Building Access Laws & Codes
The purpose of the Act is to incorporate the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) into Florida law and to obtain certification that the state’s accessibility code is equivalent to federal standards. Florida has been one among the first four states--in addition to Texas, Washington and Maine--that has had building codes certified as ADA-equivalent.
In 2001, Florida building access laws were revised and expanded. The building code requirements for access are in the Florida Building Code - Accessibility. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is a Federal civil rights law that provides important legal rights to some 50 million Americans with disabilities. Title III of the ADA was enacted to eliminate the obstacles faced by persons with disabilities in obtaining the full and equal enjoyment of the goods and services provided by America’s businesses. Title III of the ADA became effective on January 26, 1992. Title III of the ADA applies to places of public accommodation and commercial facilities. However, if you own, lease, or operate a business that invites the public into a facility to do business, then your establishment probably is subject to Title III of the ADA.
Examples of public accommodations include, but are not limited to, hotels, motels, restaurants, bars, theatres, stadiums, auditoriums, bakeries, grocery stores, shopping centers, banks, retailers, shoe shops, dry cleaners, professional offices, gas stations, libraries, museums, parks, schools, gyms and most other business establishments that invite the public in to do business. Title III of ADA and the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) prescribes accessibility requirements for buildings and facilities. These sets of accessibility regulations are federal law and are separate and apart from state requirements. Under Florida Statutes, enforcement is under the jurisdiction of county and municipal authorities, generally the building and code compliance departments. The Miami-Dade County Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources does not enforce ADA and cannot make recommendations on ADA.
The Miami-Dade County Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources enforces handicapped accessibility requirements contained in the Florida Building Code - Accessibility as they pertain to new building construction and/or remodeling of existing buildings and facilities. Even though you may meet all state accessibility requirements when you construct or remodel a building, there may be other access requirements under the ADA. It is recommended to check with a consultant or an architect to be certain that you are in full compliance with federal ADA access requirements.
For further information concerning the ADA, contact:
- Architectural Transportation Barrier Compliance Board at 800-872-2253
Governor’s Working Group on Americans with Disabilities Act
4040 Esplanade Way Suite 180 Tallahassee, FL 32399-7106
- U.S. Department of Justice Disability Rights Section Civil Rights Division
P.O. Box 66738 Washington, DC 20035-6738
Construction, alterations, and barrier removal performed in the State of Florida must comply with the ADA and the Florida Building Code - Accessibility. Some of the questions most frequently asked about accessibility requirements are listed below. This information will be helpful to building owners, architects, engineers and contractors in designing and constructing new buildings, or making alterations to existing buildings to meet accessibility requirements.
Existing commercial buildings, when remodeled, must have the following minimum access features:
- At least one accessible building entrance with signs at the inaccessible entrances to direct the disabled
- A path-of-travel to the remodeled area
- Access in the remodeled area itself
- Accessible toilet rooms that serve the remodeled areas
- Accessible public telephones and drinking fountains serving the remodeled area
- Accessible parking areas and spaces for the remodeled area with accessible spaces close to the accessible building entrances.
New commercial buildings must meet all minimum access standards for new buildings including accessibility of:
- Building approaches (from arrival on site to the building entrance)
- At least half of all building entrances
- Accessible exits
- All paths of travel within the building including corridors, elevators and door widths
- All common areas and uses throughout the building
- All common toilet rooms
- Public telephones and drinking fountains
- Parking areas and spaces including provisions for tall van parking.
- Architectural Transportation Barrier Compliance Board at 800-872-2253
- Most new buildings and remodeled areas of existing buildings are required to be accessible. General guidelines as to what must be accessible are as follows:
Handicapped Parking SpacesAt minimum, the number of spaces indicated in the table below must be provided in newly constructed buildings and facilities as well as in an existing building being remodeled.
- Single-family, duplex or 2-family dwellings, and townhouses are generally not required to be accessible except when they are part of a condominium or planned use development
- Existing privately funded multi-family buildings can generally undergo remodeling or alterations with little or no access work required except for public or employee areas
- New dwelling units having all the living space on one floor and forming part of multi-family buildings comprised of four or more units, whether apartments, condominium or townhouses, must be accessible and must meet the following minimum requirements in accordance with the regulations of the Fair Housing Act, which is part of the Florida Building Code - Accessibility:
- At least one accessible building entrance on an accessible route
- Accessible and usable public and common use areas
- All doors designed to allow passage by wheelchair users
- Accessible route into and through the dwelling unit
- Light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls must be accessible
- Bathroom walls must contain reinforcements in the walls to allow later installation of grab bars around toilets, tubs, shower stalls and seats
- Kitchens and bathrooms must be accessible and contain adequate maneuvering space.
