The Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International has submitted extensive comments on proposed modifications to the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG), calling on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to maintain a broad grandfather clause to protect existing facilities already in compliance with the current ADAAG. The changes to the Guidelines, including the critical grandfathering provisions, reflect the revisions proposed by the U.S. Access Board as a result of their deliberations over the past several years.
“Without a broad grandfather clause, the Department of Justice would be ignoring the extensive initial costs and efforts that have gone into implementation of previous ADA requirements in existing facilities,” said BOMA International Chair and Chief Elected Officer Richard D. Purtell, RPA, portfolio manager, Grubb & Ellis Management Services, Inc. “The proposed amendments also contain areas where additional clarity is needed and the Final Rules should not be rushed until they are fully vetted.”
The comments explained that BOMA International has a long-standing commitment to ensure that future iterations of the ADAAG reflect the “state of the art” of accessibility, provide for a high degree of design flexibility, and are written in a clear, understandable and enforceable language. While BOMA believes the new Guidelines published by the Access Board substantially achieve these goals, there is a need to address some key areas.
BOMA commended the DOJ for including broad “safe harbor” clauses for existing buildings and elements in compliance with the current Standards for barrier removal and path of travel obligations, but emphasized that it is critical to maintain safe harbors in the Final Rules so that existing facilities in compliance with current ADAAG are not forced to undergo extensive upgrades to comply simply with the new changes to the standards.
Regarding various additions and deletions to the Guidelines, BOMA has requested that the DOJ refer any technical changes to the Access Board for consideration. Currently, the DOJ is proposing adoption of its own additional criteria in certain instances without returning the issue to the Access Board. In its comments, BOMA made suggestions to several additions and deletions relating to key areas of accessibility, including: stairs, elevators, new construction, side reach, water closet clearance and door hardware.
BOMA expects the final guidelines to be published before year-end.