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205 and 309 Operable Parts

Section 4.1.3, and more specifically sections 4.1.3(13), 4.27.3, and 4.27.4 of the 1991 Standards, require operable parts on accessible elements, along accessible routes, and in accessible rooms and spaces to comply with the technical requirements for operable parts, including height and operation. The 1991 Standards, at section 4.27.3, contain an exception, “ * * * where the use of special equipment dictates otherwise or where electrical and communications systems receptacles are not normally intended for use by building occupants,” from the technical requirement for the height of operable parts. Section 205.1 of the 2010 Standards divides this exception into three exceptions covering operable parts intended only for use by service or maintenance personnel, electrical or communication receptacles serving a dedicated use, and floor electrical receptacles. Operable parts covered by these new exceptions are exempt from all of the technical requirements for operable parts in section 309. The 2010 Standards also add exceptions that exempt certain outlets at kitchen counters; heating, ventilating and air conditioning diffusers; redundant controls provided for a single element, other than light switches; and exercise machines and equipment from all of the technical requirements for operable parts. Exception 7, in section 205.1 of the 2010 Standards, exempts cleats and other boat securement devices from the accessible height requirement. Similarly, section 309.4 of the 2010 Standards exempts gas pump nozzles, but only from the technical requirement for activating force.

Reach Ranges. The 1991 Standards set the maximum height for side reach at 54 inches above the floor. The 2010 Standards, at section 308.3, lower that maximum height to 48 inches above the finish floor or ground. The 2010 Standards also add exceptions, as discussed above, to the scoping requirement for operable parts for certain elements that, among other things, will exempt them from the reach range requirements in section 308.

The 1991 Standards, at sections 4.1.3, 4.27.3, and 4.2.6, and the 2010 Standards, at sections 205.1, 228.1, 228.2, 308.3, and 309.3, require operable parts of accessible elements, along accessible routes, and in accessible rooms and spaces to be placed within the forward or side reach ranges specified in section 308. The 2010 Standards also require at least five percent (5%) of mailboxes provided in an interior location and at least one of each type of depository, vending machine, change machine, and gas pump to meet the technical requirements for a forward or a side reach.

Section 4.2.6 of the 1991 Standards specifies a maximum 54-inch high side reach and a minimum 9-inch low side reach for an unobstructed reach depth of 10 inches maximum. Section 308.3.1 of the 2010 Standards specifies a maximum 48-inch high side reach and a minimum 15-inch low side reach where the element being reached for is unobstructed. Section 308.3.1, Exception 1, permits an obstruction that is no deeper than 10 inches between the edge of the clear floor or ground space and the element that the individual with a disability is trying to reach. Changes in the side-reach range for new construction and alterations in the 2010 Standards will affect a variety of building elements such as light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats, fire alarm pull stations, card readers, and keypads.

Commenters were divided in their views about the changes to the unobstructed side-reach range. Disability advocacy groups and others, including individuals of short stature, supported the modifications to the proposed reach range requirements. Other commenters stated that the new reach range requirements will be burdensome for small businesses to comply with. These comments argued that the new reach range requirements restrict design options, especially in residential housing.

The Department continues to believe that data submitted by advocacy groups and others provides compelling evidence that lowered reach range requirements will better serve significantly greater numbers of individuals with disabilities, including individuals of short stature, persons with limited upper body strength, and others with limited use of their arms and fingers. The change to the side-reach range was developed by the Access Board over a prolonged period in which there was extensive public participation. This process did not produce any significant data to indicate that applying the new unobstructed side-reach range requirement in new construction or during alterations would impose a significant burden.


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