# 136 III-7.2100 III-7.

5145 DJ 202-PL-754 May 4, 1994

Mr. Curt Wiehle Accessibility Specialist Minnesota State Council on Disability 121 East Seventh Place, Suite 107 St. Paul, Minnesota 55101 Dear Mr. Wiehle: I am responding to your letter concerning the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA authorizes the Department of Justice to provide technical assistance to individuals and entities that have rights or responsibilities under the Act. Pursuant to that authority, this letter provides informal guidance to assist you in understanding the ADA. However, this technical assistance does not constitute a legal interpretation of the statute and it is not binding on the Department. Your letter asks whether the State of Minnesota's building code complies with the ADA Standards for Accessible Design (28 C.F.R. part 36, Appendix A) regarding grab bars in toilet stalls. The Minnesota code requires accessible toilet stalls to include horizontal grab bars 27-29 inches above the floor and vertical grab bars 3 inches above the horizontal bars. The ADA Standards, by contrast, require horizontal grab bars 33-36 inches above the floor and do not address vertical bars. See ADA Standards for Accessible Design, section 4.17 and figure 30.2 The ADA Standards are supported by substantial research regarding the best placement for grab bars. For example, research conducted on behalf of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development indicates that both walking aid

users and wheelchair users preferred horizontal grab bars at heights of 33-36 inches rather than lower bars. See Steinfeld, Schroeder, and Bishop, Accessible Buildings for People with Walking and Reaching Limitations, HUD-PDR-397, prepared by Syracuse University for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Policy Development and Research (April 1979) (excerpt attached). Therefore, it appears that Minnesota's lower horizontal grab bars may provide less accessibility than the ADA Standards. The ADA Standards, however, provide only minimum guidelines for achieving accessible building design. Jurisdictions are, of course, free to exceed these minimum standards, and I applaud your desire to do so. In addition, the Standards allow some flexibility. Section 2.2 provides: "Departures from particular technical and scoping requirements of this guideline by the use of other designs and technologies are permitted where the alternative designs and technologies used will provide substantially equivalent or greater access to and usability of the facility." Therefore, the grab bar configuration proposed by the Minnesota code will be acceptable only if it provides access and usability substantially equivalent to or greater than that provided by the configuration in the ADA Standards. The Department of Justice will not certify any specific variation from the Standards as being equivalent, except in the context of a formal request for code certification pursuant to 28 C.F.R. 36.602. However, the use of alternate designs is not prohibited if the available data shows that such alternate designs are, in fact, substantially equivalent to the Standards. In any ADA enforcement action, the covered entity would bear the burden of proving the equivalency of any alternate design. I hope this information is helpful, and I hope this letter fully responds to your questions. Sincerely,

John L. Wodatch Chief Public Access Section Enclosure