Webinar: Building Codes and the ADA



audio version (opens in a new tab)




This week, I focus on a subject which I chose to learn more about. On May 18, 2021, the

Great Lakes ADA Center

moderated a webinar entitled

Building Codes and the 2010 ADA Standards “.

The link above provides presentation materials and webinar recording. In this blog post, I will summarize what I learned.


The first presenter represented the

Great Plains ADA Center.

The second presenter was from the

International Code Council (ICC).

Each presenter shared the spotlight, instead of each person giving a detailed presentation. The 2010 ADA Standards are recognized as national building standards by the U.S. Access Board and U.S. Department of justice. The focus is non-discrimination protecting people with disabilities. States are expected to adopt ADA building codes at a state level. However, jurisdictions and states can modify building codes if necessary. The ICC representative stated her council focuses on building alterations and construction. The focus then moved to discuss ADA building standards more specifically, discussed by the first presenter.


ADA Standards for Buildings: A Summary

The five titles of the ADA were reviewed briefly. The 2010 ADA standards can be applied differently under Title II and III. State and local governments are required to have their programs be accessible. That does not necessarily mean an existing building must be accessible. However, new buildings must be compliant with the standards. For example, bathrooms should be accessible under building standards Section 103 (least restrictive design). The second presenter then discussed building code standards in detail.


Detailed Explanation of Building Standards

Fire and safety evacuation plans are required under building code standards. A building of 5 or more stories must have an elevator. Firefighters can assist people with disabilities who are stuck in buildings. When a hospital experiences a disaster, people can be moved from one place to another or dividers can be put in place. It is worth noting that in an emergency situation, a mobility device can be left behind. There are exceptions to when building standards apply.


Building Standard Exceptions

Single-family homes or duplexes are exempt from the ADA building standards. Additionally, places of religious purpose may be exempt unless they provide public events. Multi-story buildings need to have accessible routes unless the building is only two stories of less than 3000 feet under International Building Codes. The International Code Council wants to ensure that buildings must be accessible for scooters for newly constructed buildings, but existing buildings are not required to be modified to accommodate scooters. The ICC representative stated that federal standards are exceeded in this area. Newly constructed buildings also must provide accessible routes accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities. The presenters also provided miscellaneous information.



Communication within buildings must be accessible. For example, visual signage is not accessible to everyone. Additionally, emergency information should also be accessible. In bathrooms, accessible sinks and toilets can be more accessible for people with disabilities if they are put on the left side. Under the 2018 International Building Code, housing building codes might exceed the 2010 ADA building standards. For buildings with counters such as restaurants, at least one table must be accessible. The International Code Council expects 5 percent of tables to be accessible, instead of 1 percent. ICC also recommends that counters be accessible visually and physically. Bottom line: building code requirements can be complex.



Question for readers: If you experienced difficulty accessing a building due to accessibility barriers, what were those barriers? I will return with another article.


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