The Circle Gets Bigger

The ICC/ANSI A117.1 Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilitiesis a nationally recognized standard of technical requirements for making buildings accessible. Published since 1961, it is referenced by many federal documents and States like CT, RI, NC (to name a few) and by any State the enforces Chapter 11 of the IBC..


Last month a public meeting was held at the United States Access Board (USAB) in Washington DC to consider public comments on the proposed changes to the 2009 edition of ICC A117.1.


Proposed Change 

One of the changes being considered is an increase in the diameter of the turning space of a wheelchair from 60 inches to 67 inches.  A proponent of this change is The Wheeled Mobility Task Group (WMTG).  It cites a study conducted by the The Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDeA) of 500 wheeled manual and powered mobility device users. 


The study indicates that the technical provisions and 60" turning radius contained in the current A117.1 standard do not address the needs of the full range of users of mobility devices. Greater Access The work of the WMTG is ongoing, but it has submitted a series of proposed changes to the base building blocks of the A117.1 standard including the increased turning radius.


If the changes to the building blocks are adopted, it is expected to increase the accommodations of manual and power wheelchair users from 80% to 95% and almost double the percentage of scooters served.


Impact & Consequences

This proposed change could increase the floor area required for a turning space by 25% or 6.2 SF! It goes without saying that this could have a significant impact on the size of toilet rooms, dressing rooms and clear floor space in front of doors or other fixtures as well as other items such as elevator cab sizes, passing space, doors in series (vestibules).


And, if history is any guide, the ADA's federal accessibility standards will, over time, incorporate equivalent expanded requirements too.



Organizations like the National Association of Convenience Stores and retailers like Target have expressed their disapproval of the proposed change citing larger toilet rooms and smaller sales floors among others. The study by IDeA is also being questioned while other studies are being called for to support this change.

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