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Guidance on the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design

202 Existing Buildings and Facilities

Alterations. Under section 4.1.6(1)(c) of the 1991 Standards if alterations to single elements, when considered together, amount to an alteration of a room or space in a building or facility, the entire room or space would have to be made accessible. This requirement was interpreted to mean that if a covered entity chose to alter several elements in a room there would come a point when so much work had been done that it would be considered that the entire room or space would have to be made accessible. Under section 202.3 of the 2010 Standards entities can alter as many elements within a room or space as they like without triggering a requirement to make the entire room or space accessible based on the alteration of individual elements. This does not, however, change the requirement that if the intent was to alter the entire room or space, the entire room or space must be made accessible and comply with the applicable requirements of Chapter 2 of the 2010 Standards.

Alterations to Primary Function Areas. Section 202.4 restates a current requirement under title III, and therefore represents no change for title III facilities or for those title II facilities that have elected to comply with the 1991 Standards. However, under the revised title II regulation, state and local government facilities that have previously elected to comply with the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS) instead of the 1991 Standards will no longer have that option, and thus will now be subject to the path of travel requirement. The path of travel requirement provides that when a primary function area of an existing facility is altered, the path of travel to that area (including restrooms, telephones, and drinking fountains serving the area) must also be made accessible, but only to the extent that the cost of doing so does not exceed twenty percent (20%) of the cost of the alterations to the primary function area. The UFAS requirements for a substantial alteration, though different, may have covered some of the items that will now be covered by the path of travel requirement.

Visible Alarms in Alterations to Existing Facilities. The 1991 Standards, at sections 4.1.3(14) and 4.1.6(1)(b), and sections 202.3 and 215.1 of the 2010 Standards require that when existing elements and spaces of a facility are altered, the alterations must comply with new construction requirements. Section 215.1 of the 2010 Standards adds a new exception to the scoping requirement for visible alarms in existing facilities so that visible alarms must be installed only when an existing fire alarm system is upgraded or replaced, or a new fire alarm system is installed.

Some commenters urged the Department not to include the exception and to make visible alarms a mandatory requirement for all spaces, both existing and new. Other commenters said that the exception will make the safety of individuals with disabilities dependent upon the varying age of existing fire alarm systems. Other commenters suggested that including this requirement, even with the exception, will result in significant cost to building owners and operators.

The Department believes that the language of the exception to section 215.1 of the 2010 Standards strikes a reasonable balance between the interests of individuals with disabilities and those of the business community. If undertaken at the time a system is installed, whether in a new facility or in a planned system upgrade, the cost of adding visible alarms is reasonable. Over time, existing facilities will become fully accessible to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, and will add minimal costs to owners and operators.


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