Accurate Review


Accessible Recreation

An Accurate Review White Paper, Fall 2018


By:  Don Olivieri, AIA



Making Recreation Facilities Accessible



In Illinois we have a law that requires the use of the Illinois Accessibility Code (IAC) with an effective date of April 24, 1997. Although, as of this writing, the code is in the “rule making process” and should be updated soon; the Capital Development Board, the agency in charge of updating it, has yet to give a new release date. The website still says “The Illinois Accessibility Code is planned to be released in 2017.” So don’t hold your breath. With our background as architects for recreation facilities, we are tasked with designing facilities that meet a code that is over 20 years old, but also protecting our client knowing that the IAC has not been updated to the federal standards for accessible design.


Besides being over 20 years old, the IAC section on recreation facilities (IAC 430.320k) is 3 paragraphs in total. Following this section will expose owners and operators of these recreation facilities to being in violation with the federal laws. We highly recommend following the 2018 International Building Code Chapter 11 and ICC A117.1 “Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities” (Chapter 10 Recreational Facilities) in addition to the IAC. The 2018 IBC contains the scoping provisions (what, where and how many…) while the ICC A117.1 contains the technical provisions. These two documents should protect owners and operators from critics. Recently, a new updated version of the ICC A117.1 standard was released. This version, dated 2017, has yet to be adopted as a reference standard to one of the building Codes (the 2018 IBC still references the 2009 edition).


With all this in mind, all of these documents should be referenced, although the Illinois document provides the least guidance. Recreation facilities in the 2009 version of the ICC A117.1 reside sides in Chapter 11 (it was moved to Chapter 10 in the 2017 edition). Essentially any “Area of Sports Activity” needs to be served by an accessible route. There are 11 exceptions including raised structures used solely for refereeing, judging or scoring, water slides, raised diving boards and several others.

Providing a route to the area of sports activity is not meant to change the nature of the game but merely providing a route to get there and participation is dependent on the person’s abilities. Amusement Rides are addressed in section 1002, although movable or portable amusement rides are exempt, as are rides that do not provide a seat. Children’s rides are also sometimes exempt depending on the provisions of the ride itself. Owners and operators of movable portable amusement rides need to consider accessibility on a location by location basis.


Other important parts to the ICC A117.1 is on recreational boating,  which now has 9 exceptions; the most common ones are the 80’ rule on gangways and edges are optional. For fishing piers, there are very specific requirements now laid out in section 1005. In regards to golf facilities, the basic thing to consider is that access to the main areas (cart rental, bag drop off, tees and putting greens) have to be on the accessible route. For miniature golf at least “half the holes” need to be accessible.


Swimming Pools have to be accessible and are required to have two accessible entries if the pool has over 300 feet of wall. Accessible means into a pool can be accomplished several ways including ramps, lifts and even certain stairs.

And finally there is a section on shooting facilities with firing positions, which have requirements on turning space, floor slope, and if a wall or counter is provided. Additionally, the 2017 version of the ICC A117.1 no longer exempts all elevated shooting platforms unless they are elevated over  12’ and less that 500sf.

The work done on the IBC and ICC A117.1 (both 2009 and 2017 versions) is extensive, more comprehensive, and every effort has been made to make them conform to the federal law. One should be aware that the Illinois Accessibility Code is outdated, not comprehensive. And therefore, should never be used as the only document when designing Recreational Facilities.








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