|October 28, 2002|
Michael Mankin, Chief
Office of Universal Design
State of California
Division of the State Architect
COMMENTS OF THE CALIFORNIA DIVISION OF THE STATE ARCHITECT
REGARDING DRAFT GUIDELINES FOR ACCESSIBLE PUBLIC RIGHTS-OF-WAY
The California Division of the State Architect (DSA) is pleased to submit the following comments on the Draft Guidelines for Accessible Public Rights-Of-Way, which were issued on June 17, 2002.
Additions and Alterations 1102.2
The scoping of this section is unclear and leaves a high degree of digression as to the level of accessibility provided by the covered entity. The preamble to the guideline states:
"For less extensive projects, limited improvements to accessibility would generally be expected. For example, if an existing portion of sidewalk along a block face were rebuilt or replaced, at a minimum the new portion of sidewalk would be subject to specifications for sidewalks, including those for curb ramps and surfacing, among other things. However, compliance with these guidelines would not extend to untouched sections of sidewalk outside the planned alterations."
In California, we require that the area of alteration be made accessible, and a path of travel to the altered area. The "path of travel" provisions in Title III of the ADA were modeled after the scoping provisions of the California Building Code. We suggest greater specificity in this regard, and request justification for the lack of clarity. In all cases, the area of alteration should be made accessible, with the path of travel subject to the 20% disproportionate cost criteria established by the Department of Justice.
Minimum Clear Width 1103.3
We support 48" as the minimum width dimension for a pedestrian access route. California has used 48" as a standard since 1982. This dimension however will not allow for the passing of two wheelchairs. We recommend that pullouts be included every 400 feet. Also, the guideline should include resting areas on pedestrian access routes with continuous gradients. The California Building Code requires the following in this regard:
Walks with continuous gradients.
All walks with continuous gradients shall have level areas at least 5 feet (1524 mm) in length at intervals of at least every 400 feet (121 920 mm).
Alternate Circulation Path 1102.3, 1111
We support the requirement for alternate circulation paths when pedestrian routes are temporarily blocked due to construction, alteration, maintenance, etc. A note should be added to clarify that this section also applies when doing accessibility-related projects. For example, jurisdictions replacing curb ramps as part of a resurfacing project, or as part of implementing an ADA transition plan should provide temporary ramps in order to assure access to the public right of way. In California, we require a minimum clear width of 48" (rather than the 36" recommended in the guidelines), for alternate circulation paths. We believe the additional 12" is necessary to provide an accessible environment. This has been required for the past 22 years without any difficulty based on space constraints. Therefore we are recommending that the Board require a clear width of 48" consistent with the minimum clear width for a pedestrian access route.
We support the requirement to install rigid construction barricades. Many jurisdictions, such as the City and County of San Francisco have developed independent policies that require barricades. The San Francisco program has been highly successful and has created a safer environment for all pedestrians.
We are disappointed that the proposed requirement for a "vibration free zone" has not been included in the draft guidelines. We have observed a number of instances where the choice of surfacing materials has rendered the project inaccessible. For example, using cobblestones in historic districts, or to create the illusion of historicity, creates a highly inaccessible environment for wheelchair users. Likewise, wood decking, which is used to construct old western style boardwalks can often cup and separate, rendering the surface inaccessible. We request justification as to why the board would not consider reinstating the "vibration free" provision into the final guidelines.
Surface Gaps at Railroad Crossings 1103.7
We do not support allowing a 2-1/2" to 3" gap at railroad crossings, and request justification for such a hazardous condition for wheelchair users and semi-ambulant people who use walkers or crutches. It has been our experience in California that once a regulation passes, industry can usually find a way to meet the standard. For example, California was one of the 1st states to require access to card readers at gas pumps and ATM machines, many years before the ADA. Industry argued that it could not be done; yet when the regulations took effect, compliant designs were developed. We would support some grace period in order to allow technologies for rail crossings to be tested; however to remove the ½" maximum requirement completely is not warranted.
Curb Ramps and Blended Transitions 1102.6, 1104
We support the use of parallel curb ramps whenever possible. For new construction, installing parallel ramps would rarely be a problem. We agree that perpendicular ramps are sometimes necessary for existing conditions. The guidelines should require parallel curb ramps for all new installations and allow perpendicular ramps only for alterations or when installing parallel ramps would be technically infeasible.
Parallel Curb Ramps 1104.2.2
California specifies a parallel ramps with 1:12 side slopes (with a 2% maximum level landing the base), where a 48" deep top landing cannot be provided, or the depth of the existing right of way is 5' or less. We believe that specifying a 5' maximum setback from the curb face to the right of way would provide greater clarity in how to apply this condition.
