Keith Simmons, accessibility officer at the National Office for Seniors and the Physically Challenged, and Vanessa J. Daniel, a senior architectural technologist at OBM International. *Photo by Amanda Dale
Keith Simmons, accessibility officer at the National Office for Seniors and the Physically Challenged, and Vanessa J. Daniel, a senior architectural technologist at OBM International. *Photo by Amanda Dale
FRIDAY, MAR. 25: Bermuda is praised for its beauty and unique architecture, but many residents and tourists face problems getting around.

Disabled people in wheelchairs, moms with strollers, those with sight and hearing impairments and people with crutches often face obstacles in accessing buildings, bars and restaurants or even just heading down the sidewalk.

As the U.S. brings its 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design into force, an architect has taken the time to compile a booklet and set of drawings to encourage Bermuda’s designers and contractors to take on universal design and ADA standards.

Although Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory, we comply with a lot of the American standards and codes.

Vanessa J. Daniel, a Senior Architectural Technologist at OBM International, produced the guide and AutoCAD drawings independently, out of an interest in disabled people’s rights.

“Returning back to Bermuda after working as an architect in New Mexico, I wanted to get this information out there,” she said.

“From the designer, architect and contractor side of things, there just isn’t the information and drawings available in Bermuda.

“It is about making the built environment more accessible for everyone.

“It’s not just people with physical disabilities, it’s also for the elderly, pregnant women.

“Even mothers with buggies walking along Front Street face different levels and trip hazards.

Miss Daniel has given a copy of her booklet and drawings to Keith Simmons, accessibility officer at the National Office for Seniors and the Physically Challenged.

The guide features everything from grab bars and clearance space for wheelchairs in toilets, to sink height and the need for braille on signs.

“It’s an excellent resource and tool for designers, architects and anyone in construction,” Miss Daniel said.

“While the (booklet) information may initially help those in the construction industry, it is also useful to all Bermuda citizens as they plan how to upgrade homes, offices, public spaces and so forth.

“It will help them to get Planning approval.

“I can provide the drawings and booklet to anyone who wants them. This could be architects, interior designers, contractors and sub-contractors, anyone in construction.

“They will also help Mr. Simmons to increase awareness of accessibility in all building design. If it helps him in his efforts with Government, then I am happy to assist.

“It’s about making the community better for everyone.”

Mr. Simmons told the Bermuda Sun Government has almost finished a review of the Residential Building Code and will then upgrade its Commercial Building Code. The new ADA standards would therefore make a difference.

“Once completed, it (the Residential Code) will have accessibility codes and also green building codes, so that’s a step forward,” said Mr. Simmons.

“Government looks to upgrade standards every few years and to adopt some of the international building code standards. These include the latest accessibility standards.”

Mr. Simmons said Bermuda’s use of CABO (Council of American Building Officials) and BOCA (Building Officials Code Administrators) standards was now out of date.

Government has adopted the ANSI A117.1 (American National Standard Institute) standards but will be looking at the latest international guidelines in its review.

He said the new 2010 ADA standards would “keep Government in line with any upgrades”.

“There’s one or two changes from the ANSI A117.1, so this will help us move forward in adopting new accessibility legislation,” he said.

“It will bring us up to date in 2011.”

“For example, BOCA requires 50 per cent accessibility in buildings but the new codes have gone up to 60 to 70 per cent of your building accessibility.”

Mr. Simmons said: “Miss Daniels’ booklet will help us in changing the mindset, because unfortunately we still have some architects who are not taking on accessibility.”

In Bermuda he said people not only had problems with buildings and sidewalks, but that, “a lot of the car parks need to be changed, as the entrances are pitched too steeply”.

There were also problems with restaurants and shops.

“A lot of them have poor access. There are some proprietors working to make their premises more accessible, but some just don’t seem to be interested.”

The Bermuda Sun asked for an update from Governemnt on its building standards and the review but received no response at the time of going to press. 

For a copy of Miss Daniels’ booklet email  or call 278-8563. You need to provide a CD.


A case study: LF Wade International Airport

Earlier this month a member of the public wrote to Aaron Adderley, airport general manager, to complain about the problems an elderly woman faced in negotiating the restrooms in a wheelchair. The letter was reproduced in The Royal Gazette this week.

Suzette Aruda, of the City of Hamilton, said she was travelling through L.F. Wade International Airport when she saw the senior make several attempts to enter the women’s restroom in the departures lounge.

“I went to assist her and found, to my astonishment, that the wheelchair could not fit through the door,” said Ms Aruda.

“The wheelchair was a standard size used by the airlines; it was the doorway that was too narrow.

“Once I helped her into the restroom, I checked to see if there was an ADA compliant stall. Again I was surprised to see that there was not one.”

“I do not understand why an international facility such as our airport is not ADA-compliant,” she said.

Mr. Adderley however, told the Bermuda Sun there are specific ADA-compliant restrooms on each floor of the terminal. The airport has just completed an 18-month refurbishment of its restrooms, in which it aimed to meet the ADA minimum capacity of restroom stalls, urinals and sinks, and other guidelines.

Mr. Adderley said: “We just spent tens of thousands of dollars on all the bathrooms, and in doing so, made sure they were wheelchair accessible. Any passengers in wheelchairs are usually assisted by airline personnel, so I’m assuming this lady in question was unattended that day and went to a bathroom inaccessible to wheelchairs.

“We have since done an inventory of our signage throughout the airport. The fact this lady went into a bathroom which was not accessible has made me think about putting up additional signage, to make them even more visible.”


How it works in the U.S.

Last week the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design came into effect in the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Justice published the revised regulations to the 1994 standards on September 15.

But as of March 15, all new construction in the U.S. should follow the 2010 guidelines.

There is a year’s grace until they become enforceable in building codes, on March 15, 2012.

The standards relate to new construction and modifications to public and commercial buildings.

The standards must be met for plans to get signed off by local authority planning inspectors.

The public can also file complaints or individual private lawsuits if a building or facility doesn’t come up to scratch.

Bermuda does not follow this legislation but the U.S. requirements tend to set the standard for the island’s own building codes.

In the U.S. they cover everything from parking and passenger loading zones, to elevators, doors and windows, toilet stalls and urinals, sinks, water coolers, telephones, ATMs (Automated Teller Machines), and fitting rooms.

As well as commercial buildings, they cover restaurants, medical care, libraries, hotels and transportation facilities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990 and became effective in January 1992. It prohibited discrimination against disabled people in services and employment, and set forth  structural accessibility requirements.

The ADA Standards for Accessible Design in 1994 stated: The minimum wheelchair passage width was 32 inches, and 60 inches for two wheelchairs to pass.

Drinking spouts should be no higher than 36 inches from the ground.

The gripping surfaces of all handrails and grab bars should be 1.25 to 1.5 inches, and 1.5 inches from a wall.

In restaurants tray slides should be no higher than 34 inches from the floor.

At counters in banks, information centres, ticketing outlets and hotel receptions of at least 36 inches, a portion should be a maximum 36 inches in height.

The 2010 ADA Standards widen the recommendations to include assembly areas, detention facilities, amusement rides, recreational boating, exercise machines, fishing piers, golf facilities, saunas and steam rooms, and swimming pools.

The revisions include a minimum wheelchair passage width of 36 inches.

Gripping surfaces for handrails and grab bars should be 1.25 to 2 inches maximum.

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