By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
The Starkville Commission on Disabilities will offer a workshop for area architects, engineers and contractors on the latest changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday at the Sportsplex.
The law, enacted in 1990, says any public building — like stores, restaurants and government buildings — that is built or renovated must be handicap-accessible according to specific building codes. Those codes were recently updated with the 2010 ADA standards, which go into effect this year.
The workshop will cover the effective dates for these standards and a comprehensive review of the changes from the 1991 standards.
“ADA is a federal law and historically, unfortunately, a lot of small towns have been a little behind in coming into compliance with those standards, and Starkville is one of those towns, though we’re getting a lot better about that,” City Planner and former ADA Coordinator Ben Griffith said. “There are some big changes and new regulations, and everyone that does that type of work — like design, architecture, construction — needs to be aware of it and get on top of it so they’ll be prepared when the new regulations come into effect.”
A representative from the U.S. Access Board in Washington D.C., which is the leading source of information on accessible design and which authored the 2010 standards, will conduct the workshop.
“I have attended two of their workshops, and they were both packed with the information I need to help make our community more accessible through my work with the COD. Many local architects, engineers and contractors are knowledgeable about (previous ADA standards) but do not know the changes going into effect this year,” Whitney Hilton, former COD chair, said. “The more professionals that attend, the more accessible our community will be for the next generation. Their attendance will also help the city’s building department complete their many tasks, including signing off on and inspecting for ADA compliance.”
Since the city started requiring an ADA coordinator’s signature on building permits, Starkville as a community has become more accessible, Hilton said.
“The change was hard because — even though we were 20 years behind — the building department began to expect architects, engineers and contractors to not only comply with ADA, but also show accessible components in their plans and then later during inspection before certificate of occupancy is issued show that the facility actually was accessible,” she said. “I cannot say that every place that is a new construction or is renovated completely meets ADA because we all are human, but this process has dramatically changed accessibility in our community. Knowledge has spread and attitudes changed, making our neighbors more open minded and our community more inclusive.”
The workshop will cover a variety of topics, including plumbing elements, special rooms/spaces, accessible routes and recreation facilities. The cost of the workshop is $35.
Continuing Education Units will be provided on site for $20. CEUs for professional organizations will need to be self-reported, but certificates of completion will be available to help with the process.
For more information on the workshop, visit http://www.cityofstarkville.org  or call 662-323-2525.