Manuel F. Hernandez Elementary School, Visalia Unified School District

Manuel F. Hernandez Elementary School, Visalia Unified School District

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District-Wide ADA Transition Plan

District-Wide ADA Transition Plan Access Compliance Program Visalia Unified School District

The Visalia Unified School District hired Gilda Puente-Peters Architects (GPPA) to prepare the ADA Transition Plan for the District’s 40 schools. The positive attitude and proactive approach of the District’s leadership gave GPPA the opportunity to provide a comprehensive approach to ensure overall access compliance.

The District phased the project and due to its long-term nature, GPPA submitted each school’s accessibility survey report as completed so that it could be used by district architects and maintenance staff for barrier removal on current projects, until the ADA Transition Plan was completed. Quite a bit of the barrier removal could be done with the District’s maintenance staff, resulting in significant savings.

Following GPPA’s recommendation the District implemented a District-wide accessibility training program, which included a District-wide general awareness training on access compliance for all 500 school principals and supervisors; a customized seven-session of accessibility code and implementation hands-on training for maintenance staff with classroom and field visits, to insure that staff had the tools and knowledge needed to make compliant barrier removal repairs and improvements. Another major aspect of access compliance is the maintenance of accessible features, which not only includes repair maintenance but also the usability of “accessible spaces”; very often users turn them into “inaccessible spaces” due to lack of knowledge of clear space requirements.

GPPA prepared a Policies and Procedures Manual on maintenance of accessible features. We developed a training program with graphic aids, PowerPoint presentations and a video on this topic that is used each year to conduct District-wide awareness training, with great results. GPPA also updated the District’s Design and Construction Standards to include accessibility requirements. GPPA has conducted access compliance plan reviews and punch lists for new school and modernization projects, ensuring not only regulatory compliance but also applying the principals of universal design to make the schools accessible to all to the greatest extent feasible. This comprehensive approach gave the District the necessary information, education, tools and resources that resulted in a sound and cost effective approach to access compliance planning and implementation.