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Requirements for Public Bathrooms as well as Accessible Ramps

Question:

I was wondering what the requirements were for providing handicapped bathrooms in public places of business? Are there requirements depending on a building's size? Can stores choose to not offer public bathrooms?

Answer:

The requirements for accessible bathrooms vary depending upon the type of building involved, as well as whether or not the building is an existing facility, new construction or alteration of an existing facility. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) establishes federal requirements for twelve categories of public accommodations, including stores and shops, restaurants and bars, service establishments, theaters, hotels, recreations facilities, private museums and schools and others. Nearly all types of private businesses that serve the public are included in the categories, regardless of size.

Under the ADA, existing business facilities that serve the public must remove physical barriers where that is readily achievable (easily accomplishable without much difficulty or expense). The "readily achievable" requirement is based on the size and resources of the business. Barrier removal is an ongoing obligation. The ADA Standards for Accessible Design (ADAAG) guide businesses. These standards are part of the ADA Title III regulations. The priorities for barrier removal include first providing access to the business from public sidewalks, parking, and public transportation, and then providing access to the areas where goods and services are made available to the public. Once these barriers are removed, the business should provide access to public toilet rooms (if toilet rooms are provided for customer use).

The ADA requires that newly constructed facilities and alterations to facilities, spaces or elements (including renovations) must meet or exceed the minimum requirements of the ADA Standards for Accessible Design (ADAAG). The ADAAG requires every public and common use bathroom to be accessible. Generally only one stall must be accessible. When there are six or more stalls, there must be one accessible stall and one stall that is three feet wide. The ADAAG also provides detailed physical requirements regarding such items as toilet stalls, grab bars, doors, lavatories and mirrors, among other things. The ADAAG can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations at 28 C.F.R. Part 36, Appendix A. You may view the Access Board website for details at www.access-board.gov.

In Illinois, the Environmental Barriers Act (EBA) applies to new construction and alterations (including additions, historical preservation, restoration or reconstruction) of public facilities and multi-story housing units. The Illinois Accessibility Code, found in the Illinois Administrative Code at Title 71 Section 400.310, implements the EBA and has the force of building code. The Illinois Accessibility Code lists detailed specifications and requirements for toilet rooms, toilet stalls, water closets, and more. The Illinois Code references ADAAG throughout. Public toilet rooms required by the Illinois Plumbing Code (77 Ill. Adm. Code 890) to have a minimum number of plumbing fixtures shall have accessible toilet rooms and related fixtures for each sex in compliance with the specifications set out by the Illinois Accessibility Code.

The Illinois Plumbing Code applies to new plumbing and the alteration of plumbing systems. The rules govern all new construction and any remodeling or renovation of existing plumbing. The rules do not apply to existing buildings unless the plumbing is being altered, the building use is being changed or the existing plumbing creates a health or safety hazard. The Illinois Plumbing Code establishes a minimum number of plumbing fixtures to be provided for each building type and occupant load. The building types include hotel/motel units, assembly places, mercantile units, malls and stores, worship places and funeral homes, gas stations, office buildings/public buildings, food service establishments, pubs, lounges, nightclubs, and places serving food or liquid to be consumed on the premises, schools, day care, nurseries and preschools, hospital rooms, among others. For some building types, the number of required plumbing fixtures is dependent upon the building's occupant load.

Under the Illinois Plumbing Code, in general, buildings with 5,000 square feet of gross public area or with occupancies of 100 or more persons shall provide public restrooms, and buildings with less than 5,000 square feet of gross public area, or with occupancies of fewer than 100 persons, need not provide public restrooms. Individual business within the same building or within an enclosed mall may share public/employee restroom facilities, with certain rules associated. However, any food service establishment that sells food or beverage to be consumed on its premises or within the building/mall must be located no more than 100 feet from the shared public/employee restrooms and must be on the same floor. An exception to this is that food service establishments with no more than 10 combined employees and seats (for patrons) at any one time need not provide public restrooms, provided the employee restrooms are accessible and made available to the public. All gas stations shall provide at least one public restroom for male use and one public restroom for female use. However, facilities that do not have any employees working as attendants and use automated machines need not provide male/female public restrooms, but there must be one employee restroom for use by maintenance staff when such personnel is present. Plumbing that is installed must meet the requirements of the Illinois Accessibility Code. Thus, whether or not an accessible bathroom is required in any given location depends upon numerous factors including, but not limited to, the type of building, whether it is existing/new/or being altered, the occupancy load of the building, and whether there are other businesses within the same building or mall that may be sharing restroom facilities. Businesses in existing facilities without restrooms could choose not to install restrooms altogether and not be out of compliance with any of the laws discussed above.

Question:

We are going to be installing gymnasium floors in the state of Illinois. Can you tell me the ADA requirements on wheelchair accessible ramping? Is it 12" per 1" high, etc? Thank you.

Answer:

Thank you for your question. You are correct that under the ADA, ramps should have 12" of run for every 1" of rise. These requirements are found in the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG). Additional regulations are provided below for your convenience. Please let me know if you have any additional questions. Thank you.

Below are several excerpts from the ADAAG Guidelines for Accessibility of which the ADA Accessibility Stick is a useful tool in measuring for compliance.

4.8 Ramps.

4.8.1* General. Any part of an accessible route with a slope greater than 1:20 shall be considered a ramp and shall comply with 4.8.

4.8.2* Slope and Rise. The least possible slope shall be used for any ramp. The maximum slope of a ramp in new construction shall be 1:12. The maximum rise for any run shall be 30 in (760 mm) (see Fig. 16). Curb ramps and ramps to be constructed on existing sites or in existing buildings or facilities may have slopes and rises as allowed in 4.1.6(3)(a) if space limitations prohibit the use of a 1:12 slope or less.

4.8.3 Clear Width. The minimum clear width of a ramp shall be 36 in (915 mm).

4.8.4* Landings. Ramps shall have level landings at bottom and top of each ramp and each ramp run.

Sincerely,

Alan M. Goldstein
The Illinois ADA Project at Equip for Equality