The acronym “ADA” is tossed around in design quite often – especially in commercial settings. What does it mean?
ADA stands for the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was originally signed into law in 1990. The act provides the minimum requirements for designing spaces that are universally accessible, meaning folks with mobility problems, vision or hearing impairment or other physical issues can access all the areas in a public building.
The guidelines offer best practices for the design of handicapped-accessible bathrooms, as well as creating office and retail spaces that are easy for folks using wheelchairs or walkers to access. Because of the act, store aisles have become wider, interior steps have been eliminated (unless an elevator is present) and interior fixtures such as faucets and doorknobs have become easier to grip and use.
To someone without a disability who is designing a home, some of these issues are less relevant. While it may still be wise to incorporate some of the ADA guidelines in any home (in planning for aging in the home, for example), not all of them are required in a residential setting. However, knowing what “ADA” means can come in handy when choosing light fixtures or plumbing fixtures for any space.
For example, this toilet from Kohler is marked with the ADA designation. This means the toilet sits 2″ higher than a standard toilet, making it ADA compliant. Many of my clients use the “comfort-height” or “ADA” toilets for the comfort factor; they are easier to sit down on and stand up from, especially as we age. If you want to use taller toilets in your home, be sure to find an ADA-compliant fixture.
Another good reason to watch for the “ADA” label is when you need light fixtures that will be installed in a hallway or other high-traffic area. Wall sconces that bear the ADA designation must extend out from the wall no more than 4″.
Why is this important? If you have ever knocked your head on a light fixture as you walked through a room, you already know! A fixture that sticks out 4″ or less will never hit you in the head as you walk by; this makes them great options for hallways, bedrooms, or other places that they may be a hazard.
This light fixture from Kichler is a great example of an ADA-compliant fixture.
Bellacor also has a huge selection of ADA fixtures from many different manufacturers.
Next time you are out shopping for plumbing or light fixtures, pay attention to the ADA label. It may come in handy is you choose the best products for your space and lifestyle.
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