What is ADA Compliance?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has protected the rights of people with disabilities for decades. The federal law ensures that all areas of public life like businesses, schools and transportation are accessible to people with disabilities. By being ADA compliant, public, and private organizations not only avoid law violations, but they also welcome people with and without disabilities, creating a more accessible and inclusive world for all.
A Brief History of the ADA
The ADA was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1990. Leading up to the ADA’s passage, activists like Judy Heumann led multiple demonstrations in support of basic access rights for disabled people. As a result, Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was enacted into law. Section 504 prohibited discrimination against disabled people in any organizations that received federal funding.
Because Section 504 only applied to organizations receiving federal funding, there was a widespread need for accessibility in public spaces like restaurants and stores. In 1990, disability rights activists participated in the Capitol Crawl, climbing up the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building to both demonstrate the impacts of inaccessibility for people with disabilities and highlight the need to make spaces more accessible. Four months later, the ADA was signed into law, which requires nearly all spaces accessible to the public to be accessible to those with disabilities.
What Needs to be ADA Compliant?
In short, almost every business needs to be ADA compliant. More specifically, employers with 15 or more employees, and organizations that operate for the public good like schools, libraries, and public health facilities need to be ADA compliant, as well as state and local government agencies. However, if you visit a church, a historic site, or a small local business, you may notice a lack of accessibility. This is because some places may be exempt from meeting ADA compliance standards.
Physical Locations and Structures
Most public spaces should meet ADA compliance standards, which include the following:
- Handicap parking: For every 25 parking spaces, one wheelchair accessible parking spot is required. In large lots of 75 or more spaces, including parking garages, at least 2% of spaces must be handicap accessible.
- Accessible doorways: Doorways must be at least 32 inches in width when the door is fully open. If a door does not have an automatic door button, the door should be able to be opened with a maximum of 5 pounds of force.
- Wheelchair ramps: Any ramp, whether it is temporary, permanent, indoor, or outdoor, must have a slope of 1:12 and be at least 36 inches wide. Some ramps are also required to have landings or handrails depending on their size.
- Wheelchair accessible bathrooms: Public restrooms should have at least one accessible stall. Each stall should be built so the door swings out, to allow adequate turning space for people using wheelchairs. Wheelchair accessible bathrooms should also have at least two grab rails; one on each wall closest to the toilet. Wheelchair users should also be able to roll up to and underneath at least one sink.
- Elevators: ADA compliant elevators should have a minimum floor space of 36 inches wide and 48 inches in depth. Elevators should also have buttons at a reachable height for wheelchair users, handrails for those with mobility challenges, and braille markings and auditory signals for those who are visually impaired or blind.
The guidelines listed above are not comprehensive. For more in-depth accessibility guidelines, visit ada.gov. Many of the guidelines listed above not only apply to public spaces, but can apply to homes too. For more information on home accessibility, read our article on the 9 ways to create a handicap accessible home.
Transportation and Public Services
ADA compliance standards can apply beyond just physical buildings; public transportation and any public service must be accessible to people with disabilities too.
- Public Transportation: All forms of public transportation including buses, trains, and subways must accommodate wheelchair users. Public transportation should have designated seating areas for people with disabilities, as well as ramps and/or lifts and appropriate securement systems so those using wheelchairs or scooters can stay seated in their mobility aid.
- Public Services: Under both the ADA and Section 504, any organization receiving public funding must be accessible to people with disabilities. This includes places like schools, libraries, and hospitals.
Websites and Digital Accessibility
Although the ADA was signed prior to widespread internet use, websites still must meet digital accessibility requirements set out by the Department of Justice in its Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These guidelines fall under the acronym ‘POUR,’ or perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. In short, a person with a disability should be able to navigate and understand a website, even if they are using assistive technology like screen readers, keyboard navigation, or voice recognition software.
How ADA Compliance Helps People
ADA compliance helps all people, not just people with disabilities. Imagine a mother pushing a child in a stroller. She may use an automatic door button to get through the door easily. A person who lives in a high-rise apartment may use an elevator to get to their apartment quickly. This concept is known as universal design, or the idea of creating spaces, products, or environments that can be used by anyone regardless of ability.
Enhancing Mobility and Independence
ADA compliance is the key to enhancing mobility for people with disabilities. Accessible buildings and transportation options empower individuals to move freely, giving them independence in their daily lives.
Promoting Equality and Fairness
ADA compliance is about more than meeting legal requirements, it's a commitment to inclusivity, and access. By ensuring that physical locations, digital spaces, and transportation are accessible to all, the ADA empowers individuals with disabilities to lead more independent lives.
ADA compliance enhances accessibility in public spaces, but enjoying those spaces can be a challenge unless you have a way to get there. Your local BraunAbility dealer is here to help. Contact your local BraunAbility dealer today to find a mobility solution to fit your needs.