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New "Disabilities Act" Guidelines Affect All Parking Operations

On September 30, 2004, the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a "notice of proposed rulemaking" regarding its process to issue rules on the enforcement of the revised ADAAG/ABAAG published in July by the Access Board. ADAAG/ABAAG is the guideline for making buildings accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Key issues of concern to the parking industry to be addressed by DOJ in this process include the following:
When will the new ADAAG/ABAAG be enforced for new construction and alterations?
A "best guess" based on the DOJ notice is start of construction/building permit pulled sometime in 2006 but it could slide into 2007 depending on the amount of public comment they receive.
How will it be applied to existing facilities, including those built between now and when the new guideline is enforced?
It appears the DOJ is "leaning toward" requiring that existing facilities be upgraded to the new standard, using the same rules it used for modifications to existing facilities when ADA was first enforced. However, there may be safe harbors (grandfather clauses), specific exceptions, and special rules. It appears that one of the areas least likely to be granted a safe harbor or general exception is the parking requirements, unless a convincing case is made by commenters to have a comprehensive safe harbor i.e., for all facilities complying with the old ADAAG as of the date of enforcement of the new one.
The most significant changes to parking design are that slightly more accessible spaces overall will be required due to changes in rounding rules, and 1-in-6 van spaces will be required (versus 1-in-8 currently). Also, valet parking facilities as well as automated mechanical parking structures must have the required number of accessible parking spaces as well as an accessible passenger loading zone. (The exception to required accessible parking in valet facilities that was in the original ADAAG was dropped.) There are also changes in signage, pavement marking requirements, and other clarifications that are very helpful to the industry because they address many of the gray areas that currently exist.
It is not certain if the DOJ will require "existing" facilities--including those built in the coming year--to be upgraded to the new guidelines; therefore, many companies are having new facilities designed to meet the new requirements now. Many of the provisions of ADAAG/ABAAG are also included in the latest International Building Code, already being enforced in many areas of the country because the Access Board has "harmonized" ADAAG with the latest ANSI standard referenced by building codes. Moreover, the new standard represents the best available consensus on how to make buildings and facilities accessible. The big issue is whether or not older facilities already modified to meet ADAAG 91 have to be modified again to meet ADAAG/ABAAG 2004.
If you would like to comment to the DOJ, it is
recommended that you download the complete
notice from the DOJ Web site at: http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/proposal.htm. Comments are due on or before January 28, 2005.
Analysis of the DOJ's proposals by Mary S. Smith, Senior Vice President of Walker Parking Consultants, who has spearheaded efforts by the Parking Consultants Council (PCC) of the National Parking Association (NPA) to inform the industry about ADA since 1991, is available on NPA's Web site at: http://www.npapark.org/09-PCC/ADAAG-ABAAG.pdf
Mary's analysis of the requirements of the new ADAAG/ABAAG design guideline published in July is also available at: http://www.npapark.org/09-PCC/ADA-Discuss.pdf. Please note that this document is final and it is too late to comment and request changes.

Article Abstract from January, 2005




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