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Side reach. The 1991 Standards at section 4.2.6 establish a maximum side-reach height of 54 inches. The 2010 Standards at section 308.3.1 reduce that maximum height to 48 inches. The 2010 Standards also add exceptions for certain elements to the scoping requirement for operable parts. The vast majority of comments the Department received were in support of the lower side-reach maximum of 48 inches in the 2010 Standards. Most of these comments, but not all, were received from individuals of short stature, relatives of individuals of short stature, or organizations representing the interests of persons with disabilities, including individuals of short stature. Comments from individuals with disabilities and disability advocacy groups stated that the 48-inch side reach would permit independence in performing many activities of daily living for individuals with disabilities, including individuals of short stature, persons who use wheelchairs, and persons who have limited upper body strength. In this regard, one commenter who is a business owner pointed out that as a person of short stature there were many occasions when he was unable to exit a public restroom independently because he could not reach the door handle. The commenter said that often elevator control buttons are out of his reach, and, if he is alone, he often must wait for someone else to enter the elevator so that he can ask that person to press a floor button for him. Another commenter, who is also a person of short stature, said that he has on several occasions pulled into a gas station only to find that he was unable to reach the credit card reader on the gas pump. Unlike other customers who can reach the card reader, swipe their credit or debit cards, pump their gas, and leave the station, he must use another method to pay for his gas. Another comment from a person of short stature pointed out that as more businesses take steps to reduce labor costs—a trend expected to continue—staffed booths are being replaced with automatic machines for the sale, for example, of parking tickets and other products. He observed that the ‘‘ability to access and operate these machines becomes ever more critical to function in society,'' and, on that basis, urged the Department to adopt the 48-inch side-reach requirement. Another individual commented that persons of short stature should not have to carry with them adaptive tools in order to access building or facility elements that are out of their reach, any more than persons in wheelchairs should have to carry ramps with them in order to gain access to facilities.

Many of the commenters who supported the revised side-reach requirement pointed out that lowering the side-reach requirement to 48 inches would avoid a problem sometimes encountered in the built environment when an element was mounted for a parallel approach at 54 inches, only to find afterwards that a parallel approach was not possible. Some commenters also suggested that lowering the maximum unobstructed side-reach to 48 inches would reduce confusion among design professionals by making the unobstructed forward and side-reach maximums the same (the unobstructed forward reach in both the 1991 and 2010 Standards is 48 inches maximum). These commenters also pointed out that the ICC/ANSI A117.1 Standard, which is a private sector model accessibility standard, has included a 48-inch maximum high side-reach requirement since 1998. Many jurisdictions have already incorporated this requirement into their building codes, which these commenters believed would reduce the cost of compliance with the 2010 Standards. Because numerous jurisdictions have already adopted the 48-inch side-reach requirement, the Department's failure to adopt the 48-inch side-reach requirement in the 2010 Standards, in the view of many commenters, would result in a significant reduction in accessibility, and would frustrate efforts that have been made to harmonize private sector model construction and accessibility codes with Federal accessibility requirements. Given these concerns, they overwhelmingly opposed the idea of returning the revised side-reach requirement to the Access Board for further consideration.

The Department also received comments in support of the 48-inch side-reach requirement from an association of professional commercial property managers and operators and from State governmental entities. The association of property managers pointed out that the revised side-reach requirement provided a reasonable approach to ‘‘regulating elevator controls and all other operable parts'' in existing facilities in light of the manner in which the safe harbor, barrier removal, and alterations obligations will operate in the 2010 Standards. One governmental entity, while fully supporting the 48-inch side-reach requirement, encouraged the Department to adopt an exception to the lower reach range for existing facilities similar to the exception permitted in the ICC/ANSI A117.1 Standard. In response to this latter concern, the Department notes that under the safe harbor, existing facilities that are in compliance with the 1991 Standards, which required a 54-inch side-reach maximum, would not be required to comply with the lower side-reach requirement, unless there is an alteration. See § 36.304(d)(2)(i).

