ADA Compliance for Elevator Professionals

In the elevator industry, compliance with the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) is vital to ensure that every member of the riding public has the opportunity and access to use elevators. The ADA is a comprehensive act that offers all-encompassing guidelines on how elevators must be installed and maintained, from specific height requirements and placements of buttons and handrails to elevator cab dimension requirements and braille and sound indicators.

Let’s talk about ADA regulations in the elevator industry and find out why ADA compliance is important, and why accessibility and inclusivity are vital for people to live their lives on their terms.

Understanding Code and Safety

ADA compliance may not seem like an issue that is relevant to everyone, but to make elevators universally accessible regardless of one’s physical limitations, the importance of code and safety cannot be understated. Many aspects of the functionality of an elevator may go under the radar of the riding public.

For instance, did you know that every time you’re in an elevator and it dings, it is signaling that it has traveled another floor? This may seem like an arbitrary feature, but for people with difficulty seeing or other physical constraints, such an indication is necessary for the correct use of an elevator – as it may be the only way that person can know where the elevator is and how far it’s traveled. Regulations like those outlined in the ADA and enforced by local, regional, and national codes ensure each person, regardless of physical ability, has the opportunity to access and use elevators.

The Importance of ADA Compliance

ADA compliance ensures elevators are safe, available, and accessible for all people who need to use them. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) is responsible for setting many of the codes and standards used by the elevator industry. ASME’s adoption of ADA regulations bridges the gap between the elevator code and broader accessibility requirements, illustrating the industry’s commitment to inclusivity by implementing standards that mirror those set out by the relevant experts.

ADA Requirements

ADA requirements for the elevator industry cover a wide range of topics and specifications, from the floorplan and placement of assistance rails inside of the car to the wall fixtures. The ASME standards that cover ADA compliance in relation to the elevator industry are A17.1 and A117.1.

It’s important that elevator professionals, manufacturers, and building managers adhere to ADA requirements while working, and with the clear standards laid out by the ADA and echoed by ASME, compliance should be a given.

ADA requirements ensure that any person with a physical disability can independently get to, enter, and use a site, facility, building, or event. Such disabilities may include difficulty walking, blindness and visual impairment, or deafness and hearing impairment. These requirements include communication enhancements such as accessible two-way communication for the hearing or visually impaired, as well as braille on doors, hall call buttons, and emergency buttons to further amplify accessibility.

Handrail Heights and Placement

ADA compliance begins with the basics, and one fundamental element is the handrail. Handrails are there to assist individuals with balance issues. The ADA ensures height and placement consistency of handrails in elevators and throughout the entire building. This uniformity is key because the act of grabbing and holding onto handrails is one based on muscle memory. In some cases, handrails may need to be opposite the operating panel, ensuring accessibility for all passengers.

Position Indicators and Call Buttons

The height of position indicators is important because people with disabilities are required to rely on their muscle memory more than the average person. Position indicators must be mounted a designated number of inches above the floor. Hall indicators must light up, and must meet dimension requirements. The arrows on the hall indicators must be visible from the floor area adjacent to the call buttons.

Hall call buttons are just as vital as position indicators, and also need to follow ADA guidelines. They must be centered at a specific distance above floor level, and meet the code requirements for a minimum diameter. They must light up when activated (pressed). Code also requires visual and audible signals at each entrance to indicate which car is answering a call, as well as the direction in which the car is traveling. Visual signals inside the elevator car must be visible from the floor area adjacent to the hall call button.

Braille Characters

The use of braille characters is also required for ADA compliance in elevators. Advancements in technology within the industry in recent years mean our industry has come a long way from the days when an attendant would announce aloud the destination and direction of the elevator.

Nowadays, code requires that floor designations be marked with raised characters and braille. These raised characters must be located on the entrance jambs of the elevator, with a raised star shape used on both door jambs to indicate the main entry level. This enables visually impaired members of the public to verify that the floor they’ve landed on matches their desired selection.

Elevator Car Floorplan & Other Features

Finally, the interior of elevator cars must comply with ADA standards to ensure the overall accessibility of the elevator. For full compliance, code specifies both the depth and width of an elevator car. Requirements for clear floor area and door width are also dictated by code.

Where provided, car keypads must be marked with visual characters and arranged in the same order as a standard telephone keypad with the number five (marked with a single raised dot) in the center. This dot, referred to as a node, must be of a specified base diameter and height. This allows people with visual impairments to identify the placement and layout of the keypad.

Final Words on ADA Compliance

In the elevator industry, adherence to ADA compliance is not just about meeting standards; it’s about fostering an environment where technology serves everyone equally and ensuring that each and every member of the general public can enjoy the use of elevators.

For our latest installment of a series of independent signatory elevator company profiles, the ElevatorInfo media team met up with Lou James, a managing partner and co-owner of Evolution Elevator, and his wife Carla James, the company’s primary owner. Working together to manage the company as a family business along with brother Chris, sister-in-law Rosemarie, and brother Thomas, Lou says that being an independent family business has made for stronger connections and better communication within the company as well as with customers.

