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Part 2: Exceptions When Using the 2010 ADA for Section 504 Compliance

2021 1006 Ideas Post
Oct 06, 2021
Michael Grochola

When using the 2010 ADA Standards (2010 ADAS) as an alternative code for Section 504 compliance it is important to understand that not every section of that code was approved for use. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) only allows the 2010 ADAS to be used with exceptions to selected code sections.

The reason for these exceptions is that HUD has determined that the level of accessibility would be reduced when compared to the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS). In order to provide an equivalent level of accessibility, HUD has issued a total of eleven code exceptions where the 2010 ADAS can not be used on a Section 504 project.

  • The first exception is structural impracticability, under 28 CFR Section 35.151 (a)(2).

For those unfamiliar with the term, "structural impracticability" is referring to the terrain characteristics of a project site that would prevent it from being constructed as fully accessible to all individuals with disabilities.

The 2010 ADAS allows “structural impracticability” as an exception to full compliance for new construction when it can be demonstrated that it’s impracticable to meet the accessibility requirements. Section 504 regulations for new construction do not contain any terrain exemptions. If a site can not be made fully accessible, then it cannot be used.

  • The second exception is alterations, under 28 CFR Section 35.151(b).

The 2010 ADAS states that alterations affecting the usability of a facility are required to the maximum extent feasible. The maximum extent feasible means that it may not be possible to comply with all the accessibility sections from the code, but there is still the requirement to make a project as accessible as possible.

Section 504 regulations 24 CFR § 8.23 define alterations in terms of “substantial alterations” and “other alterations”. “Other alterations” are similar to the 2010 ADAS requirement, where alterations are done to the maximum extent feasible. While “substantial alterations” on the other hand require new construction requirements when the cost of alterations is over 75 percent of a facility's replacement cost. The 2010 ADAS does not have a “substantial alteration” requirement, meaning in certain situations it could result in fewer dwelling units with fewer accessibility features when compared to the Section 504 alteration requirements.

  • The third exception is additions, under Section 202.2.

The 2010 ADAS states that additions to existing buildings that affect the usability or access to an area containing a primary function shall comply with Section 202.4. Under this section, if the primary function of a facility is dwelling units then there is an exemption to providing accessible ‘path of travel’ improvements. However UFAS does not contain any such exemption, additions must provide an accessible ‘path of travel’ no matter what the intended primary function is.

  • The fourth exception is alterations affecting primary function areas, under the Exception for Section 202.4.

The 2010 ADAS requires when alterations are done to the areas containing the primary function, then improvements to the ‘path of travel’ including entrances, restrooms, and routes must also be completed. However, the 2010 ADAS exempts improvements to the ‘path of travel’ when the primary function of a facility is dwelling units.

UFAS does not contain a ‘path of travel’ exemption for dwelling unit alterations, alterations must provide an accessible ‘path of travel’ no matter what the intended primary function is.

  • The fifth exception is common-use areas in residential facilities, under Section 203.8.

In common-use areas such as routes, amenity spaces, and elements that are not serving dwelling units with mobility features, the 2010 ADAS does not require these areas to meet the accessibility standards. Section 504 and the Fair Housing Act (when applicable) however do not allow this, all common-use areas and the routes serving these spaces must be accessible regardless of what units they serve.

  • The sixth exception is employee work areas, under Section 203.9.

The 2010 ADAS only requires that an employee can approach, enter, and exit an employee work area at initial occupancy. As a reminder work areas do not include employee restrooms, kitchens, breakrooms, and lounges; these spaces have to be accessible at initial occupancy. The full accessibility of the work area is not required as the employee can ask an employer for a reasonable accommodation based on their specific needs.

UFAS on the other hand has no allowances for employee work areas to be modified at a later time, work areas must be fully accessible at initial occupancy.

  • The seventh and eighth exceptions are vehicular route exceptions, under Exception 2 for Section 206.2.1 & Exception for Section 206.2.2.

The 2010 ADAS allows a site to be vehicular access only when it’s determined to not be technically feasible to provide a pedestrian-accessible route. An example of this would be the terrain of a planned project site is extremely rugged. Grading the land to provide an accessible pedestrian route between the site arrival point and the building entrance (Section 206.2.1) and between the buildings and amenities on site (Section 206.2.2) would not be possible due to site constraints.

The Section 504 regulations do not allow vehicular routes only, there must be accessible pedestrian routes on site connecting the buildings to the amenities and from the site arrival point to the building’s entrance.

  • The ninth exception is the elevator exception in multi-story buildings, under Exception 1 for Section 206.2.3.

The 2010 ADAS contains an exception to providing an elevator to connect floors within private buildings, as long as the building is less than three stories or has less than 3,000 sq feet per story. The exception includes all means of vertical access within buildings including elevators, ramps, and lifts.

Section 504 regulations do not contain any such exception for accessible routes in private buildings. An accessible route is required for every story.

  • The tenth exception is top-loading laundry machines in common-use laundry rooms, under Section 214.2 & Section 214.3.

The 2010 ADAS permits both top-loading and front-loading laundry machines within common-use laundry rooms. UFAS Section 4.34.7 on the other hand does not allow for top-loading laundry machines, only front-loading laundry machines can be provided. Keep in mind the requirement for front-loading machines only applies to common-use laundry rooms, it does not apply to dwelling units.

  • The eleventh exception is visible alarms in existing facilities, under Exception for Section 215.1.

The 2010 ADAS exempts visible alarms from being installed in alteration work except when the fire system itself is undergoing repairs or replacement. The Section 504 regulations for alterations contain no such exemption. Whenever “substantial alteration” work is occurring on a project, new construction requirements apply and this includes installing visible alarms. When “other alteration” work is occurring, visible alarms will need to be installed to the maximum extent feasible.

Part 1 of this blog explained that the 2010 ADA Standards can be used as an alternative to UFAS for Section 504 compliance.

Contact MAPS if you have a question about your accessibility codes. MAPS can also help review your project for accessibility by performing plan reviews and in-person site visits.