The highly publicized lawsuit of handicapped pro-golf hopeful Casey Martin against the Pro Golf Association was a major test for the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. The courts ruled that the use of a golf cart during competition would not give him an unfair advantage over those who have to walk the course. He will be allowed to take his place alongside golfs elite, providing inspiration to people with disabilities around the world.
The fact that the use of technology was actually accused of causing an unfair advantage for the physically challenged in this landmark case is a strange development in the short history of the ADA. The very intent of this wide-ranging legislation was to make all aspects of society more accessible to people with disabilities, narrowing the gap between the opportunities available for healthy individuals and those with disabilities. But as the Martin case made painfully clear some eight years after ADA was signed into law, there is still much to be accomplished before we have a truly barrier-free society.
Some of the most visible barriers that the physically challenged have to contend with are inaccessible entrances. Although ADA requirements mandate barrier-free entrances, a major "loophole" that helps keep barriers in place is the wording of the act itself. Title Three, Public Accommodations, states: "All new construction and modifications must be accessible to individuals with disability." But it adds that "for existing facilities, barriers to services must be removed if readily achievable."
Breakthroughs in automated entrance technology have helped address claims that making an entrance accessible to the physically challenged is not "readily achievable." Existing manual doors can be retrofitted with automatic sliding, swinging and revolving doors, but one of biggest reasons a company will not install an automatic door is because there is not enough room for the unit. This is no longer the case with our companys new Ready-Fold line of automatic doors.
This folding door system offers the convenience of an automatic door in a fraction of the space required by standard automatic sliding or swinging doors. It is designed for use almost anywhere, is ideal for tight corridors and built to accommodate medium to heavy traffic.
ADA compliance in the workplace has also seen improvements, but some employers have fallen back on the logistics of the acts wording to exempt themselves from compliance. As of 1992, companies with at least 25 workers had to obey ADA stipulations, and as of 1994, companies with at least 15 workers must obey the law. However, according to the law, the employer does not have to make accommodations that would cause "undue hardship;" that is if they would cost too much.
To reduce the cost of installing an automatic door, an existing entrance can be retrofitted with sliding, swinging, folding or revolving automatic doors like the ones our company manufactures. This is a popular option for employers and retailers who want to make their facilities more accessible without incurring high construction costs.
Thanks to new options and technologies, excuses for not complying with ADAs requirement for barrier-free entrances are less and less acceptable. And as Casey Martins success illustrates, technology for the physically challenged does not offer an unfair advantageit simply levels the playing field.
Anthony DiPasquale is in marketing at Besam Automated Entrance Systems of Hightstown, NJ.
Glass and metal shops have a resource to address the unique and dual role of employers/shop managers in The Glass and Metal Industry Guide to the Americans With Disabilities Act, now in its fourth printing. The 60-page handbook from Wallins International, written for use by large and small auto and flat glass shops, is fully annotated with more than 40 illustrations. It answers such questions as: When hiring, can I ask about workers compensation history? Who assumes liability for meeting ADA requirements? How does ADA effect retrofit and remodeling jobs?
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