Hey Landlord! Are your exterior common areas ADA compliant?

The majority of monthly newsletters you receive from ADA-PROS are topics that are planned months in advance, but then there are times when we deviate to address timely (and in this case glaring) access issues that exist for most of us in the retail and office industry.

Three weeks ago, one of my east coast clients contacted me with a huge request: complete 72 California based retail inspections in thirty days and help get them back on track with a short term and long-term access plan.

Well, I accepted their challenge and completed them all in 21 days, and my head is still spinning!

Some of the most interesting problems I encountered during this journey I honestly did not expect to find in so many stores.

Keep in mind that these were retail stores inside outlet malls located from the Mexico border to way north of Sacramento.

Each mall was different and the issues ranged from landlord controlled exterior barriers to a combination of simple to more complex barriers inside the retail space itself.

Let me jump right in … during this last inspection run I mentally categorized the barriers I encountered into two groups:

1) Landlord’s Barriers
2) Tenant’s Barriers

Simple Right?

I took lots of pictures, captured notes on the back of my clip board and spoke into my notes app on my iPhone. I had to get as much detail on each property and tenant space as possible so I could truly gauge the level of access being provided by national retailers in California accurately.

Let’s start with the landlord’s exterior common areas and really look at what is going on out there!

First, in order for a disabled parking space to be usable, all elements of the space must be free of obstructions: the vehicle space, the access aisle, the curb ramp, and the route that connects the parking to the accessible entrance of the building. Lack of maintenance of any one of those elements can make the whole space inaccessible.

In order for a wheelchair user to exit their van or car, they must place their wheelchair in the access aisle, transfer from the car seat to their wheelchair, and then roll backward in the access aisle to provide clearance to close their door. If another car parks in the aisle or the retailer has product stacked in this area, the wheelchair user will not have sufficient room to off-load out of their vehicle. That parking space – the one the landlord just paid to have correctly re-striped — is now useless to all disabled customers.

Barrier Check List
• Remove obstacles, including shopping carts, maintenance equipment, and cars without designated license plates or placards, from parking spaces and access aisles as soon as possible.
• Clear all mud, snow, ice and leaves from accessible parking spaces whenever clearing the rest of the parking area. Be sure that cleaning crews do not pile landscape material, snow or debris in the accessible parking spaces, access aisles or curb ramps.
• Maintain curb ramps and sidewalks to prevent large cracks and uneven surfaces from forming.
• Keep the accessible route from the parking area to the store’s entrance clear of obstacles that either block or narrow the route.

Okay Mr./Ms. Landlord, this section is for you!

If your property has a public sidewalk along one of your property boundaries and this sidewalk connects to a neighboring housing community or has a bus stop near by then you must provide an accessible route connection from your building(s) to this public way.

If you don’t plan to provide an accessible route connection on your own, you can bet that the local jurisdiction will be hitting you up on your next tenant improvement project.

1) Ensure that all buildings on your site connect together with a fully accessible route so that disabled customers can park in one accessible space and access all of your tenants’ spaces without moving their vehicle.

2) Take a very close look at your curb ramps along the accessible route leading from the parking areas; make sure your ramp slopes don’t exceed 8.33% run slope, 2% cross slope and provide compliant truncated dome panels. Look for uneven “lip” transitions from the asphalt to concrete at drive aisle crossings. Fix these right away.

3) Check your directional signs along the accessible route of travel. If all of your walkways aren’t accessible or don’t lead to an accessible entrance or element, then “sign it” so any disabled guests or customers know where to go. If you don’t have any directional signage, then get on it right now. Don’t wait. Too many lawsuits start right here. Just sayin!!

4) Check all of your accessible striping at crosswalks, loading zones, disabled stalls and No Parking access aisles.
Don’t ignore these areas, not even for a year. Paint fades quickly no matter where your property is located. Sun, rain and snow can remove painted access markings within a matter of months.

5) Check your sidewalk, landscape islands, transition points along the accessible route and each tenant door landing. Check for delamination at the concrete landings from the building floor foundations at the tenant entry doors. Many times you can fill these gaps exceeding ½” with epoxy, mortar or self leveling adhesive.

6) Check door thresholds so that no greater than a ¼” vertical rise is present and anything from a ¼” to ½” is beveled at a 1:2 or 45 degree angle.

7) Ensure the door hardware is smooth, angled and does not force someone to pinch, grasp or require twisting of their wrist. Make sure you have a 1 ½” clear space between the hardware and glass or frame of door.

8) Make sure you install ISA symbol signs on the exterior glass adjacent to entry door. On the inside of tenant space, install a raised tactile “EXIT” sign with braille mounted on the adjacent wall or glass at 60” max above floor surface.

This list does not cover everything you need to look at, but gives you a really good snap shot of the more commonly challenged areas that I encounter on a daily basis.

If you have any questions regarding the level of access on your property or just want to discuss some issues in more detail, feel free to contact me directly at chris@ada-pros.com

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