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Make Lighting Accessible

Apr 19, 2006 | by Wendy Weinert

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in 1990, providing a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.

This historic legislation allows society to benefit from the skills and talents of individuals with disabilities by reducing barriers to transportation, public services and accommodations, employment and telecommunications. ADA compliance also includes making public spaces accessible to everyone through universal design.

For the lighting industry, the most common ADA requirement is for light fixtures protruding from walls. Specific installation requirements are stated in section 4.4 of the ADA: "… objects projecting from walls with their leading edges between 27 inches and 80 inches (2' 4" to 6' 8") above the finished floor shall protrude no more than four inches into walks, halls, corridors, passageways or aisles."

This requirement is usually in the specifications needed for wall sconces, and BellacorPro has a wide variety of decorative styles that meet ADA requirements. Find styles for your design quickly on the BellacorPro site by looking under the "Specialty" product category and clicking on "ADA."

While ADA compliance isn't required for private residences, creating lighting designs that are accessible to everyone can increase safety, improve security and make any room more useful. Accessibility is also important when designing a space that will be used by older adults or young children.

Lighting for Safety

Good lighting design can increase safety and help prevent accidents and injuries around the home. Transitional areas like toe kicks on cabinets and level changes between rooms can be lit with rope lighting or footlights to help avoid people from tripping and stumbling when moving from room to room.

Steps and stairways should always have good lighting to prevent falls, and it should be bright enough to light the entire staircase. For added safety, installing light switches at the top and bottom of each staircase ensures no one has to navigate in the dark. Rocker switches also add convenience, as they can be turned on with a nudge of the elbow if your hands are full and are easier to operate by young children, people with disabilities and the elderly.

Lighting for Security

Designing adequate outdoor lighting around entrances and along pathways is important for both security and convenience. Besides eliminating the annoyance of trying to fit a key into a keyhole in dim lighting, brightening an entrance also makes it easier to identify visitors who come to your door.

Adding outdoor lighting to a pathway, driveway or yard helps discourage crime, intruders and predators. In the case of an emergency, it can also make it easier for police, ambulance drivers and fire trucks to quickly find your home.

Lighting for a Situation

Reading lights. Night lights. Bathroom lights. No matter what the situation, proper lighting for everyday tasks makes everything easier.

Areas like the kitchen or workshop need plenty of light for working on specific projects. For reading or working at the computer, adding a lamp with a three-way bulb lets each family member choose the amount of light they want. Lighted mirrors in the bathroom are becoming popular and they give an attractive look to the room while casting light on the face for grooming and applying makeup.

Whether you're designing for a commercial space or private residence, make lighting accessible, practical and functional for everyone. Keep universal design in mind when forming a lighting layout and you'll open up a world of possibilities.