A few weeks ago, I wrote about surface-mounted automatic door bottoms and whether they are compliant with the accessibility standards. Because the ADA standards and ICC A117.1 require a flush, smooth surface on the push side at the bottom of manually-operated doors, measured 10 inches up from the floor, a typical surface-mounted auto door bottom would not comply with this requirement. You can read the complete post here.
This raised a question from one of my coworkers in Massachusetts, where the state has adopted an accessibility standard called 521 CMR. These are the regulations of the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board. It looks like Chapter 26 – Doors and Doorways, was last updated in January of 2006, and it does not include the requirement for the 10-inch flush, smooth surface. This requirement was added to the ADA standards in 2010. So the question is this:
When the ADA standards are more restrictive than an accessibility standard adopted by a state or local jurisdiction, do the more stringent requirements of the ADA standards apply?
This is an important question that could affect projects in any state that has adopted state standards, so I went to the US Access Board to get the official answer. The response was that the 2010 ADA standards are minimum accessibility requirements set at the federal level. As with other laws, states are able to set requirements that meet or exceed the minimum federal requirements, but cannot be in violation of federal law. Because the 2010 ADA standards require a flush, smooth surface on the push side of manual swinging doors and gates, this requirement must be met if the door is part of an accessible route. This would apply in Massachusetts, even though 521 CMR does not include the requirement. The exceptions to this would be locations that are not required to comply with the ADA. General exceptions are listed in Section 203 of the ADA standards.
And what if a state accessibility standard is MORE stringent than the ADA standards? For example, the ADA standards require operable door hardware to be mounted between 34 inches and 48 inches above the floor, and Massachusetts 521 CMR limits the mounting height to 36 inches to 48 inches above the floor. Because the Massachusetts requirements are more restrictive, projects required to comply with 521 CMR would need to have operable hardware mounted in the 36- to 48-inch range.