Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘ada’

ADA/MCE Day August 24, 2018

Friday, August 24, 2018
$110 AIA Members; $150 Non-members. Includes light breakfast and lunch
Click here to register


Attorney and accessibility expert Jan Garrett, CASp presents the full five-hours of education required for your 2019 California license renewal. Click here to register.  5 CES/HSW/MCE LUs
$110 AIA members; $150 Non-members. Light breakfast & lunch included.

Ratchet Up Your Parking

The way I look at it, if we meet exactly the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and California Building Code (CBC) minimums in our designs, we’re barely avoiding “breaking the law.” And with that “perfect” code-compliant design, one small mistake in the field and we’re losing money and sleep-solving problems in construction administration.

That’s why I advocate for “code plus design.” Give an extra few inches as a safety margin and you’ll be doing your client, the contractor and yourself a favor!

The code and the ADA are minimum standards based on extensive negotiations between people with disabilities and building owners associations and big developers. Guess whose agenda is better represented in the documents we’re following?

Here are three ideas for you to take to the street (well, parking lot) in your projects. They will make the lives of your users much better – with barely any impact on square footage and cost.

  1. Access Aisle Size

Here’s an easy one: CBC 11B-502.2 allows van spaces to be nine feet wide with an eight foot access aisle or 12 feet wide with a five foot access aisle. Either way, it’s 17 feet total width, but one is better than the other.Why? Because wide aisles are just too inviting for other driver and this happens:

So stick with the narrow five foot aisle, and give the remaining three feet to the van space itself.

  1. Number of Van Accessible Spaces

I recently had to use an electric wheelchair for four months and rented a van with a ramp. I was blown away to discover how many places I couldn’t deploy the ramp. Trees, bushes, signs, bike racks, and newspaper boxes made many street spaces impossible. Regular accessible stalls with five foot access aisles often wouldn’t work and I’d circle parking lots for 20 minutes until a usable van space opened up, or just give up and drive away.

In a double-loaded lot of about 55,000 SF, that’s only 108 SF of added space. I defy anyone to show me a 55,000 SF lot that I can’t squeeze another 108 SF out of. Put another way, that’s an unnoticeable 0.02% difference in most people’s experience, and a 100% better experience for people who need these spaces.

  1. Number of Accessible Spaces

Imagine you have a green car and drive into a 200-space lot, but only 12 spaces are for green cars. There are 60 spaces empty around the lot, but all the green-car spaces are taken, and you can’t park anywhere. Wouldn’t that be dopey? Completely – and that’s what it feels like to people who need the accessible spaces. But this is easy to fix…

Many of the accessibility numbers in the code were established in the 1970’s and 1980’s (with some dating back to first ANSI A117.1 of 1959), when the percentage of people over 70 was about half of what it is today…and that number is in the process of doubling between 2010 and 2030.

Add to that the fact that many people with disabilities were stuck in their homes due to lack of today’s advanced mobility aids and the lack of an accessible public environment (not to mention many people being institutionalized), and it’s quickly clear that these numbers need to be updated. It will take a long time for the glacial ADA and building code update processes to catch up.

In the meantime, it’s up to us to up the ante and create better places that reflect the reality of what the population needs. If we don’t do it, who will?


Kerwin Lee, AIA, CASp

Kerwin’s Comments:

Designing to the code minimums or maximums can be problematic. In many cases, designing to the absolute minimum or maximum can get you into trouble. Designing a ramp that specifies the maximum slope is a sure way of failure. Building a ramp designed to the maximum (1:12) will create a ramp with portions that will exceed the maximum allowed slope, guaranteed. This will create non-code compliance and possible lawsuit. Always design for less than the maximum and allow for failure during construction. This goes for all code dimensions, for all maximum and minimums in the code.  Exterior grading is never perfect and always requires design adjustments during construction. When elements like a ramp are within a building, this does required more space and could affect the design.

Making these design decisions can be difficult regarding when to exceed the minimums/maximums, especially when your client looks at the costs. It is your job as the designer to make the right choices for the project.

Codes: How to Design Outside the Code

Erick says:

How many times have you wanted to change the code so you can have a unique design? As a wheelchair-riding architect, I’ve seen big changes in society’s attitude toward disability. When I was young, people often assumed that unemployment or a lack of education were the inevitable result of disability. The attitude was ‘the problem is with you,’ rather than, ‘there’s a problem with this building.’

The change has been profound. In 1977, my parents had to fight for my right to go to the same high school my brothers were in, rather than the specialty school the district bussed children to. Architectural accessibility was all I needed and the school stepped up and provided it.

pg. 5 mikiten

Erick Mikiten, AIA LEED-AP Mikiten Architecture

When did this shift in attitude start? Many point to the 1990 American with Disabilities Act (ADA), but we can look further back.