We support the proposal to require a 2-inch visually contrasting strip along each tread nosing which is very important for persons with visual impairments. Especially in high/low lighting conditions, unmarked stair treads pose a significant danger to persons with low vision. California has required this at exterior and interior stairs since 1982. We have found it to be a highly effective accessibility measure. We agree with the proposed amendment submitted by the California Council of the Blind, as follows:
"Where provided, stairs shall comply with 504. The upper approach as well as all stair treads shall have be clearly marked with a 2-inch (51 mm) wide strip of color contrasting with the tread and riser, dark on light or light on dark, the full width of the front edge of each tread."
Detectable Warnings 1104.3.2
We support the use of detectable warnings on curb ramps and specifically the in-line v. diagonal dome design. California has required detectable warnings since April 1, 1994. California did not remove the requirement from the Building Code when the federal suspension took effect. We require detectable warnings on curb ramps when the slope of the ramp is 1:15 (6.67%) or less. This compromise was arrived at based on testimony from the blind community that steeper inclines on ramps were detectable and therefore provide a noticeable cue that a transition from sidewalk to street is taking place. The 1:15 cutoff was also a compromise for the segments of our population who use wheelchairs or who are semi-ambulant. In the past, these user groups have been opposed to truncated domes, however we feel the new in-line design will address many of the concerns raised. By requiring that the truncated domes be in a line and widely spaced pattern, wheelchair users will be able to wheel across the domes without difficulty. Finally the guidelines should specify that the "width of the ramp" encompass the base of the ramp, excluding the flared sides. We are aware that the 1:15 slope is not based on any scientific study (see comment of the California Council of the Blind). We request that the board consider further study on whether a 1:15 threshold can be used as an alternative to requiring detectable warnings on all curb ramps.
Other Requirements for Curb Ramps and Blended Transitions
We agree with the requirement to prohibit the placement of gratings, storm drain, utility and sewer access covers and similar fixtures on ramps, landings, etc. for all newly constructed facilities. For existing facilities were alterations are occurring, it can be prohibitively expensive to relocate these elements outside of the ramp area. We have allowed utility covers successfully on ramps, providing the cover material meets the requirements for ground surfaces and poses no hazard. We urge the board to limit this requirement to new construction.
Pedestrian Overpasses and Underpasses
We do not agree, and request justification that an elevator should be the only means to accomplish elevation changes greater than 60". In some areas, such as park and recreation areas and other remote or natural settings, an inclined pathway that is more universally usable by bicycles, strollers, etc to accomplish the change in grade. We have some safety concerns with exclusively requiring elevators, particularly in unmonitored areas.
We agree with the requirement that marked crosswalks have a width of 96 inches minimum, that the cross slope shall be 1:48 or 2.08 percent maximum measured perpendicular to the direction of pedestrian travel with a running slope shall be 1:20 maximum. These dimensions are critical to insuring that people with disabilities can cross vehicular ways safely.
Vertical Access 1102.12.
We agree with the proposal to require that vertical access elevators and lifts remain unlocked. This will insure that access to the disabled is as readily available as it to the general public.
Medians and Pedestrian Refuge Islands 1105.4.
We agree with the proposal to align the edge of the cut through in the direction of the crosswalk for a length of 24" minimum. Edges provide a directional orientation reference point for persons who are blind or visually impaired.
Accessible Pedestrian Signal Systems 1102.8, 1106
We agree that audible signal devices should be provided at all signalized intersections. Many cities in California have used audible pedestrian signals, including Oakland, CA, which has had a program in place since 1984. Audible signals not only assist people with visual impairments, but also are very popular with senior citizens who feel safer crossing intersections equipped with this technology.
Street Furniture 1102.9, 1107
We support the requirements to provide access to street furniture.
Public Toilet Facilities 1107.5
We agree that public toilet facilities should be accessible. We disagree with, and request justification for the 5% cap on the number of accessible units provided. Providing only 5% accessible clustered toilets means that persons with disabilities who use mobility devices must wait much longer for the use of the few accessible portable toilets while the general public has many more options. For the past 32 years, California has required that all newly constructed restroom facilities be accessible.
Detectable Warning Surfaces 1108
We support the proposed guidelines for detectable warnings with the modifications discussed previously under curb ramps.
On Street Parking 1109
We support the proposal to provide on-street accessible parking.
Call Boxes 1110.6.2
We strongly support the use of TTY's on emergency call boxes. It is critical for all people to have the ability to convey the nature of the emergency and to receive specific instructions from the dispatcher. Emergency telephones with integrated TTY's are commercially available and in use in many locations today.
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