November 4 and 5, 2004
Ronald Reagan Building
November 4th 9:00 4:00
Emil Frankel, Vice Chair of the Access Board, Lawrence Roffee , Executive Director of the Access Board, and Denis Pratt, Access Board member welcomed committee members, thanked them for their willingness to serve on the committee, and underscored the impor ta nce of accessibility to courthouses.
Introduction of Members
Committee members introduced themselves, described organizations they represent, and noted reasons for their interest in the advisory committee, as did members of the public in attendance.
Briefing on the Federal Advisory Committee Act
Elizabeth Stewart provided an overview of the Federal Advisory Committee Act and its provisions governing the structure and operation of advisory committees chartered by Federal agencies. These include stipulations on: committee tenure (two years with extensions possible), committee meetings (must be open to the public, notice must be provided at least 15 days in advance, minutes or summaries required), option to form subcommittees which can broaden participation beyond committee membership. It was noted that copies of a video on the Act were provided to each member for viewing at their leisure.
Board Briefing on Courthouse Access
Dave Yanchulis and Denis Pratt provided a briefing on the Access Board, including its mission, services, program goals, and work developing guidelines for the built environment, including courthouses. Key issues of courthouse accessibility and determined information needs were highlighted. Pratt outlined results and findings from an accessibility survey he conducted of 43 nonfederal courthouses in the State of Maine in his capacity as an architect for Alpha One. Common problems that were identified in this survey included access to jury boxes, witness stands, spec ta tor seating, assistive listening systems, restrooms, holding cells.
Issues for the Advisory Committee to Address
Committee members offered recommendations on issues the committee should address and explore in fulfilling its mission and shared various observations. These recommendations addressed topics and challenges to accessibility in areas of education and outreach, design and construction, existing facilities, and cost. The Board agreed to follow up with a listing of the recommendations made for future committee discussion and deliberations [attached list].
Follow Up Actions Approved
Action by the Board or committee members agreed to as a follow up to this meeting or for next meeting included:
A reception was held after the meeting.
November 5 ( 9:00 12:00 )
Members of the public in attendance made comments that:
Issues for the Advisory Committee to Address
The committee continued its discussion from the previous day on issues to be explored. Issues concerning courtroom lifts and industry standards, education, existing facilities, and costs were raised [included in attached list].
Selection of Chair
The advisory committee selected Sam Overton and Eve Hill as Committee Co-Chairs.
Next Meeting (Dates and Location) and Meeting Schedule
Committee members discussed several dates in January and locations ( Washington , D.C. , San Francisco , Las Vegas , Phoenix ) for the next meeting. No firm consensus was reached. The co-chairs and the Board agreed to survey members on preferred dates and times by circulating a list of several options at a later date.
The committee decided to meet on a quarterly basis (instead of bi-monthly) and to set meeting dates for the rest of the year at the next meeting.
Elizabeth Stewart conducted a review of the committee's protocols. Several limited revisions were approved (replacing the term chair with co-chair, adding language about the availability of meeting summaries on the Board's website, and the adopted quarterly meeting schedule). The Board will provide a revised version of the protocols at the committee's next meeting.
The committee discussed the organization and delineation of subcommittees and agreed to three that would focus on:
It was further agreed that the education subcommittee will perform an internal function by collecting existing resources, studies, and other materials and will regularly keep the committee apprised of the information collected.
A sign-up sheet was circulated among members for subcommittee membership.
List of Issues for Advisory Committee to Address or Consider
Education and Outreach
- Education is a key issue
- Attitudinal barriers are a factor
- Judges have to be part of the process of ensuring access
- How can the public, designers, court administrators be educated on accessibility?
- How can information be disseminated most effectively?
- Guidance material needs to be developed
- Rationale underlying access provisions is impor ta nt
- More information on assistive devices (other than assistive listening systems)
- Data base of design solutions could be an effective resource finding good examples of fully compliant courthouses is difficult
Audiences to Target
- Bench officers
- Clients information developed can help architects understand access requirements (clients focus on minimum, not what is best)
- Local funding authorities need to be involved and educated they can impact access through budgetary restraints
- Facility users such as local officials (e.g., county treasurers, city auditors, sheriffs) don't focus solely on court authorities and officers
- Need to cover all levels of government and courts
Organizations to Involve and Programs Consider:
- States orien ta tion and training programs for judges (e.g, Judicial College in CA) and statewide conferences and programs (e.g., judicial retreat held in MT)
- Disability organizations, including state organizations
- ABA Commission on Mental and Physical Disability
- Conference of Chief Justices (annual conference, semi-annual meetings)
- Conference of State Administrators
- National Association of Court Managers (cities and counties, annual conference is devoted to education and training)
- National Association of State Bar Presidents
- National Center for State Courts (involved in education projects)
- National Judicial College (orien ta tion for state trial judges)
- State bar associations
Design and Construction
- Creativity is essential in solving problems of access to courthouses
- Why aren't existing guidelines being met in new construction?
- Committee news to explore history behind traditional courtroom design, rationale vary greatly by location, level of court, local culture and traditions, etc. ( National Center for State Courts' Court Design Guide covers some of this)
- Wide variety of courtroom types (e.g., drug court, family court), some of which don't look like typical courtrooms
- More and more specialty courtrooms being built
- Need to look at issues element-by-element
- Issue of facility ownership/ responsibility
- Accessibility is not priority aesthetics and other aspects are
- Access not required or mandated is not followed
- People with disabilities and universal designers not included in design teams or involved in design process; cross section of people with disabilities must be involved in process
- Volume of building requirements and stack of information architects of courthouses must deal with
- Personal preferences of judges - rules and regulations v. preferences and culture
- Space impacts of ramps and other access elements
Specific Spaces and Elements
- Single grand entrances not accessible, access provided at secondary entrances (which may not be open at all times)
- Heavy doors that are hard to open (size, wind loading, and other factors) existing standards do not limit the opening force of exterior doors and do not mandate door automation
- Security systems
- Counters and podiums often not accessible
- Signage visibility and clarity of directional signs
- Judges' chambers access for attorneys
- Work areas and elements, including counters
- Law libraries computers mounted for use by standees
- Holding cells toilets often inaccessible
- Visitor areas fixed stools pose barrier
- Entrances heavy doors, vestibules impact access
- Entry gates (dual swing) impair access not only people with disabilities, but also bailiffs
- Jury boxes integrating wheelchair space in seating plan
- Witness stands
- Spectator areas
- Seating that accommodates people who use walkers, crutches, leg braces
- Ramps should exceptions from handrail requirement be considered?
- Acoustics often poor
- Level of independent operation required (some design require removal of steps)
- Courtroom installations do not meet current industry standards
- The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) is currently considering updates to its lift standards specific to courtroom installations and would like input from committee as this work proceeds; changes under consideration include:
- setting a travel distance limit of 24 inches as the basis for exceptions from some existing criteria
- reducing the minimum height of side barriers (from 42 to 36 inches)
- allowing larger platform sizes (25 instead of 18 square foot maximum)
- Maintenance (lack thereof is problematic) and performance (sinkage of platform over time is a concern)
- Noise issues
- Can wheelstops effectively replace side wall barriers?
- Input from lift users needed
- A study of witness stand access at 11 facilities conducted for the General Services Administration results can be shared with committee