Developers of senior housing should be aware of the numerous construction factors in improving the quality of seniors who may ultimately reside there. A wise investor will also influence the outcome of the project to facilitate later operation and maintenance of the facility by trained staff members to avoid the risks of claims based on Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) violations.

Seniors with Disabilities

The Federal Government protects persons with disabilities through the ADA. Violations of the ADA may give rise to claims against a facility where the ergonomic and structural designs may result in a higher incidence of violation, which would involve cases of marginalizing, alienating, segregating, or generally targeting certain groups of persons.

While nobody can foresee the ability to prevent violations with perfect accuracy, best practices in design and development may ease the potential for uncertain violations.

To illustrate, some jurisdictions have reported that mounting a toilet the proper distance from a wall or partition (known as “water closet centerline”) could potentially result in violation if not done so in conformity with existing federal law.

Furthermore, developers should avoid any “Built Environment” violations to ensure ready access to senior housing. The United States Access Board states that “[a]mong other things, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ensures access to the built environment for people with disabilities.  The ADA Standards establish design requirements for the construction and alteration of facilities subject to the law. These enforceable standardsapply to places of public accommodation, commercial facilities, and state and local government facilities.”)

Violations May Diminish Value

While nobody can predict each case, a number of unique factors may influence the rate of incidences based on the structure alone. For example, impediments to handicapped restrooms such as a trashcan placed in front of an access door may lead to potential violations. Other examples include segregating different dining halls based upon the physical mobility of the different types of residents.

An investor may elect to examine common design schemes that may lead to increased violations, such as whether the trash chute system (if any) is placed too close to the water closet which may lead to a pile-up or placement of trash in the future, thus leading to ADA violations based upon placement of containers alone. Furthermore, note that this is especially true if an existing building is being repositioned and retrofitted to accommodate the use of senior housing.

Healthcare consultancy firms can appraise senior housing developments and possibly search the structural design for easy and convenient opportunities for preventing further violations to continue.

By way of analogy, a publicly released military facility healthcare evaluation examined ADA standards and provided, on page 23 that “Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and Architectural Barriers Act Accessibility Guidelines (ABA): includes all related conditions not addressed in other areas that assured compliance with ADA and ABA. Not included are grandfathered ADA deficiencies. A sampling of deficiency conditions occurring herein include: specific interior and exterior ADA/ABA conditions including sidewalks, way finding, signage, restroom facilities, stairwells, and exterior building access, and countertop heights. When there were conflicts between ADA and ABA, the most stringent conditions took precedence.”

Where conflicts of design standards may exist, final senior housing designs should incorporate best practices in the real estate development industry to prevent ADA violations. Talk to Cambridge Realty Capital today about information concerning the best strategies for considering new and existing senior housing to ensure projects remain in compliance with ADA construction standards and all other standards.

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