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Many Disabled Couldn’t Enter Hotel Building Containing Disabled Rooms

March 27, 2015 Accessibility, Featured, Planning & Design 24 Comments

I considered using today’s topic for a Sunday Poll but decided it was too technical to get a good response. My original plan was to ask for the ideal clear width next to the pull side of a door.

ADA diagram

Here’s the text description of the above diagram:

Plan view drawing showing the clear floor space adjacent to a hinged door. Door swings out into the clear floor space. An arrow indicates a forward approach to the door on the pull side.

Clear floor space is shown with a dotted line. The clear floor space extends 60 inches minimum from the door (closed position). The clear floor space width is the door width plus 18 inches minimum (24 preferred). A minimum of 18 inches clear space (24 inches preferred) is provided adjacent to the edge of the door (latch side) on the pull side.

My thought is many, likely the architects, would’ve selected 18″ instead of options like 0″, 6″ 12″, or 24″. This is because the bare minimum number (18″) has become so well known, the preferred/ideal of 24″ gets lost. The 18″ minimum is just that — a minimum — not ideal. Less than 18″ and many wheelchair users are unable to open the door. With the m,minimum of 18″ I find myself having to rub against the baseboard/wall to get into position to open the door.

Why bring this up? The architect/designer of the hotel we stayed at in Oklahoma City was confused. The Days Inn at 122nd & I-35 is an older hotel that later added another 2-story building in what was originally an oversized parking lot.

Both entrances to the newer building containing their rooms for the disabled had zero to the side of the pull side of the door.
Both entrances to the newer building containing their rooms for the disabled had zero to the side of the pull side of the door. Really?

Our room also wasn’t as ADA-compliant as you might expect for a disabled room: the bathroom door handle was a knob rather than a lever. The shower wasn’t roll-in as listed — it was a standard shower base. I was able to use it ok but others I know wouldn’t be able to shower.  I’ve submitted a complaint to Days Inn about the design.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "24 comments" on this Article:

  1. JZ71 says:

    Was this designed as an entrance door or as an egress door? It may fuction as both, but (if I’m correct) this would be legal if this is an egress door AND enough “legal” entrance doors are provided along the path of travel, between the main entrance and the rooms. From the ADAAG: “A ‘path of travel’ includes a continuous, unobstructed way of pedestrian passage by means of which the altered area may be approached, entered, and exited, and which connects the altered area with an exterior approach (including sidewalks, streets, and parking areas), AN [emphasis added] entrance to the facility, and other parts of the facility. An accessible path of travel may consist of walks and sidewalks, curb ramps and other interior or exterior pedestrian ramps; clear floor paths through lobbies, corridors, rooms, and other improved areas; parking access aisles; elevators and lifts; or a combination of these elements.” I agree, this was a poor design choice IF you want to maximize accessibility, but that may not have been either the owner’s or the architect’s primary goal.

    • JZ71 says:

      I went to Google streetview and Bing maps’ birdseye view, and you are absolutely correct! The new structure has only two exterior doors and they’re both like this. If anything, I’d file a complaint with the DOJ, since this appears to be a cookie-cutter plan that’s probably been replicated many times, elsewhere. And no, “The architect/designer of the hotel . . . . was [not] confused”, they were either stupid or chose to completely ignore long-established accessibility requirements!

    • This and a matching door at the other end are the only two entrances to the building. The doorway pictured is the one leading to the lobby, indoor pool, & breakfast area.

  2. Mark-AL says:

    It’s possible that the original building predates ADA enforcement. Perhaps, in this particular case, retro remote touch pads and power operators could (easily) be installed to accommodate disabled ingress and egress. Not an expensive fix. And in new construction or major remodel, if 18″ of clearance on the strike side is tight but do-able, building owners will have to decide if they want to give up the floor space, or deal with ongoing maintenance resulting from the damage done by wheelchairs. Changing-out the shower base might be more difficult depending on toilet/vanity clearances and room layout, but there’s no question that disabled guests are entitled to use the shower in their rooms….a fun challenge for a creative architect. My dad and I built several pole barns on our property, and we always installed doors with double-acting hinges to facilitate loading and unloading the barn with equipment and supplies. Simple double-acting hinges would solve this door problem, but weatherstripping and security issues might be compromised in the process. Can’t imagine you won’t get a favorable response from Days Inn…and you may even receive a free guest voucher as a reward for your keen observations.

    • The property contains two buildings. The original has exterior walkways. This building was built later with ADA rooms on the ground floor — ADA parking is at one end, I haven’t yet found out when it was constructed. Still, the ADA is civil rights — these things must be addressed.

      Yes, power operators is the easiest solution.

      • JZ71 says:

        They may be the easiest, but rebuilding these little porch roofs / porticos would probably cost little more, would require less ongoing maintenance and would allow for proper security (I assume that you had to swipe your room key to enter).

