Today, thousands of pedestrian facilities are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Effective in 1990, the ADA requires all new and altered facilities to be accessible to people with disabilities. Due to the act’s recency, not all infrastructure has been updated to meet the these standards. Public agencies, such as state Departments of Transportation (DOTs), are required to inventory and create an ADA Transition Plan to outline the agency’s long term plan to address non-compliant facilities, such as curb ramps.
With many facilities to inspect, DOTs are left wondering: how do you scale a program to take inventory of the whole state, how do you gather all the needed information, and where do you start? The answer is to divide and conquer. Develop a program that works in a small area, such as a county, then repeat it throughout the state. There are three key elements to keep in mind while developing an efficient, large-scale compliance program – consistency, data management and simplicity.
As the program grows, each area’s data gathered must have the same accuracy and detail to ensure that each instance of non-compliance is recorded and addressed in a consistent manner. First, the team must be aware of which standards to use. While the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design (ADAAG) are federal law, some states may have adopted the Public Right-of-Way Guidelines (PROWAG) and will require those guidelines be met.
Once the standards are established, each facility must be inspected consistently, which extends to quantitative and qualitative data. The quantitative data must be measured using the same method and documented to the same level of accuracy each time the measurement is performed. Qualitative data must be defined so that it is not subjective to the person collecting the data. For example, the degree of severity could be ranked 1-5, with clear examples or descriptions of what elements are considered for each level of severity. This helps a large team accurately and efficiently collect quality data keeping a program consistent.
When collecting large quantities of data, it is vital to have a strategy for maintaining and organizing it to prioritize areas for improvement. Typically, this includes an application to track, filter and prioritize information tied to a location by cost, severity or ease of improvements. Specific programs include geo-referencing that ties all the data to coordinates on a map to help visualize where improvements will be or integrate with data collection apps to streamline the process. These technologies are useful when the amount of data is compounded by the high number of sites inspected. Instead of being overwhelmed by the numbers, a good data management system will allow you to visualize, sort and filter the data for easy decision making.
It is easy to stumble into over-designing compliance improvements, but it is best to find the path of least resistance to manage multiple sites. Prioritizing projects based on the required improvements can help streamline design needs and budget for improvements. For example, some improvements may be as simple and low cost as a dome mat replacement, which can quickly move from design into construction or even be performed by agency maintenance crews. Improvements requiring minor curb ramp reconstruction may be accomplished using aerial mapping instead of survey for high-level design layouts, refrences to standard drawings and construction specifications and simplified plan sets. More complex improvements may require field survey efforts to provide detailed design, but can still utilize simplified plan packages to bid the improvements.
Additionally, geo-referenced data can identify where necessary improvements overlap with a planned project, identifying work that will be performed in upcoming improvements. Well-managed and prioritized data can help identify the “low-hanging fruit” to make planned improvements a reality quickly, benefitting people with disabilities.
Case Study: Mahoning County ADA Compliance Check
Ohio DOT (ODOT) selected B&N to develop a pilot ADA compliance program that could be implemented across the state. This project began in Mahoning County, where three project team members went into the field to verify data in ODOT’s Transportation Information Mapping System (TIMS).
- Consistency: B&N developed a data collection application that captured the criteria necessary to comply with ODOT’s curb ramp and push-button standards. Each person completing fieldwork was trained on the correct way to measure data, and the team established a data collection route to ensure that no sites were missed. With the data collection application and process established, the data collection proceeded swiftly. The team assessed 181 curb ramps and 106 pedestrian pushbuttons for compliancy in two working days.
- Data Management: The data collection app integrated with TIMS to input data directly into ODOT’s existing system, including geo-referencing.
- Simplicity: TIMS used aerial base mapping to illustrate where planned projects overlapped with necessary improvements, helping to prioritize where improvements can be made. B&N created simplified construction documents and cost estimates for these projects, providing ODOT with schematic information that could be used to kick-start project scoping, detailed estimates and designs if needed, and construction.
More Than Compliance
Setting up an ADA compliance program for large-scale success requires a defined process for gathering data, a versatile program for managing it and a strategy for making planned improvements a reality. These elements affect more than ADA compliance – they help ensure that people with disabilities have equal access and independence. Contact Amy Rosepiler, PE to learn more.