Conflicts Between Federal and State Laws on Disabled Access in 2011

Starting the new year (2011) on the right foot is a great way to help set the tone for the new year.

So we at YTA have decided that the best way to do that is to help all you out there notice a few of the conflicts between State and Federal Law. The state in question, of course, is California.

Between the updated 2010 Federal requirements of disabled access under the ADA for all businesses serving the public and the updated 2010 California Building Code (CBC) there are a variety of common conflicts business owners should be aware of.  Some of the common conflicts include:

  1. While the CBC never allows a maximum slope of over 8.33% (1:12) the ADA has allowances for steeper slopes if the slope rises less than 3 inches the maximum slope is 12.5% (1:8).  If the rise is 6 inches the maximum slope lowers to 10% (1:10).
  2. Ramps runs under the CBC can only rise to a maximum of 30 inches per run but as the length of the ramp run increases, the maximum slope decreases.  E.g., a ramp run that is 465 inches long cannot have a slope greater than 6.67% (1:15).
  3. The ADA always requires a clear floor space of 18 inches square directly under each door sign whereas the CBC only requires clear floor space based on the latch side clearances for each door.
  4. The CBC requires that employee parking include parking spaces reserved for the disabled.  For the CBC, the total ratio of disabled parking spaces must include employee spaces.  The Advisory for the ADA states that employee parking lots are not required to be included in the required ratio of disabled parking.
  5. The ADA allows the door closer to swing into the head clearance down to 78 inches.  The CBC does not allow the door closer to drop less than 80 inches.
  6. While both the ADA and the CBC now have requirements for a maximum mirror height of 35 inches for mirrors not over sinks in restrooms, the ADA advisory states that the top edge of stand alone mirrors should be no less than 74 inches above the finished floor.
  7. The CBC requires that disabled parking spaces reserved for vans should always have the access aisle on the passenger side (when the van is pulling forward).  The ADA allows the access aisle to be on either side of the space except when the parking space is angled.  Angled van parking spaces are required to have the access aisle on the passenger side.
  8. Parking space signs for the CBC must be at least 80 inches above the parking grade when in the path of travel.  ADA parking signs must always be at least 60 inches above the parking grade.
  9. For the ADA, grab bars in restrooms can be anywhere from 33 to 36 inches measured to the top above the finish floor.  In the CBC must be exactly 33 inches on center above the finished floor, unless you are using a tank toilet and the rear bar interferes with the tank’s lid.  If that’s the case then the CBC allows the rear bar to be anywhere from 33 to 36 inches on center.

These are just some of the conflicts between the CBC and the ADA.  Negotiating these code requirements requires intimate knowledge about both the INTENT of the law and the explicit details surrounding the requirements.  Hiring an experienced Access Consultant is a must!  Should you have any questions, please email Yours Truly Accessibility Corporation at or call us 866-982-3212 x 1.

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