Accessibility Requirements in Building Code
This page aims to help architects, engineers and owners to understand what the building code requires for accessibility.
ADA, Americans with Disabilities Act & MN Accessibility Code
ADA is a federal regulation that all commercial building owners are responsible to follow. Violations of the ADA requirements are generally settled through lawsuits. Many interchange the ADA and the Minnesota Accessibility Code in their terminology. When new buildings are constructed or existing buildings are altered or their use changed, the City of Duluth’s Construction Services & Inspections Department administers the Minnesota State Building Code, which includes the MN Accessibility Code, Chapter 1341 of Minnesota Rules. The link to the MN Accessibility Code is here. Keep in mind that even when the MN Accessibility Code is not applicable or when an exception is allowed, facilities are required to comply with the ADA.
What is generally exempt from the Minnesota Accessibility Code?
Detached one- and two-family dwellings and accessory structures, and their associated sites and facilities, are not required to be accessible. The MN Accessibility Code is a building code, so it is applicable when new buildings are constructed or existing buildings are altered or their use changed.
What is Technical Infeasibility for an Accessible Component?
The component is only technically infeasible when the existing structural conditions require the removal or alteration of a load-bearing member that is an essential part of the structural frame, or because other existing physical or site constraints. Budget restraints do not qualify as making accessibility technically infeasible.
When is the Minnesota Accessibility Code Applicable?
Scoping and applicability for the MN Accessibility Code (MNAC) are found in Section 1103 of the Code. Following are some common situations triggering the need to include or increase accessibility from a code standpoint.
New Buildings and Additions
Sites, buildings, structures, facilities, elements and spaces, temporary or permanent, shall be accessible to persons with physical disabilities. A thorough assessment of accessibility code requirements should be performed by a design professional. See MNAC Sections 1104-1111.
New Parking Lots and New Striping of Existing Parking Lots
Where parking is provided, accessible parking spaces shall be provided in compliance with the code, including access aisles and signage. See MNAC Section 1106.
Renewing parking striping is permitted. New striping due to surface seal coating, resurfacing, reconfiguration of parking spaces, or some other reason, shall provide accessible spaces including access aisles.
Change of Occupancy in Existing Buildings
When a change of occupancy affects the entire building or a portion of a building, some accessible features must be provided. See MNAC Section 1113.
Alterations to Buildings
In addition to requirements for new buildings, additions, or changes of use in buildings or parts of buildings, projects that include alterations require accessible features to be added in a particular order of priority. The cost to add the required features need no exceed 20% of the cost of the initial project alteration, unless the project includes new buildings, additions, or changes of use in buildings or parts of buildings. See MAC Section 1112.