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August 13, 2004

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In defense of architects (of which I am one) in the real world, there's no such thing as being "ADA compliant." Because ADA is a lightning rod for lawsuits, and is ever-evolving in the courts, no architect (that I know anyway) would ever certify a project as ADA compliant. What I do state in my general notes, is that our construction documents comply with the current federal ADA requirements in their present form, and to our best understanding of these issues. Declaring a project "ADA compliant" to a client would be similar to an attorney declaring an exhaustive, profuse contract "air-tight." It's just impossible to foresee every possible permutation or application of the sweeping requirements for barrier-free accessible routes, restrooms, elevation changes, and ergonomic issues. The courts here in Texas have ruled against construction companies and architects even when no clear ADA violation exists -- people in wheelchairs present a powerful visual in the courtroom, and juries feel compelled to reward them for their disability alone. As an elder colleague informed me a while back: it's not what the rules say, it's what the poor fellow in the wheelchair suing you says. Because of this we are now being held to the impossible standard of not only having to comply with every minute detail, but also to predict every perceivable difficulty a disabled person could face.

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