QUESTION: When an alteration is made to an existing building, how much
additional work is required to remove architectural barriers?
All proposed work must comply with OSSC Chapter 11, regardless of
cost. Consideration should be given to OSSC Section 1113.1.2, Section
1113.2 and Section 1113.3. These sections provide essentially identical
provisions from the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)
for alteration projects. The intent is to provide accessibility to
the maximum extent feasible.
Example 1.1: A new exit is required from an existing building because
of a change in occupancy classification. The new exit must be accessible,
or have an area of rescue assistance, regardless of cost. However,
any existing exits that are not accessible are not required to have
an area of rescue assistance.
Example 1.2: Additional plumbing fixtures are required in an existing
building because of a change in occupancy classification. The new
fixtures must be accessible, but any existing fixtures are not necessarily
required to be upgraded.
Example 1.3: A parking lot that serves an affected building is restriped.
The parking lot is required to be striped to contain the appropriate
number of accessible parking spaces and access aisles required by
Additional work to remove architectural barriers is only required
when the existing building, or portion thereof, is an affected building.
ORS 447.241 clearly does not apply to other facilities such as covered
multifamily dwellings. This is consistent with OSSC Section 1101.5.
When an alteration project to an affected building affects the usability
of an area of primary function, other accessible path of travel elements
must be added, or existing path of travel elements made accessible,
unless the additional work is disproportionate to the overall alteration.
This requirement is consistent with the ADA. However, ORS 447.241
defines "disproportionate" as more than 25% of the alteration to the
area of primary function; ADA uses 20%. The following detailed discussion
of this determination is essentially what is printed in the ADA Title
II and Title III Technical Assistance Manuals. [Call 1-800-HELP-ADA
for free copies of these manuals.]
An alteration must affect usability. Such alterations include remodeling,
renovation, rearrangements in structural parts, and changes or rearrangements
of walls and full height partitions. The following are NOT considered
by staff or the U.S. Department of Justice as alterations that affect
usability, unless the project involves alteration to elements required
to be accessible:
Normal maintenance; reroofing; painting; wallpapering; asbestos, lead,
or other hazardous material removal; automatic sprinkler retrofitting;
and changes to electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems.
Example 3.1: An electrical outlet is being relocated. The location
of the new outlet is required to be within reach ranges if it were
part of new construction. Therefore, the outlet must be located according
to Chapter 11. However, if the electrical wiring inside the wall is
being changed, usability by an individual with disabilities is not
affected. Thus, that work is not considered an alteration that affects
An alteration must affect the usability of an area of primary function.
The term "primary function" is defined in statute as "a major activity
for which the facility is intended." See OSSC Section 1102. The U.S.
Department of Justice's Title III Technical Assistance Manual further
clarifies this definition as including customer service areas and employee
work areas, such as offices. It specifically states that an area of
primary function does NOT include:
Mechanical rooms, boiler rooms, supply storage rooms, employee lounges
or locker rooms, janitorial closets, entrances, corridors, rest rooms,
windows, hardware (such as on doors), electrical outlets, and signs.
Therefore, in determining the 25 percent disproportionate limit that
may apply to an alteration project, only work that affects the usability
of an area of primary function (customer service areas and employee
work areas) should be included.
Example 3.2: New flooring is installed throughout a store. The flooring
affects the usability of the area because it affects whether or not
a person in a wheelchair can travel in the store. The new flooring
must comply with accessibility requirements. Additionally, no more
than 25% of the cost of the flooring in the customer service areas
and employee work areas must be spent to provide accessible elements
as outlined in ORS 447.251(4).
Example 3.3: Remodeling a store's public rest room is proposed. The
remodeled rest room must comply with the accessibility requirements
in OSSC Section 1113.2. However, no additional work is required because
the rest room is not an area of primary function of the store. An
exception to this case is a highway rest stop building whose primary
function is being a rest room. Example 3.4: A library is remodeling
its public reading area at a cost of $20,000. The reading area is
considered an area of primary function. Therefore the library must
spend an additional $5,000 to provide accessible paths of travel as
described in ORS 447.241.
Once it has been determined that the path of travel must be made accessible
by spending up to 25% of the alteration that affects the usability of
the area of primary function, priority shall be given to the list of
elements, in the order provided, in ORS 447.241(4). This list is identical
to the list provided by the U.S. Attorney General. Note that interestingly,
"path of travel" is defined by both to include the rest rooms, telephones
and drinking fountains. This is consistent with ADA.
Additionally, an owner cannot evade providing accessible path of travel
elements by making several "small" alterations. Such alterations, if
considered alone, would be so inexpensive that the 25% disproportionate
limit would not result in additional accessible path of travel features.
Whenever the usability of an area containing a primary function is altered,
other alterations to this area (or to other areas on the same path of
travel) made within the preceding three years are considered together
in determining disproportionality. See ORS 447.241(6).
Alteration projects include additions as indicated in OSSC Section
1112.6. A code change may be necessary to further clarify this point.
The intent of the code and ADA is that the addition itself must comply
with all new construction provisions. Then, the paths of travel (OSSC
Sections 1112.2 thru Section 1112.4) must be made accessible, unless
the additional work is disproportionate to the alteration as previously
explained. OSSC 1112.6 references the statutory requirement for path
of travel upgrades, which takes precedence over the confusing code
A barrier removal plan is approved in statute as an alternate method
to spending up to 25% of the alteration that affects usability of
the area of primary function. The plan shall provide an equivalent
or greater level of barrier removal than required by ORS 447.241.
The plan shall include a letter of participation from the building
owner, a building survey that identifies existing architectural barriers,
an improvement plan, a time schedule for the removal of architectural
barriers, and an implementation agreement.
The plan MUST be reviewed and accepted through the waiver process under
ORS 447.250 and shall be reviewed upon completion or every three years
for compliance. Therefore, the Oregon Disabilities Commission designee
must be consulted in this process.
Staff advises that in developing an appropriate plan, consideration
should be given to removing architectural barriers that are readily
achievable. Readily achievable means easily accomplishable and able
to be carried out without major difficulty or expense. The U.S. Department
of Justice has a published list of items that are considered readily
achievable, provided they can be accomplished without much difficulty
or expense. The list includes:
Installing ramps; making curb cuts in sidewalks and entrances; repositioning
telephones; installing visual alarms; widening doors and installing
accessible door hardware; installing accessible signage; installing
grab bars, rearranging toilet stalls and insulating lavatory pipes in
bathrooms; installing raised toilet seats, and full-length bathroom
mirrors; repositioning paper towel dispensers; creating accessible parking
spaces; installing accessible paper cup dispensers at existing inaccessible
water fountains; and removing high-pile, low density carpeting.
In effect, the building owner may use a barrier removal plan, when
approved, to defer costs of barrier removal over the lifetime of the
barrier removal and improvement plan. See the waiver process flow chart
published in the March/April 1997 Edition of CodeLink