The use of mobility devices, such as wheelchairs, scooters, canes, crutches, and walkers, has grown in recent years.
Without trying to sound like a negative Nancy, we still have a long way to go for wheelchair users to be able to navigate through society swimmingly. Issues in physical accessibility have been ongoing regarding ramps, accessible sidewalks, accessible entrances and so on. Just over 6.8 million community-resident Americans use assistive devices to help them with mobility. This group comprises 1.7 million wheelchair and scooter riders (Mobility Device Statistics: United States | Disabled World (disabled-world.com). Keep in mind that research shows ample evidence that mobility device users face access barriers daily, i.e., some cannot leave their home without going up and down steps and the vast majority also report difficulty with public transit.
According to our data collected from technical assistance (TA) for the year of 2020 to 2021, our number 1 topic was facility access. For the past 5 years, from 2016 to 2021, 17% of our inquiries were related to facility access.
According to the 2010 ADA Standards, at least one accessible route is required to connect to building entrances from site arrival points provided (parking & passenger loading zones, streets & sidewalks, transportation stops). Entrances are also included in the Standards, which states at least 60% of public entrances shall comply with requirements for Accessible Doors, Doorways, and Gates. At least one entrance serving direct access from parking structures, at least one entrance from each elevated walkway or pedestrian tunnel and at least one entrance to each tenancy in a facility are required to connect to this accessible route. See (§206).
There are steps that can be taken to avoid further inaccessibility issues.
- Get acquainted with the appropriate Access Standards that already exist.
- Build a relationship with the architect and/or engineer involved in planning and vet their experience with incorporating access.
- Try to veer away from the notion of having to design the smallest space possible.
- Lastly, make considerations for things like trash receptables that you know would be in a space in the design phase.
Emphasizing accessibility sooner in the design phase will achieve great results. The later access is considered, the more it is compromised at the expense of people with disabilities.
Good access equals good business! People with disabilities have money to spend. People without disabilities benefit from accessible features (i.e., parents with strollers, delivery people, even business owners/employees themselves). IRS Tax Incentives for small businesses can help offset the costs of removing access barriers.
For more information, contact your local ADA Center to gather information or to answer any questions you may have, whether related to facility access, building accessibility, program access, and/or other available resources.