Apr 232012

I want to use this post to remind you about changes in the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which went into effect March 15.  They may not affect you and your self-storage business today, but if you remodel, make substantial renovations (which could include new asphalt), or plan to build or expand, you need to be aware of these updates.

The basis of the changes was a new set of Accessible Standards for Design issued by the Justice Department in 2010, which went into effect last month.  These standards clearly apply to the self-storage industry. The new requirements surround scoping and dispersion.

“Scoping” means 5 percent of all new (or substantially renovated) self-storage units must meet the definition of “accessible” if you add or renovate less than 200 units, or 10 units plus 2 percent if the facility has more than 200 units.

“Dispersion” means accessible units must be “dispersed” among all classes of units offered. However, classes are not defined, so we don’t know if dispersion is calculated on size alone or also other features such as temperature control. We do know that if there are more classes than the required number of units you are building/adding, you don’t have to build extra accessible units just to have one in every class.

Accessible means a lot of different things, so consult with your architect, builder and/or legal counsel. Where it certainly applies is the amount of foot pounds of pressure you have to exert to open a self-storage unit door. If a roll-up door requires more than the allowed amount of exertion, measured by foot pounds of pressure, then the unit does not meet the definition and cannot be counted as disability accessible.

Other considerations include the severity of the rise/fall of the rain lip. Can a person in a wheel chair get over it? There are standards for how much change in slope there can be over a foot of distance, and rain lips probably violate this standard. The same is true of sloping driveways away from buildings. It makes great design sense to move water away from the building, but watch out, because the units still have to comply with the ADA as it pertains to the amount of rise or fall over a given number of feet of distance.

The law is the law, and if you don’t comply, there are lots of testers out there waiting to find you and force modifications. Believe me, I see them every day in the apartment industry. They will find you because those with disabilities know their rights and are vocal about protecting them. And, of course, there is money in finding violations. So be careful to design any new building or make any renovations with a clear understanding and an eye to the new ADA requirements.

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