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Accessibility Directives

Section 7210.301(3) of Act 45 mandates that the Secretary of Labor & Industry shall have exclusive power to grant modifications and decide issues of technical infeasibility under Chapter 11 of the Uniform Construction Code (UCC) and any other accessibility requirements contained in or referenced by the UCC. Therefore, the department has published the following directives, which reflect the department's interpretation of common accessibility questions.
 

Accessibility Requirements in Certain Townhouses

The IRC (both the 2003 and the 2006 versions) defines a "townhouse" as: "A single-family dwelling unit constructed in a group of three or more attached units in which each unit extends from foundation to roof and with open space on at least two sides." The 2009 edition modified this definition, stating, "and with a yard or public way on at least two sides."
 
The IRC stipulates that, "where there are four or more dwelling units or sleeping units in a single structure, the provisions of Chapter 11 of the International Building Code [IBC] for Group R-3 shall apply."
 
However, the IBC at section 1107.7 provides a number of exceptions to the accessibility requirements otherwise applicable to R-occupancies.
 
The net effect of the exceptions language is to require that only one-story townhouses satisfy the accessibility requirements in the applicable version of the International Building Code and the ICC/ANSI A117.1 standard. More specifically, each one-story townhouse (again, where there are four or more within a single structure) would have to have at least one accessible entrance and satisfy the requirements of Chapter 10 of the ICC/ANSI standard for "Type B Units." This is not applicable to "Live/Work Units."
 
(Revised 10/27/2011.)
 

Accessibility Requirements When Adding Non-Grade Level Floors

Per section 403.21 (f) of the UCC regulation, additions may either comply with Chapter 34 of the International Building Code (IBC) or the International Existing Building Code (IEBC). Both Chapter 34 of the IBC 2009 and 2012 versions and section 1001.1 of the 2009 and 2012 IEBC as well as 1101.1 of the 2015 IEBC specify that the provisions for new construction shall apply to additions. Thus, Chapter 11 of the IBC (Accessibility), including Section 1104.4 and its exceptions (that deal with accessible route requirements in multi-level buildings), is applicable.
 
If the existing building was approved for occupancy under Fire and Panic/Universal Accessibility requirements (to the extent applicable) or is an uncertified building:
 
The addition of non-grade level floors will not trigger the requirement for an accessible route to non-grade level floors until such time as the aggregate floor area of the additional non-grade level floors exceeds 3000 square feet. However, up to 20 percent of the cost of the alteration project will have to be spent on the making of an accessible route. An elevator would not have to be installed until the threshold has been exceeded.
 
If the existing building was approved for occupancy under the UCC: .
 
The addition of non-grade level floor(s) will trigger the requirement for an accessible route between floors, if the existing non-grade level floor(s) has/have an aggregate area of 3,000 square feet or more, or, if the additional floor space will bring the aggregate floor area of the non-grade level floor area to 3,000 square feet or more. Once the 3,000 square feet threshold is exceeded, an accessible route must be installed. As is noted above, the IBC does spell out exceptions to these requirements. These should be carefully noted before requiring an accessible route to the new floors.
 
(Revised 3/24/11.)
 

Additions and Accessible Exits

Exception 1 to §1007.1 of the International Building Code 2006, 2009 and 2012 as well as 1009.1 of the 2015 provides that accessible means of egress are not required when alterations are made to existing buildings.
 
However, it is critical to note that an "alteration" is defined in Act 45 and the UCC regulation (see 35 P.S. §7210.103 and 34 Pa. Code §401.1) and in §202 of the IBC (and the International Existing Building Code) as, "any construction or renovation to an existing structure other than a repair or an addition." With regard to constructing additions, both the IBC and the IEBC mandate that provisions for new construction apply.
 
Therefore, if an addition is made to an existing building, all the requirements for new construction must be satisfied, and this includes the accessible exiting requirements of Chapter 10 of the IBC (which are based on use group and occupancy load).
 
If an existing exit is used to satisfy some or all of the exiting requirements imposed on the addition, then the exit must fully comply with the accessibility (and other) requirements imposed on new construction.
 
Since altering the existing exit(s) may be problematic, the permit holder may seek a variance from the Accessibility Advisory Board for relief from some, or all, of the requirements for accessible exits.
 
(Revised 10/27/2011.)
 

Measuring Kitchen Base Cabinets for an "Obstructed High Side Reach"

The kitchen cabinet industry's standard depth of a base cabinet is 24 inches, and countertops traditionally have an overhang ranging between 1 inch and 2 inches. This causes a reach depth ranging from 25 inches to 26 inches from the front edge of the countertop to the wall behind the base cabinet.
 