Evolution Elevator Company installs, repairs, services, and maintains conveyances in some of the biggest and busiest metropolitan areas in the United States –New York / New Jersey (Local 1) and Miami/ South Florida (Local 71). From repairing and modernizing aging, outmoded equipment to installing, servicing, and performing important preventive maintenance on the latest elevator and escalator system technology, Evolution covers it all.

“We service everything. Escalators, moving walks, elevators, dumbwaiters, handicap lifts, you know, soup to nuts. If it’s in vertical transportation, we take care of it,” said Lou.

He continued, “We have a lot of retail customers so we’re trying to get all of our big repairs done, get the elevator equipment, escalator equipment in tip-top shape – That means clean downs. We have a rope job going on, we’re wrapping up a few mods and construction jobs – (at) PortMiami, we’re wrapping up a couple of really big repairs. So not just in the New York area, New Jersey area, but in Florida, just trying to really get all of our repairs done.”

Mike Elia, an IUEC elevator mechanic who serves as the company’s Vice President and Project Manager, said “At Evolution, we have a lot of pride in the quality of work that we do and knowing that our equipment’s some of the best maintained in the city, just really getting in there and making sure everything’s clean, everything’s adjusted properly, that there’s no issues that we could find, and that we’re really providing the riding public with safest elevators and escalators that we can.”

Co-owner and Foreman Thomas James spoke to us at his jobsite in @PortMiami, a major hub for cruise ships and cargo vessels.

“I’m mostly at the port of Miami because we have the cruise ships that go through there – and there’s thousands of passengers coming in and off the ships in one day – so it’s important for us to be there on standby. It’s a lot of traffic on the units, so we’re constantly going there to maintain and make sure that everything’s running smooth.”

Communicating well and working together is at the heart of the company. Lou told us that at Evolution, they don’t separate the management side of the company from the work they do in the field. As an IUEC member who brought with him his career-long experience as an IUEC elevator mechanic, Lou regularly jumps in to work on equipment when necessary. He’s even still in the rotation for taking late-night trouble calls and freeing people from entrapments.

Company owner Carla James emphasized that the safety-focused education and training Evolution Elevator’s mechanics and apprentices receive through the National Elevator Industry Educational Program (NEIEP) is key to ensuring they do quality work and get the job done with safety in the forefront of their mind. “We are a union strong company, so all of our mechanics do complete a course of apprenticeship over four years, and they do have to pass the mechanics test, so that guarantees the job getting done and safely.”

One of the people we talked with at the company’s Staten Island warehouse and office was Mario Baladi, the company’s Foreman for Construction and Modernization. He told us about the projects they were currently working on in New York. “This week we worked on a lot of projects. I worked on an old Otis machine, overhead traction, putting in a new door operator, changing the cables, changing the car station, wiring. We’re gonna do an acceptance test on a hydraulic elevator. It’s a modernization that we recently did and finished. Every day is a new thing.”

Mario started out in the elevator trade as a non-union mechanic, and told us one of the biggest differences between his prior experience and becoming an IUEC mechanic was the IUEC’s focus on making safety a priority.

“In my non -union days, basically safety wasn’t the first order. Getting the job done was the first order – no matter how it gets done. done, just get it done, I don’t care if you go home – they didn’t care. Now it’s a whole different level.” he said.

“Safety is our priority,” said Carla. “We have safety meetings once a month where we go over safety protocols and touch upon any type of incidents to avoid any injuries.” (The ElevatorInfo staff had an opportunity to sit in on one of their safety meetings – be sure to watch the video to see some highlights!)

Lou believes communication between all members of his team is also key to always working safe. “Communication’s at the forefront, you know, that means safety, but (if) we see anything egregious, our new jobs, jobs we have, doesn’t matter who the previous provider was, union or non-union, we don’t take safety for granted,” he said.

He continued, “We have a number of procedures that we follow. We communicate with each other – not just the office talking to the techs, but the techs talking back to the office, the techs talking to each other. That’s really, really important because this is going to be the difference between possible injury to us or the riding public, or getting ahead and finding something that could have led to that.”

When asked about how being an IUEC signatory company is a benefit to his family’s business, he responded, “One of the biggest benefits of being in a signatory company – probably the biggest, I would say, is the members. Really, it’s the backbone. It’s the dedication that the techs have to their craft, to each other, to safety, that you couldn’t possibly in any other aspect compare with anyone that isn’t a member of the team.”

To learn more about the advantages of becoming IUEC-affiliated or about hiring an IUEC-affiliated elevator company like Evolution Elevator to install, service, troubleshoot, modernize, repair, or inspect your elevators, escalators, or other conveyance equipment, contact ElevatorInfo.