Accessibility Fundamentals


The information below provides basic accessibility provisions of the 2009 Virginia Construction Code and is not representative of all the conditions you may encounter.

For more information, go to our FAQs, email us or call Building Plan Review at 703-222-0114, TTY 711.

Please note: While the spirit and intent of the Americans With Disabilities Act and the building code are the same, the technical provisions are not. A new building or renovated space must be carefully designed to meet the requirements of both laws. However, Fairfax County only enforces state law, and therefore this publication does not include any information regarding the ADA.

Building Blocks for Accessible Construction

Wheelchair Requirements

The clear floor space required to accommodate a wheelchair and its occupant is shown in Figure 1. For a wheelchair user to make a 180° degree turn, a circular floor space is required, see Figure 2. An alternate to the circular floor space is a T-shaped space; see ICC/ANSI A117.1 for more information.

Wheelchair Clear Floor Space
Figure 1: Wheelchair Clear Floor Space
Wheelchair Turning Space
Figure 2: Wheelchair Turning Space

 

Accessible Route

An accessible route is a path which connects accessible spaces. It includes paths from accessible parking to the building entrance, restrooms, drinking fountains, corridors, hallways, ramps, elevators, etc. The clear width of an accessible route and the minimum width when passing by an obstruction is shown in Figure 3. Doors within an accessible route must meet the requirements shown in Figure 3. Doors within an accessible route must meet requirements shown in Figure 4 for pull side; see ICC/ANSI A117.1 for push side requirements.

Minimum Clear Width for Single Wheelchair
Figure 3: Minimum Clear Width for Single Wheelchair
Swinging Door Pull Side Approach
Figure 4: Swinging Door Pull Side Approach

 

Toilet Facilities

At least one of each fixture type (i.e., lavatory, water closet) provided in all public toilet rooms shall be accessible. See Figures 5 - 9 for more information. All accessible toilet rooms shall be provided with unobstructed wheelchair turning space (Figure 2) and all accessible fixtures shall also have an unobstructed clear floor space. In multiple user toilet rooms, at least one toilet stall shall be wheelchair accessible. When six or more water closets are provided, at least one additional stall shall be ambulatory accessible. See ICC/ANSI A117.1 for more information.

Clear Floor space at Water Closets
Figure 5: Clear Floor Space at Water Closets
NOTE: Lavatories may not encroach into clear floor space.

 

Wheelchair Accessible Stall
Figure 6: Wheelchair Accessible Compartment

 

Side wall grab bar for water closet
Figure 7: Side Wall Grab Bars
NOTE: Bars shall resist 250 pounds (1100 N) force in any direction.
Typical Grab Bars
Figure 8: Typical Grab Bars

 

Typical Single User Toilet Room
Figure 9: Typical Single User Toilet Room

 

CODE TIPS

  • A door may swing into the wheelchair turning space.
  • Fixtures may not encroach into the clear floor space of other fixtures. However, fixture clear floor spaces and the wheelchair turning space may overlap.

Alterations to Existing Construction

Alterations and new components to a space or area in an existing building shall be fully accessible. The accessible route to the altered area must be upgraded up to a limitation of 20 percent of the cost of the alterations (this includes mechanical, electrical and plumbing).

For example: A new office tenant is to fill a suite at an existing office building. The alteration in the suite include new offices, corridors and open office area. Cost: $100,000. Therefore, an additional $20,000 or 20 percent of the project cost, must spent to upgrade the accessible route.

COMMON IMPROVEMENTS TO UPGRADE THE ACCESSIBLE ROUTE

  • Accessible entrance
  • Wheelchair accessible toilets
  • Accessible lavatories
  • Accessible drinking fountains
  • Door clearances
  • Levered door hardware
  • Signage
  • Accessible elevators

Change of Use or Occupancy

When a space undergoes a change of use or change of occupancy, it must be upgraded to meet the requirements of new construction, unless technically infeasible. In addition, the existing building must also be upgraded to meet all of the items listed below:

  1. At least on accessible entrance
  2. At least one accessible route from an accessible entrance to the primary function areas (this includes elevators)
  3. Signage
  4. Accessible parking
  5. At least one accessible passenger loading zone (when one is provided)
  6. At least one accessible route connecting parking, loading zone and entrance.

For more information, please refer to Section 3411 of the 2009 International Building Code.

TECHNICALLY INFEASIBLE

When providing an accessible element would involve the removal or alteration of a structural member that is an essential part of the structural frame.

Upgrading Toilet Facilities

The extent to which an existing toilet room is to be upgraded depends on the existing conditions.

  1. UNISEX TOILET: A single-user toilet room (Figure 9) on the same floor as the alterations may be installed ONLY IF technically infeasible or the existing number of fixtures cannot be reduced.
  2. FULLY ACCESSIBLE STALLS: All restrooms not meeting any of the above conditions must be upgraded to meet the accessibility requirements of the current code.

UPGRADE TIPS

  • If the cost of upgrading both men's and women's restrooms exceeds the computed cost limit, it is permissible to upgrade one sex only.
  • If the cost of upgrading the restrooms far exceeds the computed cost limit, then the restrooms should be upgraded as much as possible within the limitation, e.g., add grab bars to an existing stall, lower fixtures, etc.
  • Wheelchair accessible stalls are NOT required to be placed at the end of a line of toilet stalls.

Accessibility Compliance Form

When plans are submitted to Fairfax County for review, an Accessibility Compliance Form must be fully completed by the project designer and attached to each set of plans. It is the responsibility of the designer to ensure the altered space, accessible route, and upgrades meet the provisions of the code.

For more information, please contact Building Plan Review at 703-222-0114, TTY 711.


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