Retail and Mixed-Use Facilities

by Marcela Abadi Rhoads, AIA RAS


In the United States, there are millions of consumers who spend time shopping and working at shopping centers every day. They are the lifeline of retailers and commercial facilities. The demographics of those consumers are very diverse, but one thing is clear: the population is aging and more citizens are becoming disabled. Prior to the Americans with Disabilities Act, those citizens with disabilities struggled with barriers that impeded their ability to engage in the same activities as able-bodied consumers. The ADA essentially brought equality to the consumer world. With design guidelines in place, design professionals and building owners were given the directive to eliminate architectural barriers in commercial facilities and places of public accommodation. Barriers such as steps in front of retail shops, clothing racks too close to each other, lack of tactile signs for the visually impaired, or high checkout counters. These and other barriers prevented the disabled community from having the same quality of life as everyone else.

Shopping centers are defined as commercial facilities as well as public accommodations in the ADA, and this chapter will focus on how to apply the ADA guidelines to these facilities.

ADA's Definition of Shopping Mall or Shopping Center is:

A. A building housing five or more sales or rental establishments.
B. A series of buildings on a common site, either under common ...

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