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Accessible Design: Guidelines for Commercial Architecture

ADA Handrail

According to the CDC, 1 in 7 adults has a disability that affects their mobility. As we grow older, the chances of having a disability increase to 2-5 adults for ages 65 and older. A person’s disability should not limit them from performing everyday activities like shopping.

All commercial architecture needs to meet the minimum standards of accessible design. Thank you to the Americans with Disabilities Act 2010, the Code protects people with disabilities from ill and exclusively designed buildings that do not accommodate their needs.

Architects must keep up with the growth of technology and advancements. The ever-growing needs of the public are in demand, and yes, they are loud. All individuals, no matter what age, gender, or ability should feel safe in all buildings.

It can be daunting to dive into the world of architecture while making sure everything meets requirements. Accessibility in architecture shouldn’t be hard. Read on for help on understanding the guidelines.

Accessible Design in Commercial Architecture

Accessibility in commercial architecture is a blueprint on its own when it comes to meeting consumer needs. All buildings should follow the 7 Principles of Universal Design. All designs should be equal regardless of the individual’s ability or disability.

Creating universally designed spaces showcases an architect’s prudent abilities. It can also increase revenue because of its inclusivity. In other words, buildings that integrate accessible designs equate to a safe and happy occupant.

ADA Regulations

About 30 years ago, the ADA or the Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted by George H.W. Bush in 1990. As a result, the act protects citizens in almost all public settings. Fast forward to 2010, the Department of Justice announced the revised regulations for the ADA, known as the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design.

The updated ADA regulations called for all newly designed and constructed facilities to be easily accessible and usable to all individuals with disabilities. The 2010 Standards also give reference points to existing facilities that adopt these new requirements (Title II) and for entities that want to remove any existing barriers (Title III).

Architects are complying with the ADA by meeting its requirements. Some are even taking accessible architecture to the next level by integrating unique designs. Accessible designs do not mean boring!

This act is a turning stone for those discriminated against and limited due to their disabilities. It opened up their doors to employment, recreational opportunities, and education.

Making sure your facility is ADA compliant is crucial to the safety of your consumers and your business. Businesses must carefully follow the ADA guideline. Although, you can hire an ADA compliance expertise to ensure everything is correctly done.

Designing and Integrating Accessible Spaces

When planning out an architectural project, put yourself in your user’s shoes. What do they look like? How might their circumstances differentiate them from others?

No matter the circumstance, applying the following accessible design approach can help your users feel at ease.

Wide Entry Doors and Corridors

Equipment and deliveries should not block doors or corridors. Not only should they be easy to navigate by foot, but also by any mobility devices an individual may use. Wide doorways and paths ensure that a person with a wheelchair, for example, can fit through without any hassle.


Provide individuals with ramps that are less than the required 1:12 slope. Ramps should also include a non-slip surface.

Waiting Rooms and Lounges

It is vital to provide a mixture of seat and table types in various sizes. Some customers may need a higher table while others require a lower one. Some may need a cushioned chair, while others need armrests.


Handicap stalls should include a low sink and mirror installed next to them. Accessible stalls should be large and accommodating. A wheelchair should fit through with ease and, of course, with the installment of grab bars.

Safe Floors

Non-slip floor surfaces are also imperative when it comes to individuals who use crutches. Installing Tactile Ground Surface Indicators (TGSIs) is a great way to ensure safe and easy navigation. Adding carpeting that is secure to the entry areas can also prevent any accidents.

Digital Maps and Kiosks

Individuals in a large shopping mall may feel overwhelmed by the large and busy crowds. With digital maps, they can skip the need to ask someone for help, especially if they have a vision or hearing impairment. Also, allowing patients to check-in for appointments at digital kiosks creates a smoother experience especially when speech and language preferences are available.

Age in Place and Senior Living

Studies show that 3 out of 4 adults ages 50 and older want to age in place. Although, it is harder said than done.

Creating a safe home is not that easy without the help of a professional. Hiring experienced architects who are well-rounded in commercial architecture and residential is the first step in making aging at home a reality. A great architect will design new homes with all of the accessible features into a home for future use, but keep them hidden until they are needed.

Some individuals, however, are not able to age in place, especially alone. Senior living facilities are home to countless individuals who need consistent care. The mental and physical health of those in senior living is affected by the architectural design of these establishments.

Senior living facilities should follow the guideline given and even take it further. For example, you could install an alarm system in bathrooms so staff members can attend to any emergency.

Universal Design Is the Future

It is important for all commercial architecture to follow the ADA requirements. Creating spaces that all people can occupy is monumental when it comes to being inclusive. While at the same time, making the architecture attractive and practical.

Need further guidance on how to properly implement ADA standards and accessible design in your next plan? Don’t hesitate to contact us so we can turn that dream into a profiting, versatile, and user-friendly reality.

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