Perhaps one of the more expensive elements of a commercial building construction or renovation is the installation of an elevator. Most buildings of more than three stories constructed after 1990 must contain an elevator that complies with accessibility rules of the Americans with Disabilities Act. If your building houses offices for health care providers, a station for public transportation, a shopping center or certain other industries, you may also need an elevator.
It is potentially risky to trust that the company installing your elevator knows and follows ADA rules. Remodeling or dealing with ADA lawsuits can be quite expensive. Instead, it is wise to educate yourself on how your building’s elevators can provide maximum accessibility for your visitors or clients and how you can avoid costly ADA litigation.
The first thing to notice is the location of your elevator. Your building’s elevator must be in an open area where someone in a wheelchair can access it. It must have a door opening at least 36 inches wide that remains open at least three seconds. The car of the elevator must accommodate a wheelchair and allow room for turning, which ADA says is at least 51 inches deep and 68 inches wide.
Once inside, a person in a wheelchair must have easy access to call buttons, so ADA requires you to center those 42 inches from the floor with emergency controls below that panel, about 35 inches up from the floor. Most of these elements are standard in modern elevators, but certain technology may require variations, so it is smart to be proactive and involved in any elevator installation or renovations.
Other accessible features
Those in wheelchairs may not be the only people with disabilities who use your elevator. Therefore, you will want to make sure you have the following ADA features:
- Braille numbers or letters beside or directly below elevator numbers on the control panel
- A raised star with Braille numbers or letters indicating the floor where visitors can find the main exit
- A visual display, such as flashing numbers, indicating each floor where the elevator stops
- Audible signals indicating when the elevator doors are opening or closing, and different signals for elevators going to different destinations
- Verbal announcements for each floor where the elevator stops
Dealing with claims that your premises violates ADA regulations can be a legal nightmare, so taking proactive steps to comply with codes is always wise. However, if you face allegations of ADA violations, it is a good idea to seek the advocacy of a California attorney who is familiar with state and federal laws for accessibility.