Laundry day can be a drag for anyone, but it’s especially frustrating when you haul your clothes all the way to the laundromat only to find none of the machines are accessible to individuals in wheelchairs.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), all public laundry facilities, including ones in hotels built after 2010, must have at least one accessible washer and one accessible dryer, without exception. Most facilities built before 2010 will also likely be subject to this law. If there are four or more washers, at least two must comply with ADA standards. The same goes for dryers.
What qualifies as an accessible washer and dryer? First, there needs to be enough clear floor space in front of the machine. What exactly “enough” means depends on a couple of factors, but it always means at least 30 inches by 48 inches of level space in front of the machine. Second, the machines must have accessible controls. Accessible controls are no more than 48 inches high and are operable with one hand without tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist. They require no more than 5 pounds maximum operating force. Finally, the opening of the machine where you place your clothes obviously must be within your reach. If the machine is front loading, the bottom of the opening must be between 15 and 36 inches above the floor. If the machine is top loading, the top of the door in the closed position can be no more than 36 inches from the floor. One thing to look out for on top loading machines is the placement of the controls. Because the controls for top loading machines are often placed at the back of the machine, the machine itself may become an obstructing object and the controls may be out of your reach range. In this case, the maximum height of the controls may be reduced to 46 inches.
The specific nature of an ADA violation is sometimes difficult for a non-expert to know or identify, but it’s a lot easier to know if you’ve encountered one. If you went to a laundromat, and couldn’t wash your clothes because there wasn’t a single machine you could operate, you’ve probably encountered an illegal barrier.
For more information on ADA requirements for laundry facilities, please check out Certified Access Specialist Janis Kent’s blog at https://steppingthruaccessibility.com/washers-dryers-access/#.WaRg7CiGOCh.
If you are a person with a disability and encounter barriers to access, whether policy based or architectural in nature, please do not hesitate to consider your role as an advocate. Your decision to challenge unfair and discriminatory practices benefits numerous people that you will never meet. You have an effective and willing partner in this endeavor. The Center for Disability Access has been litigating these cases for two full decades. Whether it be consultation or representation, we represent our clients for free. Please don’t hesitate to call the Center to explore or discuss any issues that you have encountered.