        • Mark-AL says:

          You’re right. Gadgets break down, and maintenance is expensive. But a window appears to show up on the strike side of the door, so you wouldn’t likely grab the new space from that side of the opening(one complication), and who knows what’s on the other side, or how much of that space the owner can give up…or what utilities may be in the way. But even with the ongoing maintenance issues, it seems reasonable (to me) to expect power operators (even with just presence sensors) in a hotel lobby to accommodate guests with luggage…. even in a Motel 6.

          • Mark-AL says:

            I’ve never been too successful negotiating my way around google maps. Couldn’t bring up the building. (I know I should be more computer-proficient—-but I’m not. Plus, internet service here is satellite-based and very weak and painful to use!) But to relocate even just the wall on the strike side of the door will likely require new roof framing and roofing, wing wall removal and reframing, replastering on the exterior, wood/metal stud framing and drywall on the interior, matching wall covering/floor covering (?) on the interior, probably some electrical revisions (maybe even fire alarm), probably some exterior concrete stair and possible foundations work to support snow loading (and is that an abandoned stair tread on the right side of the right wing wall???–if so, it won’t support a snow load), possible regrading….and then those pesky “un-forseens” encountered in most retro work (main feeders/supplies hidden in the wing wall or perhaps in the interior wall that will be opened up). PLUS, even those slight modifications would probably require a architect-prepared/sealed mod sketch, maybe a structural engineer’s as well, plus the cost of a building permit (if they’re smart!) It just seems reasonable (to me) to simply upgrade to a more guest-accommodating door system. But, hey, I don’t plan these structures. I just try to make then as structurally safe as I can! ….and sometimes I can’t resist the urge to play architect.

          • JZ71 says:

            sorry about the link – basically what it shows, on top of these two wing walls, is a tiny gable roof, nothing more. And I’d bet that these walls are wood framed with an applied stucco finish, so knocking them down would take less than an hour or two. Yeah, the concrete would need to be repoured, but given the difficulty of coordinating the swiping/inserting of the room key, then pushing the operator button, I’d go for the rebuild, just to KISS and operational for the long haul . . . . if you want google it, you can start with the physical address – 12013 N I-35 Service Rd., Oklahoma City, OK 73131 – that’s how I got to streetview and was able to see both ends of the new building.

          • Mark-AL says:

            I always favor the most cost-effective way to solve building problems. My guess, given the apparent thickness of the wing walls, is that they’re 6″ block with stucco smeared on the various exposed faces. I would assume, too, that the primary walls are load-bearing block. If every sixth stack of aligned cells was grouted and reinforced as good design dictates, and if the (block) wing walls were fully grouted at the intersection and toothed in to fully integrate with the primary walls, also as they should have been, it would take more than even a sharp butter knife to remove them–almost impossible to do without destroying interior finishes. But even if you have some superman who is able to avoid affecting interior finishes, then you’d have to destroy interior finishes 3 or so feet to the right to fully integrate the new wing wall (tooth-in the masonry and grout the intersection, then figure a way to grout the cells at the interface). Liquid nail won’t cut it. Then you’d have to scrounge up interior finish materials to match existing, and pay someone to install them. The canopy, regardless of how simple it is structured and built, has to be removed, scrapped, and completely rebuilt to widen the span. Concrete removal, excavation, forming and pouring new reinforced footings aren’t cheap. And someone has to design all of this “fluff”. I’m the first to say that structural “ainganeers” are pitifully underpaid, but even we deserve something for our time. (Sometimes we even work for food!) The entrance really can’t be built like your neighbor who with a case of beer and three college buddies on a Saturday morning, decides to construct a deck on the back of the house, employing good-‘nuf details that “aughta hold em”. History proves daily that “good-‘nuf details” don’t always work out well–especially those that are designed and built by marketing majors and English teachers. If I were dealing with a similar issue on a pole barn (that I owned) , I could fashion a “fix” to a similar entrance with less fanfare than is needed in a commercial establishment with hundreds of potential litigants walking through the doors weekly. If I were the czar of Days Inn’s construction division, I’d bite the bullet, spend $2500.00 on a good ol’ rough-and-ready DoorControl surface-mounted power operator, mount a button/card reader on each side of the door, find someone who is capable of running 110V power to the head of the existing door, extend the low-voltage wiring from the head to the push buttons, and call it a day. Then I’d send my maintenance man to DoorControl’s, or LCN’s, or Sergeant’s ongoing-maintenance school for a few days to teach him how to keep the thing ticking. Or I’d send myself.

          • JZ71 says:

            Steve’s link has it as wood framed – http://www.oklahomacounty.org/assessor/searches/BldgDetail.asp?ACCOUNTNO=R122701150&BUILDING=2 . . pretty typical for motels in the 21st century. Grouted block is much more typical of the latter half of the 20th century. And, yes, engineers deserve to be paid – these walls just happen to be supporting a simple 4′ x 4′ gable roof, so the loads are well within the competence of an experienced carpenter, plus the canopies can be wall-mounted, with no wing walls, at all.