A number of commenters expressed either concern with, or opposition to, the 48-inch side-reach requirement and suggested that it be returned to the Access Board for further consideration. These commenters included trade and business associations, associations of retail stores, associations of restaurant owners, retail and convenience store chains, and a model code organization. Several businesses expressed the view that the lower side-reach requirement would discourage the use of their products and equipment by most of the general public. In particular, concerns were expressed by a national association of pay phone service providers regarding the possibility that pay telephones mounted at the lower height would not be used as frequently by the public to place calls, which would result in an economic burden on the pay phone industry. The commenter described the lower height required for side reach as creating a new ‘‘barrier'' to pay phone use, which would reduce revenues collected from pay phones and, consequently, further discourage the installation of new pay telephones. In addition, the commenter expressed concern that phone service providers would simply decide to remove existing pay phones rather than incur the costs of relocating them at the lower height. With regard to this latter concern, the commenter misunderstood the manner in which the safe harbor and barrier removal obligations under § 36.304 will operate in the revised title III regulation for elements that comply with the 1991 Standards.

The Department does not anticipate that wholesale relocation of pay telephones in existing facilities will be required under the final rule where the telephones in existing facilities already are in compliance with the 1991 Standards. If the pay phones comply with the 1991 Standards, the adoption of the 2010 Standards does not require retrofitting of these elements to reflect incremental changes in the 2010 Standards. See § 36.304(d)(2). However, pay telephones that were required to meet the 1991 Standards as part of new construction or alterations, but do not in fact comply with those standards, will need to be brought into compliance with the 2010 Standards as of 18 months from the publication date of this final rule. See § 36.406(a)(5).

The Department does not agree with the concerns expressed by the commenter about reduced revenues from pay phones mounted at lower heights. The Department believes that while given the choice some individuals may prefer to use a pay phone that is at a higher height, the availability of some phones at a lower height will not deter individuals from making needed calls.

The 2010 Standards will not require every pay phone to be installed or moved to a lowered height. The table accompanying section 217.2 of the 2010 Standards makes clear that where one or more telephones are provided on a floor, level, or an exterior site, only one phone per floor, level, or exterior site must be placed at an accessible height. Similarly, where there is one bank of phones per floor, level, or exterior site, only one phone per floor, level, or exterior site must be accessible. And if there are two or more banks of phones per floor, level, or exterior site, only one phone per bank must be placed at an accessible height.

Another comment in opposition to the lower reach range requirement was submitted on behalf of a chain of convenience stores with fuel stops. The commenter expressed the concern that the 48-inch side reach ‘‘will make it uncomfortable for the majority of the public,'' including persons of taller stature who would need to stoop to use equipment such as fuel dispensers mounted at the lower height. The commenter offered no objective support for the observation that a majority of the public would be rendered uncomfortable if, as required in the 2010 Standards, at least one of each type of fuel dispenser at a facility was made accessible in compliance with the lower reach range. Indeed, the Department received no comments from any individuals of tall stature expressing concern about accessible elements or equipment being mounted at the 48-inch height.

Several retail, convenience store, restaurant, and amusement park commenters expressed concern about the burden the lower side-reach requirement would place on their businesses in terms of self-service food stations and vending areas if the 48-inch requirement were applied retroactively. The cost of lowering counter height, in combination with the lack of control businesses exercise over certain prefabricated service or vending fixtures, outweighed, they argued, any benefits to persons with disabilities. For this reason, they suggested the lower side-reach requirement be referred back to the Access Board.

These commenters misunderstood the safe harbor and barrier removal obligations that will be in effect under the 2010 Standards. Those existing self-service food stations and vending areas that already are in compliance with the 1991 Standards will not be required to satisfy the 2010 Standards unless they engage in alterations. With regard to prefabricated vending machines and food service components that will be purchased and installed in businesses after the 2010 Standards become effective, the Department expects that companies will design these machines and fixtures to comply with the 2010 Standards in the future, as many have already done in the 10 years since the 48- inch side-reach requirement has been a part of the model codes and standards used by many jurisdictions as the basis for their construction codes.

A model code organization commented that the lower side-reach requirement would create a significant burden if it required entities to lower the mounting height for light switches, environmental controls, and outlets when an alteration did not include the walls where these elements were located, such as when ‘‘an area is altered or as a path of travel obligation.'' The Department believes that the final rule adequately addresses those situations about which the commenter expressed concern by not requiring the relocation of existing elements, such as light switches, environmental controls, and outlets, unless they are altered. Moreover, under § 36.403 of the 1991 rule, costs for altering the path of travel to an altered area of primary function that exceed 20 percent of the overall costs of the alteration will continue to be deemed disproportionate.

The Department has determined that the revised side-reach requirement should not be returned to the Access Board for further consideration based in large part on the views expressed by a majority of thecommenters [sic] regarding the need for, and importance of, the lower side-reach requirement to ensure access for persons with disabilities.


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