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Elevators and ADA Compliance

Unless your facility is less than three stories tall, or has fewer than 3,000 square feet per floor, your elevators must conform to the guidelines set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) were signed into law in July 1990 and were built on the 1961 edition of ICC/ANSI A117. ICC/ANSI A117.1 Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities is now the model code for accessibility. The most recent version of ANSI A117.1 is the 2003 edition, but a new edition is currently in draft review, and may be released later this year, according to Steve Grainer, manager of codes and standards for Mitsubishi Electric’s Elevator Group in Cypress, CA.

Requirements for ADA-Compliant Elevators
The specifics for ADA requirements in terms of vertical transportation can be found at www.access-board.gov/adaag/html/adaag.htm (see Section 4.10, Elevators) – it’s a long and detailed list. But here’s a brief summary of what your elevators should offer in terms of accessibility, courtesy of Grainer; Stuart Prior, executive vice president of Americas product sales and marketing for ThyssenKrupp Elevator, Frisco, TX; and Joshua P. Elliott, product line manager, repair, Schindler Elevator Corp., Morristown, NJ:

Elevator hall and car buttons that are mounted at certain heights (42 inches).
Call buttons that are a minimum of 0.75 inches in diameter.
Certain illumination levels for buttons.
Braille plates next to buttons and at entrance jambs.
Two-way communication in elevator cabs that deaf/blind users can utilize.
Chimes/verbal announcements that indicate floor passing and the next arrival floor.
A cab large enough to accommodate a wheelchair and a 360-degree turn.
Hall lantern fixtures that are mounted with their centerlines at least 72 inches from the floor.
Door protective/reopening devices that will reopen the door without physical contact.
Emergency controls that are grouped at the bottom of the elevator control panel and have their centerlines no less than 35-inches above the finish floor.
Handrails at specific heights (30 inches).

If you’re unsure about whether or not the elevators in your buildings are up to code, “ask your elevator serv­ice provider to survey the elevators and submit a list of recommended changes,” suggests Grainer. He also points out that many elevator and/or accessibility consultants could also conduct similar surveys. Elliott suggests visiting any of the various ADA websites, or contacting your local governing authority for guidance as well.
Code Changes Ahead
The ICC/ANSI A117.1 standard has provided requirements for destination-dispatch elevators; the ADA can’t provide requirements for these types of elevators until the guidelines are revised. (Destination-dispatch elevators have door-open, door-close, and communication buttons in the car, but the floor buttons are located in the lobby.)

Also, in-car communication is being improved, according to Grainer; verbal announcements will soon be required to announce the floors being passed, the next arrival floor, and the next travel direction. “In the past, this information was provided, but tones were used,” he says.

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