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Accessibility Issues: Mixed but not exclusive of each other, “HARDSHIP” and “Not Readily Achievable”

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This is Fay Sueltz' second article on accessibility for us. I met Fay by chance at a networking function for forensics professionals. She is one of the very few California Division of the State Architect Certified Access Specialists (CASp) in the San Diego region. I personally find that accessibility guidelines are as easy to read and understand as Cuneiform, but Fay is able to speak and write about the subject with incredible clarity. In this article, we learn about two very important terms in California accessibility legislation: Hardship and Not Readily Achievable     [Brian Hill]

Usually, when a building is upgraded, all ADA issues are to be brought up to current Building Code. However, during a remodel with a certain value of construction, (now around $150,000, verify) Code Section 1134 of the California Building Code allows for only 20% of total project monies of any remodel to be used on ADA upgrades, if upgrading all ADA areas is determined to be a “HARDSHIP” by the building authority AND there is equivalent facilitation offered.

A CASp Report, procured by business and to stave off legal action concerning non-compliant ADA issues in older buildings is done by the inspecting CAS (Certified Accessibility Specialist) with an eye to all non-compliant ADA issues, regardless of cost to remedy or extent of any future remodel & budget. It is the Client’s responsibility to determine dates for remedy of non-compliant ADA issues listed in the Report.

The signing off on dates to remediate with any semblance of certainty can prove a quandary as some areas may be obviously quite difficult to remodel. For example, sometimes whole stair cases do not have even one landing of compliant length. The remedy for this situation could involve the moving of a stairwell wall and door, or a flight of steps. These modifications may be expensive and involve some major redesign of other areas, or may be technically infeasible because of the location of structural columns, etc.

Not knowing about future remodel, and not having the authority of a building official, a good option in a tough fix scenario for the CASp is to advise the owner that in lieu of putting a date for renovation of a specific area in their CASp Report would be to write the words: Not readily Achievable. The wording refers to a “READILY ACHIEVABLE” barriers list in the Federal ADA. This open-ended determination would need to be updated on a yearly or bi-yearly basis by the Client, until such time as there is a major remodel and it can be filed as a “HARDSHIP” where use of the elevator instead of the stairs would likely serve as a means of achieving “EQUIVALENT FACILITATION”; or at a time when and if the budget allows for the major fix.

The apples and oranges of a “HARDSHIP” application and “Not Readily Achievable” designation of a CASp Report can blend together to afford the Client means to fix things over time and according to their budget.


About the Author

Fay Lorraine Sueltz - CA Certified Accessibility SpecialistFay Lorraine studied architecture and art in undergraduate schools, Occidental College, and as a transfer into the University of Southern California where she graduated in 1977 earning a BS Arch in. She graduated from Columbia University in 1982 with a MS in Architecture. She holds architectural licenses in New York gained in 1984, California, gained in 1987, and the District of Columbia gained in 1999.

Since the advent of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1992, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968, Fay Lorraine has been creating ADA compliant design on commercial, institutional and housing projects which include: a gym, two restaurants and 3 floors of office space for the San Fernando Building, Los Angeles, 1992- 1994; offices and classroom remodels for American University, DC and Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA; luxury apartments for Montrachet at Denver West for MVE, Architects, 60,000 s.f. of interior architecture including lab spaces, four large restrooms and 2 small restrooms, a Conference Center, a Copy center, a Company Store, a Cafeteria and Offices for a Pfizer building in La Jolla, CA for Kornberg Associates, CA., La Jolla Methodist church toilet room remodel; Point Loma community Presbyterian Church ADA upgrade of classrooms and restrooms and Palomar Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

In 2009 she gained California CASp Certificate #141 and has engaged in service for providing CASp reports for business and building owners towards their protection from frivolous and repeat lawsuits.

Fay Lorraine graduated from the DSA University in 2011 enabling her for work on LAUSD projects.

Image courtesy Patrick Feller


Topics: *, FS, RE, California, CASp, Fay Lorraine Sueltz, Accessibility, Certified Access Specialist (CASp), Construction Legal Issues, ADA

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