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Mr. EDWARDS. We will have some questions and some reassurances, I believe, after Mr. Lynch testifies.
Robert Dale Lynch represents the American Institute of Architects. He is an architect from Coraopolis, PA, has been active in designing accessible buildings for the disabled.
During our consideration of the fair housing amendments last year, the AIA was very helpful in providing expert advice about the requirements to provide accessibility in new construction for individuals with disabilities.
We look forward to working again with the AIA to work out a strong provision in the ADA bill and because of more votes coming up, we are going to have to respectfully request the witnesses to try to limit their testimony to about 10 minutes but, however, the full statements will be made a part of the record. Mr. Lynch, welcome and you may proceed. STATEMENT OF ROBERT DALE LYNCH, AIA, AMERICAN
INSTITUTE OF ARCHITECTS, WASHINGTON, DC Mr. LYNCH. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I very much enjoy the opportunity to be here today. I am going to summarize my statement and submit a corrected copy for the record. A page was placed out of order in the copies that we submitted earlier.
Mr. Chairman, as you already know, my name is Robert Dale Lynch, AIA, a member of the American Institute of Architects, and I have my practice near Pittsburgh, PA. I should say Coraopolis. It doesn't pronounce the way it looks on paper-Mr. EDWARDS. I have heard San Jose, pronounced La Jolla.
Mr. LYNCH. Today I represent an organization of about 56,000 members which represents architects across this country and we are this year celebrating our 132nd anniversary.
Ending the isolation of people who have disabilities, and expanding their opportunities for fulfillment have been part of AIA public policy for a long time.
The Americans with Disabilities Act recognizes the human resource in and affirms the humanity of citizens with disabilities. The AIA supports the intent of the legislation and we support congressional action to accomplish it.
Because we do, we want this legislation to work. Its requirements must be clear, understandable and achievable, or else it fails. Civil rights law trapped for years in costly litigation denies justice and opportunity for the very people it is designed to uplift.
Since the ADA bill would reach into so many aspects of national life, its effects are profound and complex. Unfortunately, the lack of clarity and the uncertainty of several important provisions would compound its complexity, would unfairly erect barriers to compliance by people who undertake to comply in good faith, and could significantly increase liability for a profession already beset by liability burdens.
The AIA is concerned principally with certain provisions of title II, which applies to public services, and of title III, which covers public accommodations and privately provided services.
I will leave our comments on title II to the written testimony so that I can confine my time to the limit requested.
In title III concerning alterations and major structural alterations, the legislation provides for alterations and major structural alterations. An alteration must make the altered area readily accessible and usable. In the case of major structural alterations, the path of travel to the altered area must be made accessible, too.
The AIA supports the distinction between the two alteration forms as necessary to encourage renovations by preventing small projects from burgeoning into costly, complex ones solely due to the need to provide an accessible route to the altered area.
Unfortunately, the ADA fails to do this clearly. It tries to make the distinction between the two types of alterations on the basis of structural changes rather than the value of the alterations.
As a result, a building owner who simply drops a ceiling in a small office could also be required to undertake more costly complicated projects to make the path of travel to that office accessible.
We suggest the legislation provide for alterations and major alterations and establish a renovation value to building value ratio to distinguish one for the other. This is a formula that we have currently been working on in Pennsylvania.
I helped to draft our new accessibility law in Pennsylvania, which was passed into law and signed by Governor Casey last December and we feel that we have come up with a pretty workable system that way.
The AIA is concerned that the ADA bill does not adequately take into account the special nature of historic properties. The Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS) in section 4.17, sets forth standards for historic properties. It allows the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to determine whether accessibility requirements of UFAS would "threaten or destroy" the historic integrity of a qualified building or facility. If so, then special accessibility rules would apply. The ADA bill should require a standard of this type for all qualified properties including those listed on or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, or designated historic by a State statute or local ordinance.
Concerning new construction, the legislation imposes requirements for new construction, which apply to facilities open for first occupancy more than 30 months after the date of enactment.
