The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is designed to eliminate any discrimination because of disabilities. In the U.S., providing equal access means ensuring that all individuals enjoy the same provisions for safe and secure access to areas, buildings, transportation, and facilities in places of work and leisure, and can make use of programs, services, employment opportunities, and technology without any discrimination. The American with Disabilities Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) is a document detailing the scoping and technical requirements for accessibility of persons with disabilities to sites, facilities, buildings, and elements.
Architects and builders need to adhere to these requirements in the design, construction, additions to, and alteration of sites, facilities, buildings, and elements as specified in the regulations issued by Federal agencies under ADA.
When providing equal access to places of public assembly in buildings, applicable building codes, accessibility standards, and accessibility guidelines have to be met. Building codes are specific to a state, county, township or city and may change from time to time. Therefore, in order to ensure compliance, building professionals need to use the existing local codes provided by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) when designing or planning buildings or reviewing completed construction.
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) offers the public and private sectors a comprehensive set of codes and standards which govern elevators and escalators. These generally cover the design, construction, operation, inspection, testing, maintenance, alteration, and repair of elevators and escalators and their associated parts, rooms, spaces, and hoistways, where located in or adjacent to a building or structure.
Elevators are required in “multi-story” facilities. An exception is allowed for buildings that have less than three stories or less than 3,000 square feet per floor, but this exception is not applicable to shopping centers or malls; professional offices of health care providers; public transit stations and airport passenger terminals, and state or local government facilities. Accessible elevators shall be on an accessible route and should conform to the latest ADA and ASME Safety Codes for elevators and escalators.
Some of the important recommendations for elevators are as follows:
- Elevator operation must be automatic.
- Call buttons in elevator lobbies and halls should be accessible to wheelchair users.
- Hall lanterns with audible and visible signals are necessary at each hoistway entrance and must be visible from the vicinity of each set of call buttons serving the elevator.
- Car and hallway signals and lanterns should be designed for functionality, and to meet the needs of the disabled.
- Visual and audible signals that indicate car position are required.
- Raised and Braille floor designations are required on both jambs, with the centerline 60 inches from the finished floor.
- Elevator doors shall open and close automatically.
- Door reopening devices must be able to detect obstructions without contact.
- Doors must remain open at least 3 seconds in response to a call. The minimum time between notification and the start of the door closing is 5 seconds.
- The floor plan of elevator cars should provide space for wheelchair users to enter the car, maneuver within reach of controls, and exit from the car. Hospital-type cars sized to accommodate stretchers can have side-opening doors if the car is at least 60 inches wide.
- Control panels must be located so that no floor button is higher than 54 inches for a side reach and 48 inches for a front approach.
- A car’s operating panel must include: full-access buttons for call registry, door opening, alarm, emergency stop, and firefighters’ control.
- Emergency two-way communication devices, where provided, must meet the latest ASME standard and be easily accessible to wheelchair users.
- All elevator landing, as well as the elevator car, including ceiling coves and ceiling fixtures should be well-lit.
- ADA requires proper car leveling so that the elevator car will come to rest at the exact level of the landing floor.
- Switches for fire, priority and limited access service may be placed on the floors the elevator opens to.
Elevators are among the safest modes of transportation. However, codes and standards recognize the need for emergency control of elevators under certain conditions. The safe operation of elevators requires compliance with all of the existing authorized building codes, life safety codes, fire codes, elevator safety codes and sprinkler and fire alarm standards.
Every state has stringent inspection requirements for elevators including commercial Passenger Elevators (Electric or Hydraulic), Freight Elevators, Sidewalk Elevators, Escalators/Moving Walks, Private Residential Elevators, Dumbwaiters, Material Lifts, Vertical Reciprocating Conveyors and Elevators used for construction. Learn more about Day Elevator’s Elevator Inspection services.
The NYC BuildingDepartment performs one periodic inspection of devices every twelve months.
Based on the type of device, Owners must have their devices inspected annually and an additional inspection every three or five years.
- Category 1: Annual Test
- Category 3: Three Year Test (Water Hydraulic Elevators Only)
- Category 5: Five Year Test
Building owners must keep a record of the inspection certificates in each elevator. If the inspection certificates are kept in the building management office, there must be a sign in the elevator indicating this.
The NYC Building Departments elevator inspection and testing requirements applicable from January 2014 are as follows:
- For Category 1, 3 and 5 inspections and tests, the reports with all applicable signatures must be delivered to the owner by the approved performing and/or witnessing agency within thirty (30) days of the test and must be filed with the Department of Buildings within 60 days of the date of the test by owner or its authorized designee.
- If a report is rejected (due to missing required information), a new, complete report with the missing information and the applicable filing fee must be submitted.
- All defects found on Category 1 inspections and tests must be corrected within 120 days after the date of inspection and test, except all hazardous conditions must be corrected immediately
- An affirmation of correction must be filed within 60 days of the date of correction
- When no witnessing agency is required, the performing inspector must complete and sign the field inspection and test report documenting all violating conditions, if any, and provide it to the owner or the owner’s representative on the day of the inspection and test.
- When a witnessing agency is required to perform Category 1, 3 and 5 tests as per Table N1 of the NYC Building Code, on the day of each inspection the performing inspector must complete and sign the field inspection and test report
ADAAG specifies that in new construction, platform lifts can be used instead of ramps or elevators only in providing access to: performing areas in assembly occupancies; wheelchair seating locations in assembly occupancies, and incidental space or rooms not open to the public with a maximum occupancy of five. Platform lifts are also permitted where ramp or elevator access is infeasible due to existing or other constraints.
Vertical wheelchair lifts and inclined wheelchair lifts must comply with applicable state and local codes and with the ASME specifications. Additionally, NYC and many other jurisdictions require annual inspections, as well as a maintenance program. The ASME code also covers inclined stairway chairlifts, but this device does not meet ADAAG requirements since it cannot accommodate a wheelchair.