Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST
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Common Violations

Common Violations of the Fair Housing Act Design and Construction Requirements

The Fair Housing Act requires that new construction of "covered multifamily dwellings"; both private and public, comply with the Fair Housing Act's design and construction requirements. Covered multifamily dwellings are in buildings that have four or more units. It includes all of the ground floor units, and, in an elevator building, all units in these buildings. It applies to housing that was designed or constructed for first occupancy after March 13, 1991.

Successful accessibility is often measured in inches, so attention to detail can make the difference between achieving access and excluding or injuring someone. When the minimum requirements are not met, the results can limit access for a person with a disability or exclude them from the housing altogether. Sometimes lack of access can even be dangerous.

This is a sampling of common accessibility errors or omissions that have been identified through review of a number of properties that do not comply with the requirements. It is not intended to be comprehensive or exhaustive. Any failure to comply with the requirements violates the Fair Housing Act.

Requirement 1 - Accessible Building Entrance On An Accessible Route

Error:

The dwelling entrance has steps or the entrance walk is too steep, exceeding allowable slopes. Accessible entrance walks cannot be steeper than 1:20 (5%) unless they are designed as ramps. Ramps cannot be steeper than 1:12 (8.33%) and must have railings and edge protection.

Result:

Steps can block access completely for people who are disabled. Steep ramps without safety provisions like handrails, edges and landings can be dangerous because people using walkers, canes and wheelchairs may fall off them. Wheelchair users and other people with disabilities cannot go up and down the ramp or may lose control while using it.

Error:

Even though an accessible entrance walk may be provided to the dwelling entrance, many times it does not connect to a pedestrian arrival area (often a parking lot). Typical barriers are no curb ramps and no access aisles.

Result:

People with disabilities cannot travel from the site entry points to accessible entrances. They cannot get from parking to the building entrance.

Requirement 2 - Accessible And Usable Public And Common Use Areas

Error:

Curb ramps may be steep, lack side wings, or be accessed only from heavily trafficked areas. Curb ramps must be designed and built in a way that is compliant with ANSI standards.

Result:

Steep and improperly designed curb ramps are a hazard for everyone and can cause injury to both ambulatory and non-ambulatory persons.

Error:

There are not enough curb ramps provided to make the site accessible.

Result:

People using wheelchairs may run into "dead ends" at sidewalks causing them to travel far in excess of persons who can step over a 6" curb, or it may cause them to use the parking lot and driveway as a means of getting around the site. If automobile and pedestrian traffic is segregated on a site, then persons with disabilities should be able to use the pedestrian sidewalk system.

Error:

There is no accessible parking at site facilities. Accessible parking is required at facilities such as mailbox kiosks, laundry rooms, playgrounds, tennis courts, leasing offices, garbage dumpsters, etc.

Result:

Many sites are large, and one way for a person using a wheelchair or other mobility aid to enjoy full use of the housing is to get in their cars and drive to the facility. Also, many sites are too steep for a pedestrian accessible route to connect each building entrance with site facilities. When accessible parking is not provided at facilities and amenities, persons with disabilities may not be able to get to and use the facility.

Requirement 3 - Usable Doors

Error:

Doors to walk-in closets and storage rooms do not provide a nominal 32" clear opening (31 5/8").

Result:

Many people who use wheelchairs, scooters or walkers cannot use a door with a less than 32" clear opening because the wheelchair is too wide to get through the door. All doors intended for passage must be accessible.

Error:

The second door into a bathroom, when more than one door is provided, does not provide a nominal 32" clear opening (31 5/8"). Many times a bathroom has both a door from a hallway and a second door from a bedroom. Both doors are required to be accessible.

Result:

Multiple doors into a bathroom are provided as an amenity to residents to allow privacy and convenience. If one of the doors is too narrow, this amenity/feature may not be available to residents or their guests who are in wheelchairs.

Requirement 4 - Accesible Route Into And Through The Unit

Error:

Level changes at primary entrances exceed the allowable 1/2" between the finished floor of the unit and the exterior entry landing.

Result:

Even small steps or level changes can completely block access for people who are disabled.

Error:

Door thresholds exceed the maximum height of 3/4" and are not beveled 1:2 or less.

Result:

Abrupt level changes can be extremely difficult to go over for people using mobility aids such as wheelchairs, walkers and canes. Also, people who do not lift their feet completely may experience difficulty passing over excessively high thresholds that are not beveled.

Requirement 5 - Light Switches, Electrical Outlets, Thermostats And Other Environmental Controls In Accessible Locations

Error:

Outlets are placed too low. Both outlets must be located at least 15" above the finished floor.

Result:

People with limited reach, such as people using wheel chairs and people who have back problems, may not be able to reach and use the outlet.

Error:

Switches are placed too high. Thermostats and other environmental switches are placed higher than 48" above the finished floor.

Result:

People with limited reach may not be able to reach the thermostats and switches.

Requirement 6 - Reinforcing In Walls For Grab Bars

Error:

Reinforcing is not placed in walls during construction around tubs, toilets and showers.

Result:

People who need to install a grab bar may not be able to adapt their dwelling without extensive construction. Fiberglass tub/shower units, which are very frequently used, are most effectively reinforced by having the reinforcement cast into the sidewalls of the unit at the factory.

Requirement 7 - Usable Kitchens And Bathrooms

Error:

In the kitchen there is not 30" x 48" clear floor area parallel to and centered on the kitchen sink and range. Many times the sink or range is positioned into the "elbow" of an L-shaped kitchen, or sometimes in a small angled section of counter that doesn't provide a full 48" clear floor area.

Result:

The purpose of the 30" x 48" clear floor area in front of the sink or range is to allow people using a wheelchair to position themselves in front of the sink and use it. If there is not a clear floor area centered in front of the sink, a person using a wheelchair may encounter obstructions that can keep them from being able to reach the faucets and use the sink.

Error:

Sinks in bathrooms are not positioned with 30" x 48" clear floor area parallel to and centered on the sink.

Result:

A person using a wheelchair cannot reach faucets or the sink to use it.

 


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