Posts tagged ‘ADA’
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Do you know where the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) come from????
Most people are unaware that these guidelines were created from data that was taken from the military back in the ’60s and the ’70s. Anthropometric measurements (body measurements) were collected and provided a baseline to create the technical specifications for accessible spaces. So, essentially, this data was taken from mostly young men, who are in very good physical shape and are now being utilized to represent the disability population. Are you starting to see the problem here?
It is important to have a baseline, data to draw from, however, please keep in mind that the ADA accessibility guidelines are considered minimum requirements. This means that they are going to meet the ‘minimum’ need for accessibility within a community space. This is why use of ADA accessibility guidelines is NOT recommended for a person’s home.
For example: ADA grab bar height is 33-36″ above the finished floor. This may meet some people’s needs, but because it is a minimum requirement, it certainly will not meet all people’s needs and is certainly not very individualized. Why place a grab bar in your home in a location that is not specified to your needs? Consider, they do not specify that all walking canes have to be between 33-36″ in height–instead, what is done, is the cane is measured to the height that meets the individual’s needs…..and so should grab bars in your home. Recommendations from an occupational therapist regarding installation of grab bars based on ergonomics provides for maximum access and safety by the end-user.
Knowledge is power. ~Francis Bacon
On June 24th at the Newark municipal building there was a workshop and display of the proposed changes to the current Newark train station (the future Newark Regional Transportation Center). I was excited to attend this workshop, as well as the Newark city council meeting to be held thereafter, as I am very interested both personally and professional in this project. My husband, a manual and power wheelchair user, is also very interested in this project. I was hopeful that he could attend the meeting with me, but due to work responsibilities, this was not feasible. Upon entering the room within the Newark municipal building to view the displays and attend the later city council meeting, it became very apparent that it did not matter if my husband attended this workshop–he would have been met with steps and unable to view the proposed train station display (see inset photo).
During the workshop I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with the professionals on the project and ask questions regarding the design of the building, with the hope that they will think beyond the minimum guidelines of accessible design and design to meet the needs of all users of this new station. It was easy enough to provide them with an example, as the steps that would have been a barrier to my husband’s entrance were only a few feet away. Please note: I was informed that next to the steps there were cones in place to alert persons of the steep drop-off on the other side, but also that a lift would be placed there to allow those persons who cannot manage steps to still be able to access the space. My question: but why does it have to be a retrofit? Why was this not thought of in the beginning of the design? Thus my reason for being at the train station workshop to begin with—-the station is in the design phase—this is the perfect time to ensure that certain features are considered before anything is built so that another retrofit does not have to occur! Not only is the retrofit costly, it does not look nearly as seamless or aesthetically pleasing. Sure, you can add a lift next to the steps in the municipal building and it will provide access to the room, but does that mean that when a person needs to use the lift they need to locate the person who is responsible for the key to operate the lift? What if you can’t find that person? Or that key? That does not lead to independence, AND it still is separate, but equal. A retrofit is just that; a retrofit. Sometimes it is difficult to retrofit a space using universal design principles and you need to use accessible design to fix what was not considered in the first place. BUT, when you have an opportunity to start from scratch………a universal design approach should be considered.
This situation certainly did not need me as the universal design cheerleader; the room supported the need for universal design by virtue of the many common needs of the local residents and council members that attended the meeting. This included persons along a wide spectrum of ages and ability levels including persons who arrived with their bicycles, persons who ambulate without assistive devices along with those who walked slowly, used canes, and even one resident who used a platform walker–this resident ended up having to sit separate from the rest of the group due to the barrier (steps) to access the main seating area. Oh the irony……
Penny for your thoughts????
Even with the ADA in place, providing a minimum requirement for accessibility, it still never ceases to amaze me that each ‘ADA’ hotel room we encounter, is so very different. My husband Bill, who uses a manual wheelchair due to a spinal cord injury, is a travel agent and knows this issue all to well. Our last three hotel stays truly exemplify the fact that you just never know what you are going to get. Thus, the inspiration for this blog post.
