ADA Handicapped Guidelines
- The purpose of the ADA handicapped guidelines is to give dignity and opportunty to the differently-abled, allowing them to participate in such activities as shopping, watching a movie in a theater, enjoying a meal at a restaurant or exercising at a gym--activities most people take for granted. The guidelines establish acceptable norms that provide access for those in wheel chairs.
- The ADA guidelines create responsibilities for any business serving the public, from shops, to restaurants, bars, theaters, hotels and schools. Most people are familiar with the ubiquitous handicapped parking spaces. But most might overlook ramps that provide access despite architectural barriers such as stairs, or special counters and tables designed at a fixed height to accommodate wheel chairs. Bathrooms are also usually required to have at least one stall with handles to facilitate handicapped access.
- Some of the even less obvious guidelines have to do with maneuverability. In most cases, a 36-inch wide route is needed with slightly larger corners for turns. In spaces requiring a 180-degree turn, a full 60-inch diameter turning space or a 36-inch wide "T" is needed. If there are turnstiles, the business must provide a gate for wheelchair access. If a business has difficulty providing enough maneuvering space, they may be forced to eliminate some displays or shelving, even if it materially harms their business.
- Understandably, anyone who's been harmed by ADA guidelines is less than enthusiastic about the rules, even with the tax credit available to businesses incurring expenses in complying with the rules. Handicapped spaces were frequently mocked when first installed because they were usually empty most of the time. In general, however, society is not particularly tolerant of mocking the handicapped and respond well to the accommodations. New constructions are designed with the guidelines in mind, helping to ensure that no one is inconvenienced.
- Accommodations for the handicapped are another chapter in a long line of increased tolerance in American society, going back to the abolition of slavery, woman's suffrage, and the civil rights movement. Handicapped individuals are able to reach their full potential at least in part because many of the unnecessary obstacles before them have been removed. It's possible that the special consideration given to the handicapped will inspire people to continue the pattern of increased freedom and tolerance in America to people of all religions, nationalities and orientations.