Webinar: Accessible Architecture

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I recently listened to a webinar to learn more about accessible architecture requirements. On September 2, 2021, the

U.S> Access Board

Conducted a webinar entitled

“Common Sources of Confusion in the ADA and ABA Standards”.

There were three presenters representing the U.S. Access Board. This event was hosted by the

Great Lakes ADA Center

As a partnership with the U.S. Access Board. I listened to the webinar archive on September 7, 2021. The webinar link above provides the materials and recording. In this blog post, I will summarize what I learned.


The presentation covered a variety of topics. I have changed the topic order in my summary to help improve clarity. I focus first on the outdoor environment.

Outdoor Environment

Public Rights of Way

Ramp length can be decreased if right of way would be impeded. Ramp length can be limited to 15 feet and adjust the slope accordingly. IN some cases, curb ramp slopes need to exceed 1 in 12 to make elevation possible. Pedestrian signals do not give directions; they only inform a blind person they are about to enter a traffic area. Therefore, the pedestrian signal should ideally be five feet from a curb area. Part of the pedestrian signal can be on part of a ramp. For a rail crossing, pedestrian warnings should be between 6 and 15 feet from the center rail. I will now discuss accessible routes, parking spaces and signage.


Accessible signage, routes and parking spaces can all help people with disabilities get where they need to go.

Accessible Routes

A curb ramp cannot be used to replace a small step. Curb ramp height is limited to height of the curb. Fully aromatic or low-energy automatic doors are not required to have door maneuvering clearance. This is also the case if a door remains open when the power is not available. Door poles can be in addition to accessible open-door hardware.

Parking Spaces

Parking spaces are not required to be as close as feasible to the building. However, accessible parking spaces must be on the shortest accessible route to a facility. Individual parking spaces are not required to all have signage. However, it must be clear where the accessible parking spaces are. The total number of accessible parking spaces are not required to include spaces for motorcycles.


Signs must be accessible when they are in permanent spaces. Only content in English is required to be accessible. However, other languages should be as accessible as possible. Instructions for Two-way communication systems are not required to be available in Braille, but doing so can improve accessibility for some blind users. I will now move indoors to continue the webinar’s architecture discussion.


Indoor Environment

In the indoor environment, we will learn about accessible floor surfaces, Dining/work surfaces and toilet rooms.

Floor Surfaces

Dense accessible routes such as play areas can pose challenges for mobility device users. Floor mats are recommended to meet carpet standards under the

Architectural Barriers Act standards set forth by the U.S. Access Board.

Thresholds are permitted to be up to a half inch in height. Level changes mid-threshold should be avoided whenever possible.

Dining and Work Surfaces

If a bar is the only permanent fixture in the room, accessible space must be at the bar. Drink rails are not considered to be dining surfaces. However, drink rails should not make it difficult for a wheelchair user to maneuver. Whether podiums are work surfaces or not depend on if employees use the podium and if it is a permanent piece of furniture. Podiums should include adjustable height for accessibility. Pull-out shelves should be at a similar height to a counter.

Toilet rooms

In a unisex toilet room, one accessible toilet is required. A second lavatory is allowed. Dispensers such as for paper towels or soap must be accessible near an accessible toilet. However, dispensers must also be accessible if they are off by themselves. Bathroom signs do not need braille if all rest rooms are accessible. I will close our accessibility discussion by summarizing the presenters’ discussion about miscellaneous material.


Guest rooms with no accessibility features are not required to be on an accessible route. Moveable elements such as ATM machines or countertop microwaves are not fixed (permanent) items because they can be moved. Changing the level of light is not considered an alteration in a room. Bottom line: Architectural standards are complex.


Question for Readers

If you have experienced difficulty accessing an indoor or outdoor environment as someone with a disability, what happened and how were you able to resolve the situation? I will return with another article.


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