As a result, standard (24 inches deep) base cabinets with countertops that are 25 inches to 26 inches deep appear not to comply with §308.3.2 of the ANSI A117.1, which stipulates that 24 inches is the maximum depth permitted for a high side reach over a 34-inch high obstruction with a parallel approach.
 
The department has consulted the International Code Council (ICC) on this issue, and they indicated that they are aware of the industry standard and the conflict it creates with the code. Because of this conflict the ICC has provided the following interpretation.
 
The depth of the countertop overhang may be subtracted from the overall depth of the countertop when determining the high side-reach over a base cabinet. The reason for subtracting the countertop overhang is that the wheelchair wheels can be positioned under the overhang and closer to the face of base cabinets and, in so doing, this provides a code complaint reach depth of 24 inches over the base cabinet.
 
This interpretation from the ICC will be reflected in the next edition of the ICC/ANSI A117.1 standard.
 
The department agrees with the ICC's interpretation. Local code officials should adopt this interpretation when inspecting kitchen areas for UCC compliance.
 
(Revised 11/27/2011)
 

Public Pools and Accessibility

The 2006 and 2009 International Building Codes (IBC) at section 1109.14 and the 2012 International Building Code at section 1109.15 require all "recreational and sports facilities" to be accessible. "Recreational and sports facilities" include swimming pools. Further, in section 1109.14.4.5 of the IBC 2006 and 2009 and in section 1109.15.4.5 of the IBC 2012, only raised diving boards and diving platforms are not required to be accessible.
 
Therefore, all public pools that must comply with the International Building Code must be accessible, in terms of access to the pool area and into the pool itself.
 
Unfortunately, the ICC/ANSI A117.1-2003 standard, which is adopted under the IBC 2006 and 2009, fails to provide an acceptable and safe means for entering and exiting swimming pools. A ramp conforming to the section 405 requirements in this standard may create an unsafe condition in many situations.
 
For this reason, all persons seeking building permits for public pools based on the IBC 2006 or 2009 and the ICC/ANSI A117.1-2003 standard must provide a means of access into the pool which has been reviewed by the Accessibility Advisory Board and approved by the Department. Building Code Officials should not issue UCC building permits for public pools under IBC 2006 or 2009 that do not have a Department approved means of access.
 
To request Department approval of a means for accessing a pool, submit an Accessibility Advisory Board variance request following the procedures on this website. Click here to view this information.
 
Effective December 31, 2012, Chapter 11 and Appendix E of the 2012 International Building Code were adopted under the UCC, which adopts the ICC A117.1-2009 standard. Section 1109 of this standard now includes requirements for means of entry for swimming pools. Therefore, building permits issued under Chapter 11 of IBC 2012 will no longer require a means of entry reviewed by the Accessibility Advisory Board and approved by the Department, provided the requirements of Section 1109 of ICC A117.1-2009 are met.
 
(Revised 05/28/2013)
 

Temporary Certificates of Occupancy & Accessibility

In compliance with the Pennsylvania Construction Code Act (35 P.S. §§7210.101-7210.1103), the UCC , at 34 Pa Code §§403.46 (e) and 403.65 (f), allows for the issuance of Temporary Certificates of Occupancy, as long as certain conditions are met. These provisions took effect on 12/31/06.
 
Building Code Officials may issue Temporary Certificates of Occupancy, even if not all accessibility requirements have been satisfied, as long as:
  • The building can be occupied safely
  • The certificate contains a date certain by which the accessibility and any other UCC requirements must be satisfied
(Revised 10/27/2011)
 

Vending and Lottery Machine Reach Ranges

If a vending or lottery machine has a tag or label that displays a manufacture date prior to April 9, 2004 (or where other proof is provided that the machine was manufactured prior to this date), the machine may be considered an "existing element." The ICC/ANSI A117.1 standard, at §308.3.1 EXCEPTION , allows existing elements to have an unobstructed side reach up to 54 inches above the floor or ground.
 
A vending or lottery machine manufactured prior to April 9, 2004 with an unobstructed side reach higher than 54 inches should be cited as a non-compliant.
 
If vending or lottery machines have tags or labels indicating that the date of manufacture was after April 9, 2004 or if the machines have tags or labels that do not provide a date of manufacture, they must have an unobstructed high side reach of no more than 48 inches and a low side reach of at least 15 inches off the floor. If higher than 48 inches and/or lower than 15 inches, or if the side reach is obstructed, the machine should be cited as non-complaint.
 
Owners of buildings that have machines cited as non-compliant can apply to the Accessibility Advisory Board for a variance from ICC/ANSI A117.1 §308.3.1.
 
(Revised 10/27/2011)