One thing that we are often asked by our clients is: do accessibility lifts and LULA elevators comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements? In order to answer that, we will first start off with a high level overview of what the ADA is and where it applies. Then, we’ll tackle the question of where accessibility lifts and LULA elevators fit into the equation!
What Is the ADA/Americans with Disabilities Act?
The ADA was enacted in the early 1990s to eliminate discrimination against people with disabilities. Historically, it was preceded by the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Fair Housing Act of 1988. These earlier laws require some buildings, such as federal buildings, many federally funded projects, and some new multi-family housing construction, to be accessible. The ADA expanded upon those regulations with the goal of making public buildings across the United States accessible to everyone.
While it was enacted in the ‘90s, the ADA has been updated several times in the years that followed. Most recently, new ADA standards were adopted in 2010. These new standards address both ADA Title II, which concerns state and local government facilities, as well as ADA Title III, which focuses on commercial facilities and places of “public accommodation”—more on that below.
Where Does the ADA Apply?
According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) ADA primer for small businesses, different types of buildings/organizations have different levels of responsibilities under the ADA. Here’s a general summary:
|Make sure new buildings are accessible to people with disabilities.||Make sure “altered facilities” are accessible to people with disabilities.*||Remove architectural barriers in existing buildings**|
|Places of “public accommodation”||✔️||✔️||✔️|
* An alteration is defined as “remodeling, renovating, rehabilitating, reconstructing, changing or rearranging structural parts or elements, changing or rearranging plan configuration of walls and full-height partitions, or making other changes that affect (or could affect) the usability of the facility”. Examples include moving walls or changing a doorway entrance, among other things.
**The ADA requires that businesses and nonprofits remove architectural barriers in existing buildings when it is “readily achievable” to do so. This means it is easily done without much difficulty or expense, which depends on the size and resources of the organization.
Commercial facilities are buildings that do not provide goods/services directly to the public. This includes office buildings, factories, and warehouses. Public accommodations are private entities whose operations affect commerce. These places can be divided into the 12 categories below. Read on to see some examples in each of these categories.
|Places of Public Accommodation||Examples|
|Locations with Lodging||• Hotels|
|Locations that serve food and drinks||• Restaurants|
|Places that provide entertainment||• Movie Theaters|
• Other Theaters
• Concert Halls
|Places for Public Gathering||• Auditoriums|
• Convention Centers
• Lecture Halls
|Retail and Sales Establishments||• Shopping Centers|
• Grocery Stores
• Hardware Stores
|Service Locations||• Banks|
• Hair/Beauty Salons
|Public Transportation||• Terminals|
|Places for Public Display||• Libraries|
|Places for Recreation||• Parks|
• Amusement Parks
|Places for Education||• Nursery Schools|
• Grade Schools
|Social Service Centers||• Day Care Centers|
• Senior Citizen Centers
• Homeless Shelters
• Food Banks
|Places to Exercise or Recreate||• Gyms|
• Bowling Alleys
• Golf Courses
Source note (examples of “places of public accommodation”): https://www.adachecklist.org/doc/fullchecklist/ada-checklist.pdf
The ADA exempts 1- & 2-story buildings and buildings with 3,000 square feet or less per story from vertical access requirements (except for shopping centers/malls, health care providers’ offices, transportation terminals, and government facilities). However, state and local building codes might have more stringent requirements.
As you can see, whether or not ADA applies, and if so, how, depends on the type of building and what type of work is being done. As always, consult an architect on specific questions, and let us know if you’d like us to recommend a local architect. We are happy to do so based on our 35 years of experience in accessibility-related construction projects!
Do Wheelchair Lifts and LULA Elevators Comply with ADA?
The short answer is, yes. In fact, the 2004 ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG), which are part of the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, contains sections on both LULA elevators and platform lifts as part of the chapter on Accessible Routes. Please note that ADA does NOT permit the use of inclined stairway chairlifts, also known as stair lifts. This is because stair lifts require people who use wheelchairs to transfer to a seat that is part of the lift, as opposed to moving the entire wheelchair onto a platform or elevator car. In other words, when it comes to the general public traveling between floors in a building, platform lifts and LULA elevators are the best choice to comply with ADA Accessibility Guidelines.
However, there is another aspect of ADAAG Accessible Routes that must be noted. While platform lifts and LULA elevators are permitted as a component of an accessible route in an existing building that is being remodeled, they are only sometimes permitted as such in new construction. These more limited situations in new construction include things like courtrooms, stages and amusement rides.