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William Henry PhD – Perspectives – Architect’s REAL Viewpoint

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The ADA – Americans With Disabilities Act

Making Life Better And More Complex

By William Henry, PhD

The Americans with Disabilities Act (the ADA) is an “equal opportunity” law for people with disabilities. It was signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H.W. Bush.

The ADA is one of America’s most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation. It prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life – to enjoy employment opportunities, to purchase goods and services, and to participate in State and local government programs and services.

The ADA was modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It was also modeled after Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

The Americans with Disabilities Act is intended to protect the rights of people with disabilities. The ADA bans discrimination based on disability in the private sector and the state and local government sectors. It requires access to programs and services, facilities, transportation, employment, and communication.

The ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) were issued on the first anniversary of the ADA, July 26, 1991. ADAAG contains detailed design requirements for accessibility in new construction and alterations.

The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 included three titles which made it applicable to three major areas. The first is Employment. The second is Public Services, and the third is Public Accommodations and Services Operated by Private Entities. Employment is outside the scope this article.

We are most involved in the latter two in that they deal with physical obstacles to the use and enjoyment of places people go. Historically, there were barriers everywhere to those with disabilities. For example, it was very difficult before that application of the ADA for a person in a wheel chair to ride public transportation, gain access from a parking lot over a curb to a store, get into the store, access the products and services offered, and even access a bathroom. The purpose of the ADA is to remove these barriers from the everyday lives of those with disabilities of all types. The emphasis has been on three things: access to the building, access to the goods and services in the building and access and use of restrooms.

While the ADA originally dealt with public services offered by any government or agency services, it has been expanded to include private places that are open to the public. The extent of this expansion is huge and reaches into all aspects of commercial activity such as stores, restaurants, parks, swimming pools, amusements, theaters, places of lodging, social service center establishments (group homes, halfway houses, shelters, or similar social establishments that provide either temporary sleeping accommodations or residential dwelling units), housing at a place of education, housing at a place of education, assembly areas, and medical care facilities. This list is far from complete.

Due to space constraints there are many, many details relating to the ADA that cannot be mentioned here. However, a qualified architect is capable of not only identifying ADA violations and problems but can also design the solutions. Therefore, it is always wise to consult with a knowledgeable expert when dealing with the complexities of the ADA and its application at the state and local level.

bill-henryWilliam Henry PhD is the Principal in Charge of RGA-Design, LLC a full service architectural and interior design firm that has served as the architect of record for over 1,000 projects across the State of Florida (Registration number AA0003523, AR007521). He has lectured and written widely on the above topic. His most recent publication is ‘Return of the Master Builder’ available on Amazon Kindle e Books. Henry’s contact information is whenry@rga-design.com; (813-226-2220 Ext 204) or visit the company web site at www.rga-design .com or www.buildingdoctorfl.com.

Copyright © 2016 REAL Exclusive Magazine www.getrealexclusive.com
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