Facility Dude

How is the ADA affecting your facility’s operations?

By Kate Donnelly
Jun 08, 2015

Facilities Management, Safety and Risk Management

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How is the ADA affecting your facility's operations? There are many factors that can impact how a facility operates on a daily basis, as well as what building maintenance operations, capital purchases or other infrastructure updates need to be prioritized to keep things running smoothly.

Facility managers are already familiar with some of the more common factors - ever-changing government and industry regulations dictating standards for sustainability, energy efficiency and environmental consciousness. In fact, these far-reaching concerns have dictated many of the building developments in recent years, from energy-efficient lighting to some building automation functions. However, there's another component that administrators and facility managers need to take into account when creating their maintenance and upgrade schedules - accessibility.

Getting to know the Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act is the primary source for facility managers who want to stay up-to-date with the most recent accessibility and compliance requirements. In fact, the ADA can impact more than just building construction and maintenance - its implications can extend to daily operations as well.

One of the most common and well-known ADA-compliant modifications nearly every facility manager has made is increased accessibility to tenants and guests with reduced mobility. This can take the form of wheelchair ramps, elevators or other elements that ensure these individuals don't have restricted access to the building. But there are more factors to consider than just the structural ones. For example, FacilitiesNet stated that the ADA mandates all public gathering facilities - such as sports arenas - provide individuals who need it with access to seating that doesn't compromise or reduce the visibility or enjoyment. This may mean things like separate sections for individuals in wheelchairs.

Similarly, nearly all businesses have had to establish and enforce policies regarding service animals.

Beyond construction to maintenance

Keeping your facility ADA-compliant goes beyond putting in wheelchair ramps and specialized seating. It's an ongoing process that must be addressed every time a maintenance process is carried out. For example, if a component of your building is replaced, the facility manager must ensure that the replacement upholds the same ADA standards.

Similarly, managers and administrators should proactively be looking for things that could compromise this compliance or create potential difficulties for individuals with disabilities. For example, wheelchair ramps should never be blocked by custodial staff storing materials or trash cans. Similarly, upkeep of your building's automatic doors and other like accommodations is the responsibility of the facility manager. Make sure you run regular tests on the batteries and sensors involved with these pieces of equipment, so that if any problems are discovered, they can be addressed quickly without service disruption.

The importance of regular maintenance

You're likely already conducting regular inspections and audits into your facility's equipment and essential infrastructure to ensure things keep operating smoothly. In the interest of compliance, it's also prudent to carry out these inspections from an ADA-focused perspective.

There are several issues that are small but nevertheless crucial to maintaining a facility that is accessible. For example, things like loose handrails or a short-circuiting automatic door may escape regular inspection, but could create significant safety and accessibility obstacles to disabled people. In fact, it may even be beneficial to do an initial ADA-compliance assessment, noting any problem areas in this regard and logging them in your building's CMMS. In this way, you can create a ADA checklist that draws specific attention to things you may otherwise overlook, whether it's trash cans in front of doors or dangerous cracks in a wheelchair ramp.

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