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Left: ADA compliance may include changing curb ramp configuration to add truncated domes and a slope, such as in this sidewalk in Columbus, Ohio. Above: Inspecting the final construction work is key to ensuring that all requirements are met. Engineers will measure for pitch and width, along with other parameters specific to a curb ramp location. Photos: H.R. Gray
Dispelling the myths

Three tips to ensure every project is compliant.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a civil rights protection law that leaves many (often ambiguous) decisions to local officials and design engineers. While we're using curb ramps as an example, applying the following principles to any ADA-related project can help a team troubleshoot and plan accurately—ultimately saving time and money.

1. There's no such thing as a “standard corner”

If your city has just one drawing for curb ramps, there's no way it can be correctly applied to every single curb. Trees, slope difference, signs, fire hydrants, inlets, and utility poles affect the design of a curb ramp for any particular location. Recognizing the uniqueness of curbs, many cities have created multiple “standard” drawings to apply on a case-by-case basis.

2. Educate the entire team before undertaking an ADA-compliance project

While the city engineer may be well-read on the law, such knowledge may not translate through to the design engineer, contractor, and inspectors.

Before embarking on a compliance project, send the entire team to an ADA-compliance training course. They exist, and they provide valuable knowledge on exactly what makes a project compliant. Starting an ADA compliance project with all players having the same knowledge reduces questions and variances as the design and installation move forward. If everyone on the team has the same compliance goal, mistakes are difficult to miss.

Using ADA advocacy groups as a partner in any project also ensures a successful result. Bring them into the project as early as possible.

3. Keep ADA a priority, regardless of the project

Curb ramps are only one example of how the ADA impacts the public domain. For any project, it pays to have complete understanding of the ADA's policy on that particular feature before design, planning, and execution. Finally, treat every project as unique. Just as each corner is unique in the world of curb ramps, each construction project is also unique. By thoroughly researching similar previous projects, one can learn from mistakes, find positive examples, and create a guide for moving forward. Remembering the uniqueness of each, and following the above reminders, can create a method that averts design flaws and saves resources.