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Holidays And Accessibility

Janis Kent, Architect, CASp © December, 2013

No matter what the holidays are, decorations are part of the celebration. So, since the decorations are temporary, I do not need to worry about access, correct? The answer to that question is no. One needs to be very careful not to block off access whether it is a maneuvering space, a clear floor space, signage, or objects obstructing a path of travel.

Many times trees or other decorations are placed in clear floor spaces adjacent to doors used for maneuvering. These spaces always need to remain clear, otherwise it may be difficult to impossible to enter or exit a space. The same goes for accessible parking on the exterior near the entries. The access aisle is a maneuvering space and it can not be blocked nor the 36” path of travel from the access aisle to the entry doors (48” in California).

Counters require not only a clear floor space in the appropriate proportion but also the counter top itself is required to have 36” minimum wide clear surface for the full depth, so be careful not to put holiday stock or decorations in these areas.

Some signage is visual only which needs to be seen from a distance. The thing one needs to be concerned with here is not to block the site lines of the sign itself. Other signs are tactile, meaning one needs to actually go up to the sign and touch it. In these cases the sign should have an 18” x 18” clear floor space centered on the sign and one should be able to approach this sign as well.

And then the path of travel itself. Be aware not to hang objects where the leading edge is less than 80” above the finished floor. Objects projecting from the face of a wall should project 4” maximum. And objects which are post-mounted can project 12” maximum and in California the corners of post-mounted objects have at least an eighth inch radius. These situations are still possible if there is something to prevent someone from walking under the object or if the leading edge is 27” or below.

This is by no means a definitive list but rather examples of items that should be considered. If you are the tenant or building owner it is your responsibility to maintain the space so it is accessible. If you are the Architect or designer, perhaps it might be worth considering providing a space that can be a focal point for holiday displays without interfering with access or the path of travel. Just some thoughts. And the best of holidays to all!

Be aware that your local City or County may have additional requirements that are more restrictive than the State or Federal requirements. Also, this article is an interpretation and opinion of the writer. It is meant as a summary – current original regulations should always be reviewed when making any decisions.