Understanding the Importance of School ADA Compliance
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Why School ADA Compliance Is Necessary
All buildings open to the public are required to meet the guidelines set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This includes restaurants, stores, hospitals, hotels, and other places of business. However, school ADA compliance is especially important.
Every day, schools open their doors to students, teachers, staff, and visitors. Some of these individuals have disabilities that make it difficult for them to use buildings to their full extent without reasonable accommodations. To make sure that everyone can enjoy the same opportunities, schools must follow ADA guidelines to the letter and outfit their buildings with features that improve accessibility.
Here’s why school ADA compliance is necessary…
- It allows schools to provide equal access.
By incorporating accessibility features throughout school buildings, administrators can ensure that all students and staff have equal access. The addition of signage, ramps, and other elements can eliminate barriers that would otherwise prevent individuals from navigating a building or using the facilities. Ultimately, it’s about putting measures in place so that no one faces restrictions.
- It helps foster an environment of inclusiveness.
Achieving ADA compliance in schools is important from not only a practical standpoint but also an emotional one. Schools are meant to educate, inspire, and support the students who go there to learn and the staff members who go there to work. By taking the necessary steps toward making a building more accessible, administrators can create a warm and welcoming environment for all.
- It ensures that schools are obeying the law.
Of course, school ADA compliance is also necessary for legal purposes. The ADA is, after all, a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against those with disabilities. And it applies to most public and private schools. By following the guidelines set by the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design and making the necessary alterations, school officials can be sure they’re obeying the law.
What Features Are Needed for School ADA Compliance
Along with understanding why school ADA compliance is important, learning how to achieve it is also vital. Several features must be installed, and they should be considered for both remodels and new construction. Since the goal of the ADA is to prevent any form of discrimination against those with disabilities, administrators need to be aware of any potential violations. Otherwise, they could face negative consequences later down the road.
The following list highlights just some of the features that schools need to incorporate to meet ADA guidelines.
At schools, ramps and curb ramps are required along accessible routes to span any change in level greater than ½ inch. In some cases, elevators and platform lifts can be used as alternatives. Additionally, any part of an accessible route with a running slope steeper than 5% also must be treated as a ramp.
Another feature required for school ADA compliance is proper hallway dimensions. Hallways must be large enough that those using wheelchairs can move around the building without issue. The minimum hallway width allowed under the ADA is 36 inches.
School restrooms must have a wheelchair-accessible stall with minimum dimensions of 30 inches by 48 inches. Further, sinks and countertops should be no more than 34 inches high, with adequate space underneath for knee clearance.
Typically, ADA-compliant signs are required at the doorway of every permanent room and space, along with areas related to safety. Such signage must meet certain criteria, including font style, color contrast, braille type, and more. Additionally, the signs have to be mounted correctly.
As with all public facilities, schools can use ADA signage in a variety of applications. Types of signs commonly used in schools include the following:
- Room numbers – Room number signs are frequently seen in schools, as they allow students and visitors to easily locate a particular room.
- Directional signs – Signs that provide directions and instructions are also very helpful to new students, staff members, parents, and other visitors who are unfamiliar with the building or the school’s rules.
- Directories – School directories are commonly found inside the main entrance of the building and allow visitors to quickly determine which room they’re looking for.
- Restroom signs – Schools are required to have ADA signage that clearly labels boys’, girls’, and unisex restrooms, as well as identify which are wheelchair accessible.
- Accessibility signs – Signs that indicate wheelchair-accessible areas such as ramps, elevators, and entrances should also be incorporated in schools.
As mentioned above, ADA signs do need to meet strict criteria to be considered compliant. However, custom school signs that fit an institution’s brand and aesthetic can be created. It’s just a matter of working with the right fabricator.
It should be noted that schools may need to make some of these structural improvements to existing buildings to achieve compliance. That said, there are some instances in which alternative methods can be used to provide equal access to those with disabilities. That’s why administrators are strongly encouraged to read up on ADA rules, consult local building authorities, and partner with third parties that have ADA expertise.
What Are the Potential Consequences of Noncompliance?
Anyone working in or with a school should also be aware of the consequences of noncompliance, which include the following:
- Fines – If schools do not meet ADA guidelines, they run the risk of having to pay significant fines. For example, the maximum penalty for a first-time violation is $75,000.
- Lawsuits – Failure to make proper accommodations for students and staff members with disabilities leaves schools vulnerable to potential lawsuits. Such lawsuits can end up being costly, particularly when negligence or harm can be proven.
- Community backlash – When a school is found to be in violation of ADA rules, it can also lead to negative PR within the community and beyond. It suggests that consideration hasn’t been given to all students and staff, which reflects poorly on the school.
It’s not uncommon for schools to run into such issues, which is why it’s so critical to review ADA guidelines and make modifications if necessary.
Achieving school ADA compliance is vital to creating a safe and inclusive environment for those inside. It ensures that educational institutions are doing what’s necessary to provide equal access to all. Additionally, it saves school boards from having to allocate funds toward paying costly fines or lawsuits.
To make sure that at least minimum ADA requirements are met in schools, administrators need to plan accordingly, enlisting the help of sign shop owners, contractors, and other service providers that have experience in this area.
Furthermore, sign shops that have been contacted by school officials to create ADA-compliant signage should especially take the time to learn what elements must be incorporated into such displays. In doing so, they can better position themselves as a valuable resource for educational establishments in need of ADA signs. For those not equipped to handle their clients’ orders for school ADA signage, outsourcing to a third-party fabricator that is well versed in ADA rules and regulations is a viable option.
To learn more about school ADA compliance or request a quote, reach out to Erie Custom Signs today.