sure it is installed! If you are installing special or bowl-type units that don't have skirts available, then they need to be located inside of alcoves (or otherwise protected on 3 sides). Failure to provide skirts under the higher units contributes to a great percentage of inspection violations we record.
AED Cabinets and First Aid Cabinets
- These are just a couple of examples of elements that are installed typically after construction is completed. The tenant or owner will hire a vendor to come into the facility and install these wall-mounted units much higher than permitted by the standards. When they are installed in a hallway, corridor, or other open areas that are part of a circulation route in no event shall they project more than 4 inches horizontally at a height greater than 27 inches above the finish floor. Why these reputable companies have an installer mount these units at non-compliant heights is beyond us. If it's an installed element, it will be inspected regardless if it is part of the project scope or tenant provided.
Figure 307.2 Limits of Protruding Objects
- Stop ordering and installing Eliason doors that have vision panels 20 feet off the ground. We still see double-swinging Eliason doors with vision lights, or panels, that are higher than 43 inches above the finish floor. If the door is located along a required accessible route of travel then it must comply!