December 14, 1998
The Honorable Olympia J. Snowe
United States Senator
Two Great Falls Plaza
Auburn, Maine 04210
Dear Senator Snowe:
I am responding to your letter on behalf of your constituent, xxxxxxxxxxxxx. Ms. xxxxx wrote to you indicating that the Town of Minot is in the process of building an addition to the Town Office. Ms. xxxxx described the Town Office as a one story building with a full basement and inquired whether the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires the installation of an elevator. Please excuse our delay in responding.
Under title II of the ADA, State and local governments (i.e., public entities) are prohibited from discriminating against persons with disabilities with regard to any programs, activities and services. Title II also requires that each facility or part of a facility that is constructed or altered must be designed and constructed so that it is readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. Title II permits public entities to choose either of two design standards - the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS) or the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities, as adopted by the Department of Justice as the Standards for Accessible Design (Standards). Since the State of Maine has adopted an accessibility code that is based on the ADA Standards, our response will address the requirements of the ADA Standards rather than the requirements of the UFAS.
In new construction and in alterations where vertical access is required, section 4.1.3(5) of the ADA Standards requires a public entity to provide a passenger elevator that will serve each level, including mezzanines, in all multistory(1) buildings and facilities. Under the ADA, an addition is regarded as an alteration. Therefore, the Town of Minot must ensure that the newly added part of the building is, to the maximum extent feasible, readily accessible to and usable by people with disabilities. The question of whether title II requires the installation of an elevator depends on what type of addition is being made to the Town Office. For example, if a new story is being added to the Town Office or if the addition is a two story facility, then title II's readily accessible standard would require some form of vertical access (e.g., an elevator, a lift or a ramp) to the new story or basement. However, if space is being added to an existing floor level without affecting the circulation path between the basement and the ground floor, then it is unlikely that title II would require an elevator so long as the added space is, to the maximum extent feasible, readily accessible to and usable by people with disabilities.
Ms. xxxxx should note that this letter addresses only the requirements of Federal law. Some States have adopted accessibility requirements through State statutes or building codes that are more stringent than the Federal regulation. The ADA expressly permits local authorities to enforce State or local laws that provide accessibility that equals or exceeds the Federal rules. Therefore, the State of Maine may require the Town of Minot to comply with provisions that impose obligations in addition to those identified in this letter.
I have enclosed copies of the regulation implementing title II and the ADA Standards for your reference. Also, if Ms. xxxxx has additional questions, the Department maintains a telephone information line to provide technical assistance regarding the rights and obligations of individuals, businesses, agencies, and others covered or protected by the ADA. This technical assistance is available by calling 800-514-0301 (Voice) or 800-514-0383 (TDD).
I hope that this information is helpful to you in responding to Ms. xxxxx. Please do not hesitate to contact the Department if we can be of assistance in other matters.
Bill Lann Lee
Civil Rights Division
1. Section 3.5 of the ADA Standards defines "story" as that "portion of a building included between the upper surface of a floor and upper surface of the floor or roof next above. If such portion of a building does not include occupiable space, it is not considered a story for purposes of these guidelines...." Section 3.5 defines "occupiable" as a "room or enclosed space designed for human occupancy in which individuals congregate for amusement, educational or similar purposes, or in which occupants are engaged at labor, and which is equipped with means of egress, light, and ventilation.">