ADA: Who has final authority and jurisdiction?

Joan et al,

This might be a little late, however might be a good question to Raise.  

Setup information: A few years ago the ADA inspectors (DOJ Lawyers) performed a site inspection on our then 52 year old Arena.  I believe at the time we were among the first venue's in the nation to undergo such a review.  

In the Arena, we have a 100 and 200 level concourse areas that access general seating areas.  We have no ADA compliant seating accessible from the 200 level concourse.  To access the seating area from the 200 level concourse, you must walk up four steps to reach the seating area.  (We center load from the 200 level).  DOJ mandated that we decrease the vomitory widths by 1/2, remove existing stairs and install ramps or other lift mechanisms for ADA compliancy.  Please note that we six vom's entering/exiting the 200 level seating area.  Each Vom is approximately eight feet in width.  When I ran this "modification" past our local fire jurisdiction, they put a halt to all plans and claimed jurisdiction.  Per the fire department, this facility improvement would decrease emergency egress.  Thereby causing a life safety issue for occupants exiting the building during an emergency.  

So here we sit in violation of ADA mandates but comply with the original & current NFPA laws.  So the question becomes, who has final authority and jurisdiction?  DOJ or National Fire regulations?  I don't believe the issue has fully been resolved.



5 Replies

  • It sounds to me like you might have to eventually comply with both.

    This may require reconfiguration of seating to comply with both regulations.

    For a structure that old you may want to consider having an accurate as-built done so that you have the dimensional information you need for retrofit design.

    My company offers this service so if I can be of any assistance please let me know.

    Good Luck.

    David Landrecht, PLS


  • In reply to David Landrecht, PLS:

    ADA accessibility compliance inspections are precipitated either by construction/renovation at or around the site or in response to a complaint submitted to the authorities having ADA jurisdiction. Typically the responsible property owner is asked to submit a Plan Of Correction (POC) describing the proposed remedial action(s).

    If the subject DOJ mandated solution is part of a POC process, and is in conflict with local Life Safety requirements, the POC process will need to continue until a code compliant "reasonable accommodation" solution is found.

  • Gene:  You have a fairly complicated situation - and truthfully I am surprised that the DOJ would require such extensive alterations in a 52 year old facility.  Is it owned by a governmental/municipal authority?

    Something you should be aware of is that with the 2010 ADA Standards, the required number of wheechair seat locations and companion seats has been reduced by 50%.  That may have an impact on your plans.  

    Our 20 years of experience as ADA consultants has been that if there are issues of fire/life safety, particularly when a fire marshall is requiring something that conflicts with ADA, that often times, the fire/life safety requirements will supercede.  This is further evidenced in the 2010 ADA Standards where fire/life safety issues are being referenced to NFPA regulations.

  • In reply to Peter Dawson:

    Gene or any other readers with ADA question.

    I would be more than happy to discuss your questions or concerns about Public Law 101-336.  I am a registered Architect / Engineer / General Contractor / Codes Consultant and expert according to the courts, but these public forums are not the media to discuss this if you care to contact me.

    Roger A. Repstien

  • In reply to Peter Dawson:

    the ADA is a federal civil rights law and is enforced either by the Department of Justice or by a private lawsuit filed in federal court.  Settlement Agreements or Consent Decrees where the property owner agrees to the modifications and timeframe for completion wiht the DOJ investigators.  Many of these can be read on the DOJ website at   A Plan of Correction (POC) sounds like a term of art connected wtih state or local codes.  ADA and building codes are not the same and are not enforced in the same way.

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