Universal Access Policy

I. Introduction

On July 26 1990, President Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, State and local government services and transportation, public accommodations and telecommunications. The ADA is divided into four main Titles:

Title I: Employment: requires employers to ensure equal opportunity for disabled applicants applying for jobs and for current employees seeking transfers & promotions. The regulatory body for Title 1 is EEOC. Key definitions are "reasonable accommodations" & "undue burden" in providing changes to the work environment to enable people with disabilities to enjoy equal opportunities in the work place.

Title II: Public Services & Transportation: requires non-discrimination on basis of disability to access public services & transportation. The regulatory body is Dept. of Transportation. Title II strengthened legal protections of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to include all state & local governments, agencies & departments regardless of size to refrain from discriminating based on disability.

Title III: Public Accommodations: intended to prevent discrimination of disabled people in places of public accommodation. It also prohibits privately owned & operated businesses from denying goods, programs & services to people with disabilities. Access to services & goods must be equal for all patrons, regardless of their disabilities (e.g. must have same entry door for all patrons). The regulatory body is Dept. of Justice. The Title seeks businesses to remove architectural & communication barriers. Key questions for each facility are what is "readily achievable", does not cause "undue burden" and is "safe".

Title IV: Telecommunications: requires federally regulated telecommunication providers (telephone & public service TV) to provide continuous voice transmission, TDD relays, close captioning etc for the hearing & speech impaired people. This also applies to theaters showing films to the general public. Regulatory body is the Federal Communications Commission.

The University of Montana (University) is committed to compliance with the ADA to the maximum extent possible. In December 1993, UM President Dennison created a University policy called "Universal Access in Facility Design" to insure programs at The University of Montana campus are accessible to all students, employees and general public. "Program access allows some part of a facility to be inaccessible so long as no person with a disability is denied or limited participation in, or benefits of, the program solely on the basis of disability." There must be a clear reason why new construction cannot be barrier-free (e.g. prohibitive cost). Renovation projects are required to improve the current accessibility of the building, not hinder it further. The purpose of design according to the universal access standard is:

  • To require designers of University facilities to create designs which include minimal barriers, and
  • To publicly discuss why barriers to universal access will be included in facility design. This discussion occurs with the ADA Committee.

The University has an ADA Committee, whose mission is …"To monitor University facilities, programs, policies, plans, and activities to assure the identification, prevention, and elimination of physical and /or programmatic barriers that interfere with faculty, staff, and student access to and benefit from University programs, facilities, and resources."

Designers of New Construction and Renovations are to include universal access as a goal of their design & be prepared to justify why accessibility barriers are included in their submissions to the ADA Committee. Designers must present their plans to the ADA Committee (in conjunction with Planning & Construction) at the Schematic Design stage & receive the Committee's recommendations before proceeding to Design Development. The Designer shall again present to the Committee at 65% Design Development stage for their comments before proceeding to Construction Documents. At 95% Construction Document stage, the Designer shall once more present to the Committee for their final comments & approval before proceeding with Bids.

The President of the University has the final decision concerning disability access and ADA related design issues. Facilities Services Planning and Construction Office are charged with the enactment of the Universal Design Policy & presentation of design barriers to the ADA Committee.

II. Universal Design

The purpose of universal design is to design projects that accommodate all people to the greatest extent possible without the need for individual adaptation. When designing projects at the University, the architect shall strive to design facilities that serve the same means of use for all users, identical whenever possible, equivalent when not. Avoid segregating or stigmatizing any users. Make provisions for privacy, security and safety equally available to all users. Make the design appealing to all users. The architect shall use AADAG Standards as a reference during the project design phase. Building codes refer to ICC/ANSI A117.1 for accessibility. The Architect shall use the stricter of ADAAG and/or ANSI A117.1 when the two codes differ on any given issue.

III. Design

As outlined in the president's "Universal Access" policy, all proposed facility designs must include a list of barriers which do not meet the standard of universal access prior to the acceptance of the design. For example, any pathway, entry, restroom, class room, office, seating area, lobby, or any other facility feature which is not universally accessible, must be identified by the designers of the facility, and by either University Facility Services or an accessibility consultant. Identified barriers must be submitted to the ADA Committee for review.

IV. Guidelines

The following Accessibility Guidelines are to be considered as a minimum for University public buildings and shall be incorporated in the early design phase and project budget for any construction/renovation project:

A. General

  1. Fixed seating plans in classrooms and auditoria should accommodate disabled persons and shall not be segregated. Designated spaces shall be set aside for wheelchairs in both the front and back of the rooms. Ramps shall be incorporated into the design such that people with & without disabilities can use the same path of travel. Any emergency escape routes required by code shall also be made accessible to wheelchair users. Where stages are provided, the designer must provide a spot on stage with appropriate controlled lighting for a sign language interpreter.
  2. Laboratories shall have accessible counter space. The appropriate sinks, showers, fume hoods etc., must be wheelchair accessible. The minimum amount of accessible counter space, fume hoods & other equipment required shall be agreed upon with the ADA Committee on a project by project basis.
  3. Stages, platforms and other raised areas, in classrooms or auditoria, shall have accessibility for wheelchair users.
  4. Sound systems in classrooms and auditoria should be designed for hearing impaired persons. Coordinate sound systems with Presentation Technology Services (PTS) on campus that provides hearing devices in rooms equipped with transmitters.
  5. Public-use telephones need to be mounted at the proper height for mobility-impaired persons.
  6. Workstations in computer laboratories need to accommodate mobility-impaired persons have the required floor clearances & counter heights.
  7. All sidewalk curb cuts and walkways should have tactile markings for visually impaired persons. Curb ramps are required to connect to parking spaces, transport & sidewalk systems on Campus.
  8. Classrooms, study rooms, offices, dormitory rooms, libraries etc need to provide some furniture for disabled persons. Furniture whose height can adjust easily for able/disabled users works best.
  9. Reception desks/counters must accommodate wheelchair users.
  10. Lever door handles shall be used instead of round doorknobs in all public-use areas.
  11. Parking: handicap stalls must be provided as close to the main entrance of new buildings as possible. At least one of the required handicap parking stalls shall be van-accessible. Refer to the overall campus parking map for locating accessible parking. Refer to Public Safety Director & the ADA Committee for parking locations & number of stalls required.

