Richmond Magazine has recently run a few articles on the state of ADA compliance for Richmond Public Schools. Click here for first article. Although they do not mention Oregon Hill’s Open High or the new Patrick Henry charter school, they do give a good idea of some of the issues involved with updating the ADA in […]
Here’s an excerpt:
Kneeling, he applies an electronic level to the ramp that cost Richmond Public Schools $41,746 to design and install. He lifts his head, and his Oakley shades catch the reflection of a man seated in a wheelchair next to him. “This is a non-ADA-compliant entrance. It’s just all wrong.”
“Oh, my goodness,” says the other man, Michael Chenail, president of Compliance Alliance, a local company that specializes in providing consultation to businesses and governments trying to comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
The ramp descends from Ginter Park’s side stoop at too steep a gradient, a potentially costly mistake for Richmond Public Schools, agree Chenail and Waters, a commercial concrete contractor from Midlothian who specializes in ADA projects.
The district is deep into a years-long, federal court-monitored effort to bring its nearly 50 school buildings, including Ginter Park, into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, enacted in 1990. And with a federal judge watching to ensure compliance with the 2006 settlement agreement, school officials are under pressure to get right what was ignored for 20 years. Projects began in 2008 and must be completed by 2013.
Richmond Schools spokeswoman Felicia Cosby responded to inquiries regarding the projects via e-mail, indicating that the district is working to be “as fiscally responsible as possible while meeting all necessary conditions” of the “approximately 240 ADA modification projects via the Settlement Agreement.”
Cosby would not comment on specific projects, such as Ginter Park’s ramp.
The Americans with Disabilities Act ensures that public spaces and businesses provide equal or at least adequate access to all. In the case of children and parents in Richmond schools, it is supposed to ensure that those who rely on wheelchairs or crutches can make it to class and school functions like parent-teacher conferences.
Also, be sure to check out the update:
An excerpt from that:
Prezioso writes: “Per the Trice report, the basis of the settlement in federal court, the parking at Martin Luther King Middle School is compliant, and therefore, RPS is not addressing the parking at that school as part of the ADA work. The parking project listed on RPS’ website actually involved the accessible route to the parking spaces. The Trice report indicates that ‘a curb cut adjacent to the accessible parking is required.’ Therefore, the scope of work was limited to a curb cut and accessible route, next to existing parking.”
However, according to ADA guidelines, there should be one designated handicap spot for every 25 spaces (until a parking lot exceeds 100 spaces, where the standards change), meaning that Martin Luther King’s parking lot is still not in compliance.
In some cases, design costs equaled or exceeded the cost to restripe the spaces. At Blackwell Elementary annex, architects were paid $2,764 of the total $6,024 needed for the project; Broad Rock Elementary spent $2,764 of $5,145 on design. At Carver Elementary, the $3,014 in design costs exceeded by hundreds of dollars the cost to actually do the work.
ADA accessibility is a part of Universal Building Code; it is wrapped in with the federal Fair Housing Act. But it’s also separate law. While the Virginia building code has special sections on accessibility, those requirements are dispersed throughout the code, and not all of the specific requirements for construction found in the ADA are included in the building code.
As a result, says Chenail, there is often a disconnect.
“One of the things I have found in my experience is a lot of architects and builders … still do not build correctly to the ADA guidelines,” he says. “They build only to state code requirements.”
The state building code does include charts indicating the appropriate number of accessible parking spaces based on total parking. It also includes some basic information on required maximum slope for accessibility ramps.
But the disconnect between ADA and building-code officials is one that Chenail says he’s witnessed in the field as well, with building inspectors.
“Some have enough experience where they’ve started to include that into their repertoire, but I’ve talked to many who say, ‘I’m going to tell you right up front, I don’t know anything about the ADA.’ ”
City spokesman Mike Wallace confirms that the inspectors follow the Virginia building code, and that ADA compliance is the schools’ responsibility.
Prezioso says the school process is going along swiftly, with year two’s projects proceeding on schedule. She writes, “There are a total of 51 projects in various stages of bidding or construction, which are scheduled to be completed by Sept. 1, 2010.”