New England ADA Center
December Newsletter

ADA Question of the Month - Do You Know the Answer?
Architects Drawing Question : I'm an architect who works all over New England. I'm trying to figure out when an elevator is (and isn't) required in new buildings. I know ADA has an exception, but I've heard that most state building codes are stricter. Can you straighten this out?

The answer to this month's question is located at the end of the newsletter.

Photo: Creative Commons.

Universal Access Program's Adaptive Winter Activites Programming is Under Way!
DCR Massachusetts Come experience all that Massachusetts State Parks have to offer! Enjoy ice skating, cross-country skiing, kicksledding, snowshoeing, sit-skiing, and snowmobile rides.  

View the Universal Access Program's winter newsletter and calendar of events. If you would like the newsletter in an alternate format, please contact Laila at
or 413-545-5759.

New Hampshire Debates a Common Problem in New England - Keeping Sidewalks Clear and Accessible in Winter
Snow Plow A man was killed after his wheelchair was struck in the eastbound lane of a state highway in New Hampshire, while the adjacent sidewalk went untouched by plows or shovels. The DOT says they don't maintain sidewalks. City officials say it's not their sidewalk to maintain.

Photo: Creative Commons.

Vermont Looks To Improve Mental Health Care In Its State Prisons
State of Vermont Department of Corrections Vermont is taking a hard look at how it treats people with mental illness in its prisons. Agency of Human Services Secretary Hal Cohen stated that expanding the state's mental health court system could prevent people with mental illness from ending up in prison at all.

U.S. Attorney's Office Hires Attorney to Focus on Civil Rights in Vermont
U S Attorney District of Vermont United States Attorney Eric Miller announced that Julia Torti has joined the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Vermont as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Office's Civil Division. A Civil Rights Intake and Outreach Coordinator will also be joining the Vermont office.

News From Outside New England
Department of Justice's Final Rule Requiring Movie Theaters to Provide Closed Captioning and Audio Description Published
Movie Theater The new rule, which becomes effective January 17, 2017, adds specific requirements addressing the obligations of public accommodations tha operate movie theaters to provide effective communication to patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing, blind, or have low vision.
Read more  in our blog and in the Federal Register.

Photo: Creative Commons.

EEOC Issues Informal Guidance on Reasonable Accommodations for Mental Health Conditions
EEOC Seal Citing an increase in charges of workplace discrimination based on mental health conditions, the EEOC released, Depression, PTSD, & Other Mental Health Conditions in the Workplace: Your Legal Rights. It focuses on topics including accommodations and the right of an employee to keep a mental health condition private.

Surgeon General's Report: Drug and Alcohol Addiction is a Major Public Health Crisis
Surgeon Generals Report on Drug Addiction Opioid overdose take a life every 19 minutes, that's 78 people dying each day. And there are thousands of people in recovery due to the opioid epidemic; some with behavioral health issues who are unaware of their civil rights under the Americans with Disabilities.

Opioids a Significant Factor as US Life Expectancy Shortens for First Time in Decades
Opioids Nationwide life expectancy in the US fell in 2015. Center for Disease Control (CDC) researches cited the opioid epidemic as a significant factor in the national decline. A decline in nationwide life expectancy at birth hasn't happened in the U.S. since 1993.

Photo: Creative Commons.

Answer to the ADA Question of the Month

QuestionI'm an architect who works all over New England. I'm trying to figure out when an elevator is (and isn't) required in new buildings. I know ADA has an exception, but I've heard that most state building codes are stricter. Can you straighten this out?

Answer: The ADA Standards have an exception for privately owned buildings that are either two stories OR less than 3,000 square feet per story [206.2.3 exception 1.] That means it's legal under the ADA to build a new two story building that has a restaurant or offices on the second floor and doesn't have an elevator. Same for a three story or higher building if each floor is less than 3,000 square feet per story. This ADA "elevator" exception does not apply to state and local buildings, medical facilities, shopping centers or malls and transportation facilities. Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Hampshire have adopted the International Building Code (IBC). IBC has a similar exception but it applies when the stories and mezzanines that aren't on the accessible level have a total aggregate area of not more than 3,000 square feet. Vermont Access Rules the elevator exception is more complicated, as is Massachusetts, so call us at 800-949-4232 if you want those details or are confused. You are not alone. 

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New England ADA Center, a project of the Institute for Human Centered Design