Top 10 ADA mistakes

Michele S. Ohmes
ADA/Disability Specialist (retired)
City of Kansas City, Missouri
Member, APWA Facilities and Grounds Committee

July 2008 will mark 18 years since the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and I am sorry to report that in so many locations the access has not improved due to (I hope) not understanding the ADA guidelines. I see the effort and do understand in existing locations that it can still be difficult to attain the best access. My dismay is that new construction has serious mistakes that have no excuses for not achieving the guidelines. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards and Uniform Building Code/International Code Council (UBC/ICC) codes are all in line now with the ADA regulations so they can no longer be used as an excuse for not complying. My belief is that our owners, designers, contractors, and subcontractors are still ignorant of what really makes true accessibility a reality.

On the following page (see Michele's website for illustrations) is a list of the most common problems I see every day and everywhere. I decided this time to make it quick and simple by giving you my "Top 10 ADA mistakes" found on my website at For details and further explanations feel free to e-mail me at, or call me at (816) 350-2487.

Hopefully, the above very brief list will help to stimulate you and your staff to review your facilities for possible improvements and corrections. The greatest mistake made every day by the design team is that they use the maximum and minimum code allowances for their designs instead of realizing that the in-between ranges are the best. Secondly, we don't actually put ourselves in another person's shoes for awhile to understand different conditions. When I present simulation exercises relating to multiple different disabilities, the attendees always leave with a whole new perspective. Thirdly, we trust suppliers of fixtures, vending equipment and other products when they say a product is ADA-accessible. Look at example number seven on the next page and check out your facility to see if you have this towel dispenser installed in your restrooms. If you do you now are out of compliance with the ADA, ANSI and ICC accessible codes. Good luck.