A primary purpose of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as it relates to schools and universities is to give the more than 5 million students with disabilities the same access to transportation, school buildings and telecommunications that students without disabilities enjoy.
Schools can lose federal funding and accreditation if not in compliance. In addition, inaction constitutes a violation of a disabled person's civil rights, and school districts and administrators can face the possibility of lawsuits, which can damage an institution's reputation, among other things.
Adhering to Title III
If a school or educational facility is undergoing renovations to its existing space or a new construction project, compliance with Title III in public restrooms of the facility is mandatory.
As a school administrator, facilities or physical plant manager, interpreting the ADA correctly and recommending ways to adhere to the law is essential to the compliance process. To aid in this process, consider the following (As always, it is advisable to review the ADA and its regulations, as well as check individual state and local codes for any additional re quirements):
-Public or private. The ADA Title III divides buildings and facilities into two categories: public accommodations and commercial facilities. Schools are public accommodations.
-Compliance in existing educational facilities. The first step is to review the type of construction project. Requirements for public accommodations existed before the ADA was passed. In addition, existing public accommodations must meet ADA requirements for barrier removal, if possible. Some examples of the Title III-required barrier removal in washrooms include relocation of dispensers and the widening of stall partitions (if current dispensers and stalls cannot be used by the disabled).
-Compliance in new construction and alterations. School buildings under construction must meet ADA technical requirements. Alterations defined as a change that affects or could affect the usability of the building or any part thereof must meet ADA compliance as well. Alterations include such projects as remodeling, renovation, rehabilitation, reconstruction, historic-preservation changes or rearrangements in structural parts or elements, and changes or rearrangements in the plan configuration of walls and fill-height partitions. Therefore, such projects as moving walls must meet accessible design requirements. Even minor alterations such as the installation of new soap, bathroom-tissue or paper-towel-dispensing systems must conform to Title III. However, work such as reroofing, painting, asbestos removal or changes to certain building systems generally are not considered alterations by ADA definition.