Monday, October 27, 2008

Housing "Accessibility" or "No Wheelchairs Left Behind"?

Welcome to my first blog where I will weigh in from time to time on accessibility matters. "My Friends" today's topic relates to newly constructed multi-family housing in California. Beginning in 1985, California has required accessibility features in newly constructed apartment buildings and several years later also in condominiums. This has included a requirement for roll-in showers accessible to wheelchair users when showers are provided.

On October 27, 2008, the California Building Standards Commission voted to allow a 2" high threshold on roll-in showers in new housing construction. The stated rationale for this change is the potential for expensive water damage in bathrooms roll-in showers. Water damage is a legitimate concern, but what other alternatives were considered? For example, ground floor units can be "hot mopped" so that water damage will not be a problem. Or you could allow a 2" high neoprene "water dam" that a wheelchair can easily roll over.

But a 2" high shower threshold? Come on folks, this is Accessibility 101! We all know that the maximum allowable height for a threshold is 1/2" with a beveled edge. How come roll-in showers in hotels and motels can have a maximum 1/2" high shower lip and housing can't? Something here just does not compute.

California Government Code Section 12955.1 says, "For the purposes of Section 12955, "discrimination" includes but is not limited to, a failure to design and construct a covered multifamily dwelling in a manner that allows access to and use by disabled persons..." Given this performance standard, designing or constructing a 2" high shower threshold would appear to put architects or contractors at risk for a discrimination lawsuit.

Demographers estimate that by the year 2040 the number of disabled people could triple. Imagine a huge wave of aged (and now broke) disabled baby boomers living in condominiums or apartments. Not a pleasant thought. A roll-in shower just might become a hot commodity.

Hmm, let me see... I think there is a pattern here. No Child Left Behind, Clean Coal, Roll-in Showers with Curbs? You get the picture?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Welcome to our Blog!

This is the blog of Margen + Associates. Check back soon for updates...

Margen + Associates (M+A) is recognized nationwide for our expertise in disability access requirements and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Clients come to us for our depth of experience in dealing with complex accessibility laws and policies that govern facility construction and program access in California and throughout the U.S. territories. Clients depend on us to guide them through the maze of statues and regulations, and ensure compliance when building or making property improvements.