          • Correct, the building is frame — I’ve never seem a block building in Oklahoma. The exterior material is EFIS — not stucco.

          • Mark-AL says:

            With all due respect for those who manufacture and market EIFS, it is really nothing more than high(er)-priced stucco, while it’s marketed as being more durable and less affected by dramatic thermal fluctuations. Neither stucco nor EIFS will resist a 5″ tree branch propelled by a 100 MPH tornado….while heavy-weight block, properly grouted and properly reinforced, offers a much better shield…..more penny wise, pound foolish!

          • When I worked as a design professional my experience was limited to residential or commercial interiors, I have no direct EFIS experience. I have seen entire EFIS buildings tented to replace improperly installed.

            This building should’ve been designed better, building code officials should’ve forseen the access issue. Someone in the last 14 years should’ve brought this up. But here we are.

            Removing the offending walls, changing the roofs, sidewalks, etc sounds like opening a big can of worms.

          • Mark-AL says:

            Eight months into my career, I worked on a very modest all-brick church in Oak Ridge, TN (beautiful country). I visited the job every week. On one visit, the masons had completed approximately half of the exterior walls. After checking, I found exterior walls had been run out-of-plumb, and the bed (horizontal) joints were not level/parallel, and the head (vertical) joints did not align, and all the joints looked like they had been tooled using a fork! I was living and working mostly in CA at the time, and I recall thinking that even California masonry work didn’t look that bad! Then later, I was transferred to STL, where I learned to appreciate (and expect) the exceptional work of STL bricklayers! On the TN project, I recalled that I had personally built brick silos and hog stops in my youth that looked better, and I’m no bricklayer! I rejected the work, and after much arguing and bitching, the walls did come down. Poor workmanship, like you experienced with EIFS, can happen on any project with any product. It’s up to the project superintendent (usually an experienced carpenter–worth his weight in gold) and the other “design professionals” (I really like that reference) to insist on quality workmanship. IMO, EIFS is a good second or possibly third choice.

            It’s been nice chatting with the “group” for the past 3 weeks. My parents are both in much better physical shape; my dad can now return to tending the goats, and I can return to my family and job in Germany….as a “German design professional”!!!!

          • JZ71 says:

            IMO, EIFS is like any other material – when properly used, it can be an appropriate choice, but because it is relatively inexpensive and relatively easy to install, it gets misused / installed in locations where other materials would be far better choices. IMO, it’s much like vinyl siding – relatively thin, relatively soft, and easily damaged, but does offer an economical, weather-resistant, exterior finish – as with most material choices in architecture, it gets down to costs – initial versius long-term. In most commercial installations, starting with a masonry wainscot (3′-4′ high), then using EIFS above, provides good long-term performance with a fair trade-off in costs.

          • Mark-AL says:

            I can’t imagine that any national firm would allow an exterior modification, especially one that is subject to snow and wind loading, to be designed and built by an inexperienced carpenter…or cantilever a lightweight canopy in tornado alley….or even hang a canopy off the side of a building that hasn’t been intentionally designed to receive it. I have a lot of respect for experienced carpenters, but “stout enough” won’t go far in a courtroom.

          • Mark-AL says:

            ….meant to write “by an EXPERIENCED carpenter”….. ….another mistake by a “design professional”…!

          • As I just noted on another comment, removing the wall would require substantial concrete work at both doorways.

        • Removing the walls to comply would trigger substantial concrete work. Penny wise dollar foolish.

          • JZ71 says:

            But that would actually fix the problem, for the long haul. I’m a Luddite, I don’t want to trust that the motel would maintain a “little used” operator, any more than I’d want to trust them to leave the clear area unobstructed (with a trash can, ash urn or newspaper rack). At least with furniture, they can be pushed out of the way. With electronics, failure means a trip to another entrance or the front desk, a much bigger hassle. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had problems with my room key, and that’s something every guest uses . . . .

          • This hotel building is a classic example of the design professional not understanding the users of the finished product.

            I just looked up the property records, the older building was built in 1996, this newer building in 2001. See http://www.oklahomacounty.org/assessor/searches/AN-R.asp?ACCOUNTNO=R122701150

            I’ve encountered enough broken operators or ones just turned off by maintenance to appreciate the maintenance concern. I also know that everyone could benefit if the operator was tied into the card swipe. Swipe your card — the door opens. When dealing with luggage this is very nice.

          • Mark-AL says:

            We “design professionals ” make our share of mistakes….like the lady at the Piggly-Wiggly last night who rang up my brown eggs twice! I paid for two dozen and brought home only one! Bummer! (I should have listened to my dad and collected eggs from the yard hens!) But as “design professionals” (that has a nice ring to it!), we can only hope that our mistakes are rectifiable and don’t result in loss of life before they’re discovered. I’ve struggled going to sleep many evenings hoping the iron workers placed the structural deck reinforcing properly. And the good thing is that typically they have!


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