Editor’s note: Answer Line was on assignment this week and will return next week. In the meantime, enjoy this best-of column consisting of questions and answers from September 2015 and August 2015.
QUESTION: I recently accompanied a friend who uses a wheelchair to a doctor’s appointment at a newly constructed medical office. We noticed that even though there are entrances on all four sides, only one entrance has wheelchair accessibility. I was wondering if this meets ADA requirements?
ANSWER: I’m going to tell you what I found to be some of the applicable standards and tell you how you can file a complaint if you still think this building might be violating those standards. What I will not do is issue an opinion on whether the building meets accessibility standards, because after spending just a little time trying to read and understand the many requirements, I am certain I’m not qualified to make such a judgment.
I will start by telling you, though, that Texas has its own accessibility standards and a permitting and inspection process in place to try to ensure this kind of new construction is accessible to people with disabilities. I’m told the state standards pretty much are the same as the federal standards. The difference is that Texas takes a proactive approach by being involved in implementing those standards during the construction process instead of enforcing them only on a complaint basis after construction is finished. (I’ll also note the city of Longview relies on that state process when it comes to reviewing buildings for handicapped accessibility. It does not get involved in inspecting buildings for compliance.)
Now, back to the question at hand. I visited the specific building you mentioned and actually saw two public entrances. Both had automatic sliding doors and were accessible by nearby ramps from the parking areas.
A Department of Justice spokesperson explained to me that the most recent ADA standards require that at least 60% of public entrances be accessible.
Bob Posey is project manager for the state’s Eliminating Architectural Barriers Program, the Texas equivalent of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The state’s law was created in the late 1960s to provide accessibility for injured veterans returning from Vietnam and other wars.
“It has evolved since the late 1960s to its current iteration today. Basically what it requires is building owners to register, have a plan review performed and a final inspection performed,” he said.
The standards apply to any new commercial construction, but the registration and inspection process is for projects that cost $50,000 or more and that are a commercial facility or public accommodation.
The state doesn’t directly register and inspect projects, though. Instead, it has created a process to create registered accessibility specialists to handle that work.
Posey said a project at the address you mentioned was registered and ultimately inspected and approved.
However, if you still think there might be a violation of state or federal rules at this building, you could contact the experts. Complain to the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division online at ada.gov/filing_complaint.htm .
Q: Recently I was in the “turn right on red” lane at Fourth Street and Loop 281 in Longview. I was pointed south on Fourth to turn right onto the loop. I made sure there was no moving traffic, and I began my turn. I had seen the traffic on the loop starting to turn left onto Fourth, when suddenly a vehicle made a U-turn at the protected left and came into my lane and almost hit me.
My light was red. I stopped and proceeded right on red. The other guy had a protected left turn, not a protected U-turn. Who might have been found at fault?
A: U-turns are legal at intersections on Loop 281 when drivers have the green light in the left turn lane. Longview police spokeswoman Kristie Brian said that means that if you’re turning right on a red light, it’s your duty to yield to the flow of traffic.
“They have the green light,” she said of the driver in the left turn lane in this kind of situation. “Even though they’re making a U-turn, it doesn’t matter. You still have to yield to them.”