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Understanding the when and how of ADA curb ramp compliance.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is clear that they intend for communities to consider and plan for curb ramps as part of their obligation under Title II of the ADA for Program Accessibility. Even if curb ramps would not be reqiured to achieve program accessibility in existing facilities, DOJ, based on legislative history, reasons that "employment, transportation, and public accommodation sections of...[the ADA]would be meaningless if people who use wheelchairs were not afforded the opportunity to travel on and between the streets. Cities should consider their compliance requirements for curb ramps in two ways:

1. As a general obligation of the government entity for program accessibility [35.150(d)(2)]; and

2. As part of any newly constructed or altered streets, roads, or highways[35.15(e)].

Plans to meet the requirements of the first part of this would be included in a city's Transition Plan. Curb ramp locations and time frames for their installation would be prioritized with the assistance of people with disabilities, according to the needs of entities covered by the Act. It would include curb ramps at existing crosswalks, pedestrian walkways serving State and local government offices and facilities, transportation, public accomodations, and employers.

The second part of this provision requires cities to consider curb modifications as part of road alteration or construction projects. This provision has left many cities with question regarding the types of road work that would be considered an alteration for which a curb modifications wold be required. In fact, it is the central issue in Kinney v. Yerusalim. In this case the city of Philadelphia's street resurfacing project was judged to be an "alteration," requiring compliance with the curb ramp provisions of the ADA. The original judgment was recently upheld in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit.

The Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association has filed a similar lawsuit against the city of New York, alleging failure to have in place a Transition Plan which includes a schedule for providing curb ramps, and failure to install curb ramps during street resurfacing and alteration projects.

While the Philadelphia decision is on appeal to the Supreme Court, the deadline for complete implementation of the Transition Plan is approaching quickly (January 26,1995). This means that cities need to comply with the general accessibility provisions for curb ramps under [35.150(d)(2)], even while the questions of what type of construction is considered an alteration is in dispute.

The ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG), issued by the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (The Access Board), offer specifications for the slope and dimensions of curb ramps. These specifications include the required used of detectable warnings such as truncated domes, at curb ramps and hazardous vehicular areas. On April 12, the Access Board issued a joint ruling with the DOJ and the Department of Transportation (DOT), which termporarily suspends the application of detectable warnings requirments for these two areas. (See Access Board Press Realease).

ADAAG defines detectable warnings as follows: A standardized surface feature built in or applied to walking surfaces or other elements to warn visually impaired people of hazards on a circulation path. The Access Board, in response to business and user concernd about the need for and safety of truncated domes, has initiated a reaserch project to determine the need for and usability of current technical specifications. The research will result in complete rule making on these matters prior to July 26,1996.

For planning purposes, remember:

* This temporary suspension applies only to detectable warnings at curb ramps, hazardous vehicular areas and reflecting pools. It does not apply to platform edges in transit stations;

* The temporary suspension does not alter the time frames for installation of curb ramps.

The Access Board has issued a 4-page list of resources for curb ramp materials and surfaces. To get a copy of the list and the Bulletin #1: Detectable Warnings, or other information regarding Curb Ramps, call the Access Board at (800) USA-ABLE. There is no currently no legislation pending or proposed at the federal level that would provide municipalities any relief from the obligations imposed under the ADA, including the January 26,1995 deadline for the installation of curb ramps. However, both the city of West-Minster, Colo. and the city of Thorton, Colo. have passed City Council resolutions urging DOJ to extend the deadline for compliance with title II's curb cut requirements.

The resolutions maintain that while the cities support the ADA and the need for curb ramps to accomodate persons with disabilities, an extension from the current deadline is needed to lessen the financial impact on the cities.

Guide On Detectable Warnings Coincides With Temporary Change To ADA Requirememts

The United States Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) has released a new edition of Bulletin 1: Detectable Warnings, a technical assistance guide designed to help the public understand detectable warnings in concept, as a product, and as applied to alteration or new construction of buildings and facilities.

The release coincides with publication in the Federal Register on April 12,1994, of a final rule to suspend temporarily, until July 26,1996, the requirements for detectable warnings at curb ramps, hazardous vehicular areas and reflecting pools. The rule, published jointly with the departments of Justice and Tramsportation will amend the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADDAAG), published by the board in July 1991. The amendment became effective on May 12, 1994.

The existing ADAAG requirments for detectible warnings at transit platforms is not included in this amendment and remains in full effect.

Detectable warnings are defined as distinctively-textured walking surfaces detectable by cane and under foot. Their purpose is to alert people with visual impairments of impending hazards. They may be formed with or applied over a walking surface and must be slip-resistant.

Single free copies of Bulletin #1: Detectable Warnings in a choice of one format (print, disk, large, type, cassette, or Braille) are available from the Access Board by writing to Suite 1000,1331 F Street,NW,Washington, D.C. 20004-1111, by faxing requests to 202-272-5447 or by calling the Access Board Bulletin Board (BBS) at 202-272-5448. The publication is particularly helpful to people who manage or own buildings and facilities or who are engaged in design and construction projects.

The Access Board's adoption of this rule in November 1993 to amend ADAAG was based on the need for additional research on safety factors related to detectable warnings. During the rulemaking process which took place during 1992 and 1993, 260 groups or individuals responded to notices of proposed rulemaking publishe in the Federal Register.

The comments centered around three issues:

* whether detectable warnings are necessary at curb ramps and other locations

* the effect of detectable warnings on the safety of

* persons with mobility impairments

* other pedestrias

* the durability, maintanability and cost of detectable warnings

The board is conducting research to determine whether the warning surfaces are needed at curb ramps and hazardous vehicular areas (where a walk crosses of joins a road without separation by curbs or railings between pedestrian and vehicle areas) and to measure their effect on people with mobility impairments and other pedestrians.

Based on the findings of this research during 1994, the board may call for additional research efforts in 1995 to refine the scoping provisions (the specific elements and spaces which must be accessible) and technical specifications (explainations of how the elements and spaces must be designed in order to be accessible) for detectable warnings.
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Copyright 1994 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes related article on detectable warnings; Americans with Disabilities Act
Author:Lipsey, Dianne Chasen
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:May 16, 1994
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