B. Entrances

  1. At least one entrance door shall be electrically operated, with wheelchair-access signage. Large push devices shall be used in lieu of the smaller button type. The operating buttons shall be a minimum of 5 inches square or round in diameter.
  2. Installation of power-operated doors shall be coordinated with security hardware requirements, including Griz card readers. Design the installation to allow for future modification of controls. Minimum requirements include conduit to the doorjamb and a weatherproof, blank junction box near the operating button for installing card/keyed controls.
  3. Push buttons may be wall or bollard mounted, depending on site conditions. Locate ADA buttons clearly ahead of door swings, allowing wheelchair users sufficient clearance between the push button & door to swing open. Avoid locating push-buttons immediately beside doors to be activated by the button.
  4. In a vestibule where the depth between two sets of doors is 7 feet, both sets of doors shall open and close at the same time to ensure efficient movement of people in wheelchairs. Where the distance between doors is larger than 7 feet, doors shall open on time-delay to save energy (loss of building conditioned air).
  5. Timing for power doors shall be five seconds to open, 10 seconds to remain open, and five seconds to close.
  6. Exterior and interior doors shall meet code for opening force.
  7. In construction of New Buildings, the designer shall attempt to provide a roof/canopy over any access ramp to the main entry door.

C. Elevators

  1. Elevators should be centrally located within the building. Elevator call buttons shall be installed so that mobility-impaired persons can have a clear approach from all sides.
  2. Areas of Rescue Assistance shall be incorporated into the design even if not required by the Building Code. This shall apply for new construction as well as renovations where ADA elevators are part of the scope of work.
  3. The minimum size for ADA elevators is 51" x 68" internal with side opening door. However, campus policy is to provide larger elevators to accommodate moving of furniture, heavy equipment etc to reduce Workmen's Comp expenses. As such, the minimum size of elevators in renovation projects of classroom/office function is 51" x 81" (clear inside) and 2,500 lb capacity. For all new construction and renovations of science/lab buildings, the minimum elevator size shall be 56" x 81" (clear inside) and 3,000 lb capacity. The preferred elevator size for science/lab buildings is 68" x 94" (clear inside) and 4,500 lb capacity. These dimensions assume that a passenger elevator will double as a freight elevator for a building. However, if a separate freight elevator is planned, then an ADA passenger elevator of 51" x 81" shall be the minimum size planned.

D. Lifts

  1. Wheelchair platform lifts for accessible routes to primary areas in new construction are prohibited. In renovation projects, the use of platform lifts must be discussed & approved by the ADA Committee during schematic design stage.

E. Noise Criteria

  1. Quiet space is a necessary condition for a person to comfortably rest, study or do research. Unwanted periodic noise or loud noise and reverberation interfere with these activities. Poor acoustics are a barrier to those with mild to moderate hearing loss, speech impairments and learning disabilities. Poor acoustics also interfere with communication for individuals who use English as a second language. HVAC systems, water circulation pumps and other mechanical systems can be the source of intolerable acoustical stimuli. The designer shall determine appropriate noise criteria for a project, and design systems and select equipment that achieve the criteria.
  2. The following background noise criteria are suggested: concert halls NC 20; sleeping rooms NC 30; classrooms and lecture halls NC 30; libraries NC 30; open-plan office areas NC 40; laboratories with fume hoods NC 45.
  3. The following reverberation times for unoccupied rooms are suggested: Classrooms and lecture halls 0.6 to 0.7 seconds maximum.
  4. Outside of buildings, noise must be less than 50dBA at night when measured at the Campus boundary with residential areas and must meet City Ordinances for Noise Pollution Control.

F. Construction Site

  1. The designer shall address the needs of people with disabilities both in the building design and within the construction limits. Indicate on the drawings, circulation patterns and disability parking that may be affected by the construction and make provisions for disabled users to access places of work/study and parking/sidewalk systems without undue inconvenience or hardship.
  2. The designer shall request a copy of the Accessibility Guide and Map from Disability Services on Campus prior to completion of Design Development for implications relative to access during construction. Site planning shall include consideration for accessibility for people with disabilities. Areas adjacent to the construction project shall remain accessible to people with disabilities. Conduct construction activities in such a way that potential hazards to disabled people are minimized.

G. Links

  1. The Consultant should visit the University of Montana's Web site at http://www.umt.edu/dss/access/default.htm for specific policy and related ADA documents.