We stayed in Washington, DC for a quick get-away over Thanksgiving and had the opportunity to stay in two separate hotels. The first accessible hotel room boasted large amounts of space, both in the room and the bathroom. The room we received had a tub with tub seat and plethora of grab bars. Bill, who could access the controls to turn on the water, and could transfer onto the flip-down tub seat, had difficulty with reaching across the tub to pull the tub seat down and, our favorite, could not reach the hand-held shower on the opposite short shower wall. We find that this is a typical scenario in many ‘ADA’ hotel rooms. Even though it is on a slide, Bill is at the mercy of someone placing the handheld closer to him in the shower, and then hoping that housekeeping won’t put it back on the slide at the top after cleaning the room.
In this second hotel room, we encountered a roll-in shower with flip-down seat and once again, a plethora of grab bars. Bill was once again able to easily transfer from his wheelchair to the bench, but this required that he roll his manual wheelchair into the shower area, and then try to push his chair outside of the shower area once he was seated on the shower bench. Bill sustained a C5-C6 incomplete spinal cord injury, which resulted in quadriplegia. Pushing his chair outside of the shower area and then attempting to retrieve it was challenging for his balance, as it required that he hold the front grab bar with his left hand (which only has tenodesis grasp) and rotate his trunk to the right while reaching to the side and behind him with his right arm, which is challenging for his sitting balance, and almost caused him to fall off the shower seat. Even if he were to be able to do this independently, he now has his front wheelchair wheels within the wet shower area. Adding another layer of challenge is the handheld shower unthinkingly placed at the top of the slide bar.
For our recent trip to the International Builders Show in Las Vegas, we once again encountered an ‘ADA’ room with a tub. We were given the option of a tub with a stand-alone shower seat, or a roll-in shower with a stand-alone shower seat. Things that make you go hmmm…… Bill made the choice of a tub with stand-alone tub seat, as this was the lesser of two evils. A roll-in shower sounds great, but using a roll-in shower with a stand alone shower seat is dangerous for Bill as the seat may slide when he is attempting to transfer to/from his wheelchair and it may tip over in the shower if he were to have a muscle spasm. His thoughts—less area for the stand-alone shower seat to move in a tub than in a large roll-in shower. Neither was ideal, but we are used to ‘making-do’ in hotels. Upon making this decision, the hotel changed their mind on the choices and stated that by law we are supposed to be in the room with the roll-in shower. As I educated the staff about ADA, and the areas of concern with both of their ‘ADA’ rooms, miraculously the ‘hotel engineers’ located a tub bench that can be fastened to the tub! Ok, so this is a bit better, still no chocolate covered cherry, but better. As they arrive to the room and we all convene in the bathroom, the first engineer says to the second engineer, “where does it go?” I politely take over and educate the engineers about the placement of the tub bench to best meet Bill’s needs. Even though the tub bench allows for increased ease of transfer and increased safety versus a stand along shower seat, the tub seat is very hard and uncomfortable to transfer onto (Bill has sensation below the level of his injury) and he still is at the mercy of the handheld shower being lowered from the top of the slide bar.
Please note: tub bench was height adjusted and was positioned to accommodate Bill’s long legs swinging over the tub. The picture actually makes the tub look longer than it is; Handheld in picture is 20” in front of tub seat, which allows Bill to access it when it is in a lowered position. Also note in the picture that the plumbing under the lav is not covered/insulated.
This blog is a look at how these specific ‘ADA’ hotel bathrooms did not meet Bill’s needs; but what about the many other patrons that will use these spaces? These bathrooms will be utilized by a number of people of different ages and different ability levels. A universal design approach would allow for meeting the needs of the majority of patrons that stay within these hotels. This would not only create a better user experience, it would provide for an added layer of safety and potentially less liability overall for the hotel.
Perhaps we can be very forward thinking and progressive and say, why shouldn’t all guest rooms in a hotel be universally designed? This way it won’t be a matter of saying “we need an accessible room” and hope to get one that we can ‘make-do’ in. Perhaps…….