Tenant ImprovementsWhen remodeling a tenant space, tenants are not obligated to make access improvements outside the confines of their own space.Each building permit issued carries its own access requirements depending upon the scope and value of the work. If you do a modest size-remodeling project now and provide some features (such as entrance and path-of-travel) and then do a much larger remodel on the same building later, other features such as parking, elevators, etc., could be required.Historic BuildingsEven historical buildings, when remodeled or altered, must have the same accessible features (entrance, path-of-travel, toilets, phones, drinking fountains, and parking) as other buildings.The Florida Building Code does allow limited exceptions. However, they must be applied on a case-by-case, or item-by-item basis. Exceptions may be granted, in accordance with the procedures established in the code, in cases where compliance with the accessibility requirements would threaten or destroy the historic significance of the building.To be considered as a qualified historical building, the building must be listed in a register, publication, or local inventory such as:
- 1 to 25 total parking spaces: Minimum of 1 handicapped parking space
- 26 to 50 total parking spaces: Minimum of 2 handicapped parking spaces
- 51 to 75 total parking spaces: Minimum of 3 handicapped parking spaces
- 76 to 100 total parking spaces: Minimum of 4 handicapped parking spaces
- 101 to 150 total parking spaces: Minimum of 5 handicapped parking spaces
- 151 to 200 total parking spaces: Minimum of 6 handicapped parking spaces
- 201 to 300 total parking spaces: Minimum of 7 handicapped parking spaces
- 301 to 400 total parking spaces: Minimum of 8 handicapped parking spaces
- 401 to 500 total parking spaces: Minimum of 9 handicapped parking spaces
- 501 to 1,000 total parking spaces: Minimum of 2 percent of total parking spaces must be handicapped parking spaces
- 1,001 and over: 20 plus 1 for each 100 over 1,000 must be handicapped parking spaces
Places of WorshipSanctuary buildings, the primary use for which is conducting worship services, are exempt. Other buildings, such as multi-use buildings, meeting halls, auditoriums, classrooms, and other buildings not designed or intended primarily for worship services are subject to all the accessibility requirements of the Florida Building Code - Accessibility, even if within the same property.Vertical AccessibilityThe Code requires that vertical accessibility be provided to all normally occupied levels. This may not necessarily entail the use of an elevator. Elevators are not required in facilities that are less than three stories in height or that have less than 3,000 square feet per story unless the building is a shopping center, a shopping mall, the professional office of a health care provider, or another type of facility as determined by the U.S. Attorney General.However, vertical accessibility will still need to be provided by other means, such as ramps, lifts, etc., even in cases where an elevator is not required. Exemptions to the vertical accessibility requirement are:
- Federal List of Historical Places
- Designated as historic under an appropriate State or Local law
- Mechanical rooms, equipment catwalks, lubrication pits and other similar areas
- Storage and other spaces not designed for human occupancy
- Spaces that do not open to the public and that house no more than five persons.
ExceptionsIf you are remodeling or altering an existing building, you may request an exception based on unreasonable hardship. In making an unreasonable hardship request, six key factors must be considered:
Even when hardships are granted for financial reasons, however, the building owner must spend up to 20% of the construction cost for accessible features. In choosing which accessible elements to provide, priority shall be given in the following order:
- Cost of providing access
- Cost of all construction contemplated
- Impact of access work on financial feasibility of the project
- Nature of the accessibility, which would be gained or lost
- Nature of the use of the facility under construction and its availability to persons with disabilities
- Whether it is technically unfeasible due to existing structural or other conditions.
Hardship Request DenialsIf your hardship request is denied, an appeal may be made to the State of Florida Department of Community Affairs. Consideration may be given due to structural or spatial limitations of a building. Typical examples for such appeals are basement parking without tall van clearance of 8’-2” (98 inches) because of building height limitations; extremely small restaurants or commercial spaces where accessible toilets could not be reasonably constructed; and buildings where floors are raised above the sidewalk levels.When making an appeal, it is important to consider “equivalent facilitation” or alternate methods to achieve accessibility. A few common alternatives are alternate building entrances; street “blue zone” parking for tall vans; special access lifts; and signage to direct people with disabilities.Regarding appeal forms, hearing dates and procedures, please contact the Florida Building Commission at 2555 Shumard Oak Boulevard, Tallahassee, Florida 32399-2100.
- An accessible entrance
- An accessible route to the altered area
- At least one accessible toilet room for each sex
- Accessible drinking fountains; and
- Additional features such as parking, storage, and alarms.
- The 2010 ADA Standards set minimum requirements (both scoping and technical) for newly designed and constructed or altered State or local government facilities, public accommodations, and commercial facilities to be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.
Read more about Revised ADA Regulations Implementing Title II and Title III
Online OptionsConsult with Staff (MeetQ)
Permitting and Inspection CenterEdward A. Rojas
Permitting and Inspection Center
11805 SW 26th Street, Miami, FL 33175