Inclusion within an educational environment goes beyond the rights protected by the ADA. Educational facilities are required to provide equal access to those with mobility impairments. Providing an accessible route and accessible means of egress is important to a safe and accessible administration of education.
There are many areas within a building that may pose an accessibility challenge. Here are two rules of thumb to consider:
- If there are stairs, but no other way to access a structure, you need to add an accessible route.
- If you are providing access to a permanent structure, there should be a permanent means of access. Portable lifts are not recognized as an acceptable means of accessibility to a permanent structure (see access board).
Areas of Accessibility in Schools
If you are assessing your schools accessibility needs, here are some common areas that may need to be addressed:
- Auditorium control rooms
- Orchestra pits
- Elevation changes due to joining 2 buildings that have different elevations
- Mezzanines in a library or other common area
- Dugout access
- Bleacher access
- Press box access
- Elevated physical education facilities i.e. locker rooms, weight rooms, pool stands, etc
When an area has been determined to be in need of an access solution, you should know your options. Generally speaking, in an educational facility, you will have 4 main options: ramps, platform lifts, Limited Use/Limited Application (LU/LA) elevators, and commercial elevators.
Ramps are required to have a pitch not steeper than 1:12, and the rise for any ramp shall not exceed 30 inches. This means that any ramp must have a 12 inch run for every 1 inch of rise; a 30-inch rise would therefore need a 30-foot long ramp.
Platform lifts are a device designed to carry a person on a platform to a different level. There are two types of platform lift: Inclined Platform Lift (IPL), and Vertical Platform Lift (VPL). IPLs typically mount to a wall or stair and travel on an incline parallel to a staircase. By its’ nature, an IPL will consume a portion of a staircase, impeding traffic flow when deployed. A VPL, travels up and down vertically, minimizing the footprint of the device. VPLs are able to travel up to 14 feet and generally occupy a 20 square foot footprint.
Limited Use/Limited Application Elevators
LU/LA elevators are a low-rise elevator intended as an alternative to a commercial elevator. The limitations of a LU/LA elevator are:
- Travel cannot exceed 25 feet without a variance
- Travel speed cannot exceed 30 feet per minute (fpm)
- Capacity cannot exceed 1,400 pounds
- And the car size is limited to 18 square feet
If the scope of you project exceeds the capabilities of the options listed above, your only solution is a commercial elevator. A commercial elevator is commonly referred to as a passenger elevator with a larger capacity and increased travel speed compared to a LU/LA elevator.
Determining the Best Accessibility Option for Your School
There are a variety of suitable options available when it comes to providing accessibility to a school and each situation is a little bit different. Talk to your local elevator contractor to determine which solution is the most appropriate for your project.