In 1959 the President’s Committee on Employment of the Physically Handicapped convened dozens of organizations such as the American Foundation for the Blind, the US Conference of Mayors, architects and others to create the first standards for architectural accessibility, ANSI A117.1. The document was just six pages long. So short that I’m including all the illustrations below. You’ll recognize many of the requirements in today’s ADA and CBC.
• Space: It established the “standard” wheelchair as 42 inches long (we still use this for minimum clear space) and the 60 inch turning circle.
• Reach: Comfortable reach to a wall-mounted element, such as a switch, was set at maximum 48 inches above the floor (same as today).
• Walks: 48 inches wide.
• Ramps: 1:12 maximum slope, with landings every 30 feet but handrails were 32 inches high (not today’s 34 to 38 inches).
• Doors: 32 inches clear with a five foot level landing. Somewhat quaintly, they say automatic doors “are very acceptable,” and that
“As much as possible, thresholds should be flush with the floor.”
• Stairs: seven inch maximum risers, with 32 inch high handrails extending 18 inches at top and bottom (today’s numbers are
different, but this acknowledged that people relying on handrails need to reach in front of themselves for support going up and down). See the diagram for the required smooth nosings.
• Floors: Nonslip and on one level per story, unless ramped (this was the origin of today’s Accessible Path of Travel).
• Toilet Rooms: At least one stall that’s three feet wide, with “handrails” on each side and a high toilet. Far from a wheelchair accessible stall, but it established grab bars and accessible toilets. Hot water pipes even required insulation.
• Water Fountains: The requirements were crude, requiring “an appropriate number” of accessible water fountains, and allowing hand or foot operation (now it’s hands only, but proximity sensors make even that unnecessary).
• Public Telephones: “An appropriate number” of phones needed reachable controls and equipment “for those with hearing
disabilities,” i.e. volume controls
• Elevators had space requirements and control height limits.
• Identification: Room signs required raised letters or numbers, mounted 5 feet high, and doors leading to hazardous areas had
to be marked with knurled handles (see image).
• Warning Signals: Warnings signals were required to be both visual and audible.
• Hazards: Cautions to avoid manholes in floors. Door closers, signs, lights and other protruding objects were required to be at a
minimum seven feet above the floor (now lowered to six feet eight inches).
• That’s everything!

My three big takeaways are:
1) I assumed that today’s requirements were based on research over time, but the basic elements of accessibility were obvious from the start.
2) Fifty-seven years should have been enough for thorough change, but it’s not. I encounter barriers every day.
3) I’m grateful that the 1959 committee recognized that the building industry needed guidance to create places that could accommodate more people.

Without those early standards, I wonder if society’s attitude would have made such progress. Andy Warhol said, “They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” Thank you, fellow architects, for doing your part.

Kerwin says:


Kerwin Lee, AIA, CASp ICC – Certified Accessibility Inspector and Plan Examiner ICC – Certified Building Plan Examiner

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been in place since 1991 and California Accessibility Standard since the 1981 edition of the California Building Code. Even before that, the Rehabilitation Act required Federal funded projects to be accessible. Part of the fault for misguided application and enforcement is how the Law/Act is written and enforced. The ADA is only enforced by the Department of Justice, not your local building department, therefore, there is little assistance during plan review for checking for compliance with the ADA. Although most model codes, state and local codes align with the ADA, there is only a presumed compliance. In other words, complying with the local codes is only a “rebuttable defense” for compliance with the federal standards. This approach and attitude has created a lot of tension between all groups.


MCE/ADA Day: Friday, August 5, 2016

MCE/ADA Day: Accessibility for California Architects

Friday, August 5, 2016
Cost: $110 AIA Members / $150 non-members. Includes coffee and lunch.

Click here to register.


An overview of the different circumstances typically encountered when implementing design standards in Architectural practice. Provides the complete 5 hours of disability access coursework required for California Licensure.

About the Presenter:

Craig Williams, CASp has been the principal for the Sebastopol-based firm Access Consultants for more than 35 years.

Learning Objectives:

At the end of this presentation, attendees will be able to…

1. Learn an overview of the scoping and technical requirements for various elements

2. Review various components to consider when addressing path of travel and its relationship scope of work

3. Learn the requirements for undue hardship applications during agency review

4. Learn an overview of design strategies to improve accessibility

CASp Exam Training: Presented by Pacific ADA Center

cosponsored by AIA East Bay

Monday, April 25 – Thursday, April 28
Location: Elihu M. Harris State Building, Room 11, 1515 Clay St. Oakland, CA 94612
Cost: $750.00 (checks only). Registration info here.


The Pacific ADA Center is pleased to present training for the 2016 CASp Examination

This comprehensive four-day training covers both state and federal accessibility requirements and will prepare attendees for the June 27, 2016 CASp Exam. Attendees can be anyone preparing to sit for the CASp Exam.  This can include: architects, building officials, contractors, design professionals, disability access specialists, engineers, inspectors and plan reviewers.