Although the legislation attempts to accommodate projects already in the design process by delaying their effective date of compliance, there will be serious transition problems for some projects that are or will be under contract for design prior to the effective date of the bill. These projects must comply by the effective dates. They will, therefore, be subjected to costly, often complicated redesign, yet architects will not know with any certainty what they must do to comply. In its section estimating the bills cost for State and local government, the Senate report acknowledges the significant added costs of redesign.
One way to handle this problem is to retain the effective dates in the legislation for alteration and new construction, but have the law apply only to those projects that receive a contract for design after the date of enactment. This is similar to the new Pennsylvania Act 166.
Onto a matter that is of personal interest to architects is that of providing what we call a safe harbor, particularly necessary during the transition from enactment to final regulations. The legislation should provide in the statute language that compliance with re quirements of the American National Standards Institute for ANSI standard A117.1, 1986 edition or an equivalent standard should be sufficient, though not necessary for compliance with the legislation.
ANSI A117.1 is a national model accessibility standard adopted throughout the country and known to many architects.
It has been around since 1961 and was the basis of the new Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards, as well.
Onto the matter of enforcement. The Senate bill also provides that courts should consider a good faith effort to comply when · hearing complaints brought against a covered entity or individual. We support a stronger provision.
State or local building officials should be able to certify that an architect has complied with the act.
Certification by such officials that an architect has complied should then constitute a strong defense against complaints of discrimination. This can be accomplished by permitting the Department of Justice to certify on the application of a State or locality that its building code complies with or exceeds the Federal standard established by the ADA.
When the building official of a jurisdiction with a DOJ certified statute inspects a renovation or new construction project covered by ADA, his or her enforcement of the State or local statute would ensure compliance with the ADA. Under technical assistance-and this is something that I feel is very important because architects do not receive any formal education in what we call, some people have called barrier free design, what I would like to call universal design-there is not one architect in practice today who has ever received formal education in this area and it is a problem.
We can't really depend upon standards like the ANSI standards to educate architects because those are the minimum standards and without a good knowledge of what the nature of individuals' disabilities are they can often be misinterpreted and misused.
The AIA, therefore, urges that the technical assistance program give major attention and resources to the education of architects in the new law and in design for universal accessibility. I want to stress that not only architects in practice but we ought to consider the possibility of putting formal parts of the educational process into the universities.
Of the five universities in Pennsylvania that teach architecture, not one teaches a course in barrier free design or universal design.
I would like to close by saying that we architects, the designers and builders of the environment of man, must broaden our spectrum of design parameters to help improve the quality of life for those who cannot walk or talk or see or hear.
Our creative skills must be applied as well to design for the small and the tall, those who are frail or spastic, or those who are head-injured or mentally challenged. It is a modern day and unique challenge we should engage with unique vigor and we conclude our testimony with the enthusiastic support of the intent of this bill and we stand ready as the gentleman beside me said, to support in helping to make this as perfect as we can.
Mr. EDWARDS. Thank you very much, Mr. Lynch and, Mr. Roth, of course. The committee appreciates the attitudes of both witnesses. You have a lot of good will that we appreciate.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Lynch follows:) PREPARED STATEMENT OF ROBERT DALE LYNCH, ARCHITECT, AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF
ARCHITECTS, WASHINGTON, DC
Mr. Chairman, my name is Robert Dale Lynch, AIA, an architect with ry own practice near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I have served on numerous state and Local boards and commissions addressing accessibility problems for persons with disabilities, and have 15 years experience in this design field. I ara today representing The American Institute of Architects (AIA). The AIA is the professional association of 56,000 members which represents the nation's architects. This year, the AIA celebrates its 132nd anniversary. We commend you for holding this hearing and appreciate the opportunity to appear.
