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Credit: Source: PUBLIC WORKS

Who does the work?Most municipalities use contractors to install ADA-compliant curb ramps.
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Credit: Photo: Jenni Spinner

The domes on these panels in downtown Arlington Heights, Ill., started peeling after one winter. After inspecting all the panels, the public works department recommended a coated metal product instead of ceramic coated with rubber.

Editor's note: While cities are working to make sidewalks more accessible, many are learning that their curb ramps don't comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This article, the final installment in a three-part series, covers real-world examples.

Given the many intricacies of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it stands to reason that one standard design can't possibly function for every curb ramp. Factors such as slope difference and interfering objects (trees, signs, fire hydrants, etc.) require a customized approach for each curb ramp. This is not to say, however, that each one must be designed from scratch.

The city of Columbus, Ohio, for example, maintains 13 standard curb ramp designs, each of which can be modified on a case-by-case basis. The Texas DOT (TxDOT) frequently incorporates continuous right-turn lanes in its traffic designs and has expanded its drawings to include special curb ramps for traffic islands. TxDOT also has developed designs for switchback ramps to accommodate the high curbs frequently found in rural Texas towns.

Studying similar projects to learn what works—and what doesn't—is important before beginning any new curb ramp project. Training the entire team—not only your staff, but also design consultants and the construction workers that will build the ramps—is necessary to ensure success.

A recent lawsuit in Pennsylvania demonstrates the importance of training all personnel involved with a curb ramp project. A local advocacy group for the disabled sued a city, claiming the city had failed to comply with the ADA. The city negotiated an interim settlement agreement that required it to begin a curb ramp construction program as a part of its ongoing road resurfacing while final settlement negotiations continued.

Early in the program, the city had to suspend curb ramp construction because a high percentage of the newly constructed ramps were not ADA-compliant. The city asked Columbus, Ohio-based H.R. Gray to help develop a training program for engineering staff, inspection personnel, local consultants, and contractors. Ramp construction resumed and nearly 100% compliance was achieved almost immediately.

Ensuring the entire team is in sync also is key to success. One person on the team may have more knowledge of ADA issues than the others, so it's important to meet as a team well in advance of the project's commencement to make sure everyone can benefit from this knowledge before things are underway.

Likewise, if no one on the team feels well educated on the complexities of the ADA, an ADA compliance training course might be helpful for the team to undergo before starting the project. Advocacy groups, which are excellent resources, also should be brought into the project during the planning stages to ensure that any confusion about specifications is addressed in a timely manner.

— Sexton is construction manager with H.R. Gray, Columbus, Ohio.