Attendees will receive:

  • Training in accessibility regulations, standards and codes, as well as the reasons those regulations, standards and codes exist.
  • Training material that includes state and federal regulations, standards and codes that will be covered on the exam.
  • Sample architectural plans that demonstrate accessibility concepts.
  • AIA credit available for those who sign-in each day, complete the course and receive a certificate of attendance.

To register, please email to Toni Lee Acevedo at 1-800-949-4232. Be prepared to provide the following information:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • Professional title

If you need an accommodation to participate in the training, please include this information in your registration email. We must receive accommodation requests no later than April 8, 2016.

For more information contact Toni Lee Acevedo at 1-800-949-4232.

Accessibility Essentials for California Commercial Spaces

a Pleasanton Program
Thursday, February 25, 2016
Location: Dahlin Group, 5865 Owens Drive, Pleasanton
Free and open to all. Please RSVP to for room setup.


This course provides information about the current state of accessibility lawsuits in California and what architects must inform their clients of regarding their legal obligations to provide accessible public accommodations and what steps they can take in order to protect themselves against the threat of an access lawsuit.

Topics covered include:
· The Unruh Civil Rights Act and California public accommodation “access discrimination” lawsuits
· Serial litigants and the rise in the number of lawsuits
· The Certified Access Specialist (CASp) program
· The Construction-Related Accessibility Standards Compliance Act (CRASCA)
· Responsibilities of designers, contractors, and building officials
· How violations are assessed and the most common types
· Responsibility of an owner vs. a tenant
· Existing versus New Construction under the California Building Code
· The top (10) disabled access demand letter and claim violations from 2015

About the Presenter:

Robert Cooley, AIA is a California licensed architect with over ten years of design experience. In 2012, he was the project manager for the barrier removal of 35+ Whole Foods Market grocery stores in Northern California. This program was the result of a lawsuit brought by a serial plaintiff. Robert became a CASp in December of 2014. In May, 2015 he founded Cooley Architectural Corporation to provide accessibility inspections and full architectural services focused on commercial office, retail, and grocery store tenant improvements.

Learning Objectives:

By the end of this presentation, attendees will:

  1. Be able to list some of the top access violations in California in 2015.
  2. Be able to identify architects’ responsibilities in minimizing violations.
  3. Be able to describe how violations are assessed
  4. List three examples of existing vs. new construction differences under the California Building Code.

MCE/ADA Day: Friday, October 30, 2015

MCE/ADA Day: Accessibility for California Architects
Friday, October 30, 2015
Cost: $110 AIA Members / $150 non-membersIncludes coffee and lunch.
Click here to register!


Presented By: Erick Mikiten, AIA and Craig Williams, CASp

About the Presenters:

Erick Mikiten, AIA is the principal of Mikiten Architecture and was a lecturer and instructor at the University of California, Berkeley for several years. Erick is an expert in design for people with physical disabilities and currently sits on the Building Standards Commission, overseeing the development, adoption and publication of California’s building codes.

Craig Williams, CASp has been the principal for the Sebastopol-based firm Access Consultants for more than 35 years.

Learning Objectives

At the end of this presentation, attendees will be able to:

  1. Explain the seven principles of universal design
  2. State at least three key accessibility changes to the California Building Codes that took effect in July 2015
  3. Give three examples of elements of single and/or multifamily projects that demonstrate well-designed universal design elements.
  4. Give at least three examples of well-designed interpretations of the ADA/California building code requirements.

MCE/ADA Day: Friday, August 28, 2015

MCE/ADA Day: Accessibility for California Architects
Friday, August 28, 2015
Location: AIA East Bay, 1405 Clay Street, Oakland, CA 94612
Cost: $110 AIA Members / $150 non-membersIncludes coffee and lunch.
Click here to register!


Presented By: Gary Waters, RA, NCARB, CASp Anthony Goldsmith with Pacific Access Consulting, LLC

About the Presenters:
Gary Waters, a licensed architect since 1988 and CASp-065, has focused his professional career on accessibility in the built environment. Together with partner Anthony Goldsmith, an attorney with a specialized practice in accessibility law, Gary is a founding member of Pacific Access Consulting, LLC (PAC), serving clients throughout the State of California. Recognizing that accessibility includes both civil rights as well as a design and construction issues.  Service both public and private clients, PAC takes a multi-disciplinary approach to access consulting,


This workshop will focus on:

1) Overview of the 2010 ADAS

2) Overview of the 2013 CBC

3) 2010 ADAS and 2013 CBC – Review of the significant differences in the technical standards

4) Newly scoped elements in the 2010ADAS and 2013 CBC

5) Building Standards Commission amendments to the 2013 CBC effective July 1, 2015