American architects are not strangers to the challenges of disability. The architectural profession seeks to serve the diverse needs of people through the buildings and other structures they occupy and use. The design of each of these places should be sensitive to the problems of people with special needs. Too many people live isolated and unfulfilled lives because too many places fail to accommodate their disabilities. As technology has advanced, as society has paid more attention to the rights of disabled citizens, and as law has increasingly specified standards to guarantee those rights, architects have had to seet the ever greater design challenges that disabilities pose.
Ending the isolation of people who have disabilities, and expanding their opportunities for fulfillment have been part of ALA public policy for a long time. Such a policy makes sense not only from a humanitarian standpoint but from an economic one as well. Our nation's population is aging, and between now and the end of the century we face the likelihood of serious labor shortages. The 43 million Americans with disabilities can swell the ranks of workers and enlarge the pool of consumers.-both essential to economic prosperity--but only if we expand their access to workplaces and public accomodations.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) recognizes the human resource in and affirms the humanity of citizens with disabilities. It seeks the same opportunity for them to secure a job, enter a workplace, use transportation, or visit a park that able-bodied people enjoy. The AIA supports the intent of the legislation and we support Congressional action to accomplish it. Because we do, we want this legislation to work, Its requirements must be clear, understandable, and achievable, or else it fails. Civil rights law trapped for years in costly litigation denies justice and opportunity for the very people It is designed to uplift.
Since the ADA bill would reach into so many aspects of national life, its effects are profound and complex. Unfortunately, the lack of clarity and the uncertainty of several important provisions would compound its complexity, would unfairly erect barriers to compliance by people who undertake to comply in good faith, and could significantly increase liability for a profession already beset by liability burdens. Given the increasing tendency of the Supreme Court to discount report language and legislative history, it is not sufficient to leave so many of the legislation's policy specifics to the regulatory process.
Because we expect that the Senate-passed bill, rather than the House bill us Introduced, vill for the basis for House dellberations, ry remarks pertain to the provisions of s. 933 as approved by the Senate.
The AIA is concerned principally with certain provisions of Title II, which applies to public services, and of title III which covers public accogodations and privately provided services. Let me review the AIA's specific concerns with this measure and suggest revisions to improve the bill's chances of accomplishing its purpose.
Existing Facilities and Key Stations
The AIA is concerned that the sections of title II covering alterations for existing facilities and for rail stations are confusing, leaving in doubt what is required. It appears that separate requirements are set forth for existing facilities and for stations. Neither is defined in the legislative language, and so the distinction is unclear. To compound the confusion, the Senate report in title III defines facilities to encompass stations.
It appears that alterations and "major structural alterations', as in Title III, are not required upon enactment, but if undertaken, then the altered area must be made readily accessible and usable. In the case of major structural alterations, the path of travel to the altered area must be made accessible, too. The AIA supports the distinction between the two alteration forms as necessary to encourage renovations by preventing small projects from burgeoning into costly, complex ones solely due to the need to provide an accessible route to the altered area. The legislation, however, provides no way of determining when an alteration becomes a major structural alteration, leaving the decision to the Attorney General. We also believe that the ADA's use of the term "structural" is inconsistent with the legislation's intent as described in the report. Major structural alteration implies najor building support elements such as columns, beans and load-bearing walls, yet the report makes it clear that other alterations which are equally significant, though not structural in nature, are also within the scope of the legislation's Intent. Suspended ceilings, partitions, and doorways, for example, are not deemed najor structural elements by the architectural and engineering community. The inconsistency can be eliminated by referring only to "major alterations".
Later on, the legislation demands that all intercity rail stations and key stations for other rail types be made readily accessible and usable by people with disabilities, as soon as practicable. The Secretary of Transportation may delay the requirement for up to three years in some cases, and for up to 20 years in others, with extraordinary cost of compliance a factor in the length of delay for key stations. Is the legislation providing that alterations for facilities other than stations and key stations are voluntary, but that rail stations must be nade readily accessible and usable following enactment? It is unclear. If that is the requirenent, then the legislation ought to say so, with proper definitions of the terms "facilities" and "key stations, and logical structuring of the sections.