How Facility Managers Can Keep Maintenance ADA Compliant

Published June 3, 2021

Building repairs and maintenance must be carried in accordance with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations and standards in order to stay compliant. However, in practice, building owners and facility managers may sometimes overlook or may not fully understand the accessibility requirements with regard to ongoing maintenance once the construction has been completed.

In addition to major accessibility issues during building repair or renovation, even simple daily cleaning and maintenance mistakes can cause violation of ADA rules if the facility managers are not careful. Examples of violations in everyday building maintenance may include wrong positioning of the trashcan near the washroom door, creating clutter in a conference room that obstructs the movement of a person using a wheelchair, or replacing the broken coat hooks at a wrong height.

Utilize the annual facility maintenance budget judiciously

Any major building will usually have a year budget for repair, maintenance, and replacement of items, such as plumbing fixtures, water fountains, finishes, locksets, handrails, and walkways.

During the scheduled replacement of worn out or damaged items, facility managers have an opportunity to replace them with accessible and compliant models where needed. Accessibility can be improved in a cost-effective manner if only the maintenance personnel are encouraged to follow best practices and think about accessibility while making decisions.

Train the maintenance personnel on ADA compliance

While experienced maintenance staff members may have some familiarity with ADA compliant repairs and maintenance, they may not have precise knowledge of the ADA’s technical requirements and standards. Building owners and facility managers should ensure that the maintenance teams are provided with the ADA Accessibility Guidelines documents. A professional accessibility consultant may be hired to train the staff on these issues.

The training can focus on simple aspects, such which models of accessible water fountains should be installed when adding new one or replacing the old ones. An internal maintenance catalog can be created for all items of this nature, which should be provided to the repair and maintenance teams.

Specify accessibility requirement to third party vendors

The owner or the facility management company may decide to outsource some of the maintenance work to professional maintenance service providers. It can be difficult to ascertain if a vendor is attuned to the ADA standards with regard to building maintenance.

The best way may be to include a clause in the service contract that the maintenance work will be in compliance with the ADA accessibility requirements. A trained in-house member should supervise the maintenance or repair work to ensure the terms of the contract are diligently followed with regard to accessibility.

Ensure coordination between facility planning and facility maintenance teams

Large businesses and buildings often have different teams designated with the responsibility of real estate planning and facility maintenance. Poor coordination and communication gaps between these teams can cause accessibility issues. For example, building expansion or facility remodeling may be necessary at some point due to the growth of business.

Any major remodeling must not create hurdles related to accessibility. The checklists to support facility maintenance and remodeling tasks should include "accessibility" as a priority item. This can get more difficult when facility managers are hard-pressed to meet deadlines and hire external consultants for the tasks. The consultant may not have accessibility on their priority list.

Therefore, it’s vital to verbally as well as contractually communicate the critical requirement to integrate accessibility into the ongoing maintenance, renovation, and remodeling projects. If a professional interior designer or architect is hired for a remodeling project, the facility managers should ensure that they are aware of the ADA compliance standards.

If this is not the case, the vendor can sub-contract the task to a certified consultant that can carry out an Accessibility Design Review of the remodeling diagrams and drawings.

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