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ADA Compliance, Trip Hazards, and Lenders, Oh My!

12/01/2018 4:13 PM | CAI Rocky Mountain Chapter (Administrator)

By Nate LePage, Asphalt Coatings

This year was marked by two regulations that made most of us tied to property management a bit more anxious: ADA Compliance and Trip Hazards.  Sometimes, these two may even have occurred together as a raised or separated curb tied to an ADA parking stall created a nightmare scenario for a property manager.  To make matters worse, repairing these troubled locations was often mandated from the lender who wanted them fixed ASAP.

And, by ASAP, they meant yesterday!

By shedding light on the process to identify whether these repairs are necessary, we can then look at a few tips on how to move forward and get problem areas up to code as quickly as possible.

But, before we dive in to that….let’s look at a bit of history which will also provide us with some helpful information as we move forward.  Don’t worry, we will skip all the boring parts!

The Americans with Disabilities Act – or ADA, for short – was signed in to law in 1990.  Designed to level the playing field, its goal was to provide those with disabilities equal access to all of life’s daily activities (work, play, shopping, etc.).  This piece of legislation established the parameters we adhere to today.  For example, the 2% grade limit on an ADA parking stall, the 8% slope on a ramp, and the ¼” trip hazard benchmark all came from this law.  In keeping up with the times, their website – www.ada.gov – includes tons of information on the regulations and guidelines.  A quick word of caution: the website also allows complaints to be filed online fairly easily.  Yikes!

Speaking of complaints, let’s move on to the process of identifying potential areas that need to be repaired.  If we are vigilant and stay on top of these, they can be addressed before they become a “911” issue.

The most common areas of concern are sidewalks, ADA ramps, and the cracks between the curb & gutter/sidewalks.  With the crazy freeze-thaw weather we get here in Colorado, it’s very easy for water to get in, freeze and expand, and press things out of alignment.  The result is one sidewalk stone or panel will be higher than the one next to it.  As we learned from the ADA, any raised surface greater than ¼” qualifies as a trip hazard.  Similarly, a very, very hot day in August can cause sidewalks to ‘heave’ and can result in the same dangerous trip hazard.

So, what’s the magic formula for keeping ADA compliance and trip hazards at bay?

Walking the property on a weekly basis and utilizing on-site facilities maintenance personnel are great ways to be proactive and identify areas for repair.  Getting familiar with your property will help you recognize when an area has changed; plus, it’s a great chance to get a break from being in the office and catch some fresh air.  Installing handrails on any access ramps within the property can also minimize accidents.  Handrails prevent wheelchairs from straying off a ramp and provide a way for someone to break a fall should they slip or trip.  Additionally, pavement markings help those with disabilities identify spaces reserved for them and can keep them from areas that may prove more difficult.  Utilizing truncated domes at crosswalks are also very helpful (and often mandated by municipalities).  

Once a damaged area has been recognized for repair, there are a few options to get the location back up to code.  If available, consulting with the onsite maintenance team’s capabilities can save some budget money by keeping the repair in-house.  If outside service is needed, starting with previous contractors or the ‘preferred vendor list’ at your company can save time locating a reputable contractor.  When reaching out for the first time, many property managers will seek to receive at least 3 quotes or proposals before making a decision.  A word of caution: Don’t always choose the lowest bid!  When it comes to code compliance, choose wisely and make sure you select a contractor with a proven track record.

In summary, the best way to keep peace of mind regarding ADA compliance and trip hazards is through routine maintenance.  If you have any questions or just need some help in general, it’s advised to reach out to a reputable, local, and honest contractor for help.  Their expertise can ease anxieties and provide guidance on how to move forward.

Asphalt Coatings has helped property managers with their parking lots for over 30 years.  When not helping customers with their parking lots, you’ll find Nate out enjoying the Colorado mountain country.  If you have any questions regarding parking maintenance, you can email Nate at nlepage@asphaltcoatings.net  

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