ADA Accessibility for Windows

Frequently Asked Questions/FAQs

  • Is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) a building code?

The Americans with Disabilities Act is a law, not a building code, specification or test method. It is missing many of the necessary technical requirements for compliance testing.

Some of the government agencies that have promulgated regulations to help ensure compliance include: the U.S. Department of Justice’s “ADA Standards for Accessible Design,” the U.S. Access Board’s “ADA and Architectural Barriers Act Accessibility Guidelines,” and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s “U.S. Fair Housing Act.”

Other authorities are also requiring or recommending accessibility, including the Chicago Public Schools and Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, university housing offices, and the New York City Building Code. Detailed requirements vary, but all reference ICC/ANSI A117.1, “Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities” for window operating forces and motions.

The AAMA 513 “Standard Laboratory Test Method for Determination of Forces and Motions Required to Activate Operable Parts of CW and AW Class Operable Windows, Sliding Glass Doors and Terrace Doors in Accessible Spaces” addresses the necessary window-specific provisions.

Remember, building codes represent only minimum requirements. Even if not required, accessible operating windows may be a very desirable feature of the occupied spaces being designed.

  • What is considered an accessible window by ADA and ICC/ANSI A117.1?

AAMA 513 defines an “Accessible Window Units” as operable window assemblies, including frame, infill, hardware, and all other appurtenances, required by project specifications and/or applicable codes, to be, “accessible to and usable by people with such physical disabilities as the inability to walk, difficulty walking, reliance on walking aids, blindness and visual impairment, deafness and hearing impairment, in coordination, reaching and manipulation disabilities, lack of stamina, difficulty interpreting and reacting to sensory information, and extremes of physical size.” (Portion in italics from ICC/ANSI A117.1.)

No test method provides sufficient basis for a manufacturer to represent an individual component, product or product line, as “ADA-certified,” “ADA-approved” or “ADA-compliant,” as the Americans with Disabilities Act makes no provisions for, nor outlines any requirements for, such certification, approval or compliance verification. Wausau is careful to represent laboratory-tested products as capable of accessible operating forces and motions, when properly installed and adjusted, without making any non-verifiable claims.

  • Can accessible windows be expected to perform the same as standard windows?

Gaining the leverage for easy operation may require special location of roto-operators, which can offer only limited opening for ventilation. Also, as noted in AAMA 513, “For accessible units, certain ‘reductions’ in air infiltration, water resistance, and structural performance requirements shall be permitted, when compared to conventional CW and AW Class testing, given the desirability of minimizing operating forces.” In laboratory testing of Wausau products, no such reductions were necessary.

  • Is special care required in the installation of accessible window units?

Yes. These products will require additional care in installation, final adjustment and maintenance, to achieve and maintain compliance. Plumb, square and level installation is critical. Building settlement can affect operating forces and necessitate post-installation adjustment.

  • Can operable windows be “adapted” to achieve accessibility at a later date?

Not always. The fieldwork necessary will vary widely with application and window type. Adaptation may be as simple as hardware adjustment, or may require complete reconfiguration of window openings and surrounding conditions. If adaptability is desired, Wausau strongly encourages the design team to develop a window accessibility plan early in the design process, then detail and specify products accordingly.

  • What special disclaimers and qualifications apply to accessible windows?

In addition to standard disclaimers, qualifications and terms and condition of sale, Wausau Window and Wall Systems makes no claim, and takes no responsibility for, ADA compliance of the total window or door installation on site, including but not limited to, hardware, approach area, reach, force(s), motion, etc., nor for acceptance by authorities having jurisdiction.

  • Other questions?

Contact Wausau’s market managers at info@wausauwindow.com.