Paving the Way to Greater Accessibility
ACR Concrete & Asphalt Construction, Inc., is ensuring an accessible world for everyone
By: Allyson Markey
As Tony Guichard, the founder and owner of ACR Concrete & Asphalt Construction, Inc., sees it, the world is slowly becoming accessible to people with disabilities, thanks in large part to the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). The act, passed in 1990, is a wide-ranging civil rights law that is intended to protect against discrimination based on disabilities. The wide-ranging reform ensured that all structures are accessible to anyone, anywhere in the United States.
“It is a pleasure to do this type of work,” says Guichard. “We are changing things.” His company — located about 30 miles northeast of Laguna Beach in Stanton, California — are one of the leading experts on ADA compliance in the state. And being a family owned and operated business with over 25 years of experience in all aspects of concrete and asphalt projects, ADA compliance came naturally.
Guichard referred to 2013 when the State prosecuted over 1,000 cases of properties, apartments, and retail properties failing to comply with ADA regulations. While the ADA laws were enacted to protect the rights of the physically challenged, they have also led to an expensive flood of lawsuits. So expensive, in fact, that the estimated 20,000 ADA lawsuits filed in California courts since 1992 has cost California businesses over $20 million each year. ADA lawsuits are difficult to defend and typically result in minimum payouts of $4,000 – $20,000, even if the lawsuit is uncontested.
“I believe that accessibility for all should be enforced,” says Guichard. “But the laws are difficult, and I noticed property owners were confused on ADA compliance. That is when we stepped in.”.”
ACR Concrete stepped in by creating a holistic approach to ADA compliance by creating a program called “Team Service.”
“Throughout my career, I have encountered well-meaning people giving really bad advice,” says Guichard, “To combat this we made sure to include an attorney referral service that specializes in providing ADA-related legal advice and representation. That way, our clients know that not only our in-house design team and staff fully understand Federal and Division of State Architect (DSA) compliance, but they do as well.”
Aside from legal services, the team also provides engineering and design services as well as a group of Certified Access Specialist (CASp) Inspectors. The CASp program was created by Senate Bill 262 (Chapter 872, 2003) and is designed to meet the public’s need for experienced, trained, and tested individuals who can inspect buildings and sites for compliance with accessibility standards.
In the state of California, the certification is rare. “Most companies will not have CASp services since the information with Federal and DSA often conflict, and makes it very troublesome to become current and educated on all the issues,” says Guichard. “In fact, I believe there are only approximately 700 people in the state that have passed the very, very difficult exam to become CASp experts. Based on this difficulty most will not want to become qualified.”
Another rarity found within ACR Concrete are ADA Designers. The ADA Design act requires that the Department of Justice (DOJ) to publish design standards that are consistent with the guidelines published by the U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board). ADA Designers understand the rules and regulations inside and out, and are an integral part of the design and approval process.
“I am an ADA Designer, which means I design the sites and prepare the plans for formal approval,” adds Guichard. “Our company then completes the construction process. So we can review the property, have our team provide a CASp inspection, prepare plans and have approved, perform the project and pass inspections all with one phone call from client we can resolve all issues ranging from legal counsel referral, design all the way through completion all within the strict tolerances of Federal and DSA tolerances. I’m not sure who else can do that!”
The most common call ACR receives are those who do not have a clear direction. “Some think if you simply seal coat and stripe the parking stall with Van Accessible Parking they are in compliance. Unfortunately, they are wrong,” adds Guichard.
The most common error, he adds, is when property owners try to handle the situation themselves. Recently, ACR provided a proposal for an ADA ramp equipped with handrails, landings, curbs, and truncated domes. At the time, the client told them that the proposal was 7% more expensive than the other bidders. Six months later, however, the client came back. “During construction, a City Inspector had visited his site and found 11 violations with one ramp. He was confused as to why his contractor had been cited. In the end, it came down to the owner and consultant did not understand the intricacies of the rules.”
In the end, a $1,500.00 project cost more than $15,000.00, including demolishing the new ramp.”It was an expensive lesson for the client,” says Guichard, “but it could have been avoided.” To avoid such problems, says Guichard, is a three-step process:
- Ensure you are working with a firm that not only understands ADA compliance but also has specific experience in the field. Ask for references before making your decision, and ask if they have had any legal issues in the past.
- Make sure the firm is designing a solution that ensures you are in complete compliance. In many cases, litigation is brought against property owners for one citation regardless of compliance on all others. For example, some property owners have been sued for not having a van accessible parking stall. Most owners will call out an asphalt company who will paint the stripes and install the sign. However that is not compliance. Is the asphalt surface within 2% of the max slope in any direction? Do you have a proper path of travel to the entrance? Do you need one ADA parking stall or two? Any of these can illicit another suit.
3) Check the credentials of the architects and engineers who are working on ADA projects. Even when a professional architect is hired, the plans may not be in compliance. “Many times I have seen permits be retracted after further investigation by the City, even if they were created by a professional,” says Guichard. “Most architects do not know the current ADA standards provided by the DSA, which is why professionals are so important.”
Guichard is not worried about the future. “I know that there will be a day where everything will be accessible for people with disabilities. And we will be there making sure it becomes a reality.”
Author Bio: Allyson Markey is a contributing author and CEO of Forum Public Relations. She located in San Diego, California.
” I believe that accessibility for all should not only be the norm, but also be enforced.”
“It is a pleasure to do this type of work – we are changing things.”
“Some think if you simply seal coat and stripe the parking stall with Van Accessible Parking they are in compliance. Unfortunately, they are wrong.”