Cornucopia of Disability Information

Universal Access In Facility Design

CODI Directory

CODI Archives

Contact Webmaster

Do any other schools have a policy of applying universal access in remodeling
and new construction projects?  Does anyone have a policy or code book which
exceeds minimal code compliance?  I would appreciate having the opportunity to
review such policy statements or codes.


Here, at the University of Montana, we are beginning about $50 million in
remodeling and new construction projects.  I have been advocating for
universal access and following all design preferences indicated in UFAS and
ADAAG.  Unfortunately, I am meeting with a considerable amount of resistance
to universal access.  Several folks are hollering about costs, hospital like
designs, and the usual rubbish.  I need ammunition.  Thank you in advance for
whatever you are willing to share.  By the way, our President, the one who
counts, is behind universal access.  I just want to be able to win over the
opposition, not to ram universal access down their throats.

Attached is a draft of the policy for which I am advocating.  I would
appreciate any feedback on it as well.

Jim Marks
Director, Disability Services for Students
Corbin Hall, University of Montana
Missoula, MT 59812
(406) 243-2243 (Voice/Text)
InterNet:  DSFS_JPM@LEWIS.UMT.EDU

		 Draft:  Universal Access In Facility Design


The University of Montana regards the Americans with Disabilities Act and
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act as civil rights laws, not just as
building codes.  The University intends to exceed compliance with the letter
of the law by committing to access and integration for all.  When a preference
for accessibility standards is expressed in civil rights laws and building
codes, that preference will be followed.  Therefore, to the maximum extent
feasible, it is the practice of the University to construct or re-model
facilities according to the standard of universal access.  This standard
exceeds minimal building code compliance through the assurance that the
University guarantees that no facility user is denied or limited access to
University facilities with the exception of those barriers which have been
justified through the process described below.


Universal access is a higher standard than program access, the least standard
required by the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the
Rehabilitation Act.  Universal access means designing facilities so that they
can be used by everyone.  Program access guidelines are legal minimums; they
do not tell us what would work best for everyone.  Program access states that
when University programs are viewed in their entirety, the programs must be
readily accessible to, and usable by, people with disabilities.  Program
access allows some parts of a facility to be inaccessible so long as no person
with a disability is denied or limited participation in, or the benefits of,
the program solely on the basis of disability.  Universal access exceeds
program access by covering all parts of a program.  Thus, universal access
states that all components of a program must be readily accessible to, and
usable by people with disabilities.  Universal access does not require
everything to be immediately accessible, but rather allows for future
inexpensive and easy adaptations to facilities for barrier free usage.
Moreover, universal access must be aesthetically pleasing and functional for
people with mobility, visual, hearing, and other impairments as well as for
those who have no significant disability.

The purpose of design according to the universal access standard:

     To require designers of University
     facilities to create designs which
     include minimal barriers, and

     To publicly discuss why barriers to
     universal access will be included in
     facility design.

The question, "Why construct a barrier to access by people with disabilities?"
will be asked in the designing of new or remodeled facilities.  If the barrier
cannot be justified after a campus-wide dialogue, then the barrier will be
removed from the design.  This practice allows the University to construct
barriers to access, but only after conscious and sound justification.  For
example, the University may construct barriers to universal access if the
barrier is an essential program element or if the removal of the barrier is an
undue financial burden.

All proposed facility designs must include a list of barriers which do not
meet the standard of universal access prior to the acceptance of the design.
For example, any pathway, entry, rest room, class room, office, seating area,
lobby, or any other facility feature which is not universally accessible, must
be identified by the designers of the facility, and by either University
Facility Services or an accessibility consultant.  Identified barriers must be
submitted to the University Americans with Disabilities Act/Section 504 Team
for review.  Recommendations of the Team must be considered in the final
approval of facility design and before the project moves on to the schematic
stage.  In the event universal accessibility must be compromised at any time
during the three stages of the construction or remodeling process --- design,
schematic, and construction --- the ADA/504 Team will be consulted before the
compromise is approved.

It is far more effective to include universal access as a goal of the design
than it is to correct a design which does not comply with the universal access
standard.  University designers, whether employees, contractors, or bid
applicants, must be given a copy of this statement prior to the initiation of
design work.  Designers must be notified of their obligation to insure
universal access in design, and to be prepared to justify why barriers to
universal access are included in design submissions.

The Facility Services Assistant Director for Planning and Construction is
responsible for the enactment of this practice.  In addition, the Assistant
Director is responsible for the presentation of the design's barriers to the
ADA/504 Team.


MOST POPULAR DOCUMENTS:   ADA Accessibility Guidelines | Disabled Students in Higher Education | Caregiver Stress: Causes & Treatment | History of Disabilities and Social Problems | Disability Statistics | Using Knowledge and Technology
This site is maintained by Jennifer Weir, Disability Services at Texas A&M University -- Corpus Christi