6) Questions, answers and discussion

Building Codes: 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)


Steven R Winkel, FAIA, CASp The PREVIEW Group, Inc. Architects providing regulatory solutions

Kerwin Lee

Kerwin Lee, AIA, CASp ICC-Certified Accessibility Inspector and Plan Examiner ICC-Certified Building Plan Examiner

Kerwin Says:

It has been nearly 25 years (1991) since the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Many of today’s practicing designers are not aware that this act was signed into law, or they hadn’t even yet been born. Although the law was enacted on July 26, 1990, the history of disabled requirements dates further back. Discrimination against people with disabilities would not be addressed by the Federal Government until 1973 when Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act became law for federally funded projects. California was one of the first to have disabled access requirements written into their Building Code back in 1981. Much of what was used as the basis for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Guidelines came from California.

There is still a lot of misunderstanding on what the ADA is and what the guidelines are. Compliance with the applicable disabilities access requirements is not all or just ADA, but includes the Fair Housing Actn(FHA) for dwelling and local (California Building Code) requirements. This is why we have Chapters 11A/Privately Funded Dwellings and 11B/Public Accommodation to reflect the two different laws.

The ADA is not a building code. Although parts of it appear like building regulations, the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) and the 2010 Standards are only guidelines for compliance with a Civil Right Acts. The ADA covers far more than the built environment, it includes employment and things that building designers do not normally or indirectly deal with.

The following are some common questions asked about the ADA:

■ Enforcement – The enforcement of the ADA is only through the Department of Justice (DOJ) and by law suits. There is no agency that does plan review for compliance with the ADA. Compliance rests mainly with the owner, but because the designer is an agent to the owner they will almost always be a party in the case.

■ Historic Buildings – The 2010 Standards do address historic building, much like Part 8 of Title 24 California Historical Building Code (CHBC). This section does provide for a more lenient approach to compliance to preserve historical features.

■ Adaptability vs. Accessible – Under the ADA there is little mention of “adaptable” elements. This term mainly came from the FHA for cabinets within a dwelling unit. This term has never been defined and should not be used.

■ Evolution/Changes to Regulations – It took nearly 20 years between the original ADAAG and the 2010 Standards for the guidelines to be changed. There have been other additions for children’s recreational facilities and public entities. What continues are law suits with case histories that designers may be held accountable for (i.e. lines of sight associated with standing patrons in assembly venues).

■ Code Certification – Within the ADA, the DOJ has the power to certify code as complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). To date only a handful of codes have this title. The DOJ has stated that compliance with the IBC for dwellings is a “Safe Harbor.” This means compliance with the IBC complies with the FHA. The IBC is not certified as complying with the ADA.

Back in 2003, the Certified Access Specialist (CASp) program was created in California and is designed to meet the public’s need for experienced, trained, and tested individuals who can inspect buildings and sites for compliance with applicable state and federal construction-related accessibility standards. The intent of this program was to increase the level of awareness, understanding and enforcement of the building regulations for disabled accessibility. That is why your state architectural license requires a minimum of 5-hours of continuing education directly associated with disabled accessibility. This act also requires all plans/designs be reviewed by a CASp person for compliance. It was intended that all building departments have a CASp person either on staff or available for plan review. The latest count from the division of the state architects office who administers CASp, is 607 certified CASp people. From the October exam, only 17% of people who took the exams (both open and closed book portions) passed. What does that say about the program or the material needed to pass the exam?

When it comes to the ADA, do not certify compliance with the ADA even if you are a Certified Access Special program (CASp) by the State. As a designer, always stay within your area of expertise. You are not a Civil Rights lawyer. Your first responsibility is compliance with the applicable local building regulations, which is normally the CBC and any local amendments. Compliance with the CBC will bring you very close to compliance with the ADA.


MCE/ADA Day: December 5, 2014

MCE/ADA Day: Accessibility for California Architects
Friday, December 5, 2014 8:30am-3pm
Location: AIA East Bay, 1405 Clay Street, Oakland, CA 94612
Cost: $110 AIA Members / $150 non-members Includes coffee, fruit and lunch.
Click Here to Register



Steven Winkel, FAIA CASp

Craig Williams, CASp

Provides the complete 5 hours of disability access coursework required for California Licensure.

Morning Session: California Building Code Chapter 11B for “Public Accommodations” and ADA Standards
Afternoon Session: Multifamily Accessibility

Learning Objectives:

  1. Identify changes to the ADA Standards.
  2. Identify additional modifications to the ADAS by California in CBC Chapter 11B for Public Accommodations.
  3. State Key concepts pertaining to accessibility requirements which must be incorporated into the design and construction of multifamily housing covered by the regulations.
  4. Recognize some common accessibility errors in construction documents and in the field.