The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) imposes minimum requirements regarding accessibility for people with disabilities; state and local ordinances may impose more stringent requirements. Zoning laws and building codes may impose additional requirements for purposes beyond disability access, such as safety, and need to be addressed before construction is started. Federal and state laws relating to privacy, such as HIPAA, waste management, environmental hazards, and other emerging concerns have the potential to affect the design of a dental clinic. Guidance from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency should be consulted. When developing contracts with your architect and contractor, obligate them to ensure that you comply with the requirements of all applicable laws.
Compliance requirements of ADA vary depending on whether you are building a new office, renovating an existing one, or moving into an office that does not need to be renovated. When the dental clinic is placed in an existing office that does not require renovation, architectural barriers must be removed to the extent possible. This is in contrast to renovations and new construction, where all accessibility requirements must be met. If you are considering renting space, be aware that ADA places the legal obligation to remove barriers or provide auxiliary aids on both the landlord and the tenant. The construction specifications provided in this manual meet the regulatory requirements of ADA.
An important part of the planning process is reviewing and addressing legal considerations for construction of a dental facility. It is prudent to obtain professional advice from an attorney, architect, and/or contractor regarding the laws and regulations with which you must comply. Laws and regulations of concern include ADA, zoning laws, and dental practice regulations. The following table provides examples of how laws and regulations can affect the design of the facility, the location of a facility, and how a facility is constructed.
Examples of Design Issues Affected by Federal, State, and/or Local Laws
|Handicapped parking||Doorway and hall width||Public telephones|
|Curbs and ramps||Door opening force||Drinking fountains|
|Stairs and elevators||Restrooms/toilets||Carpeting|
|Fixed or built-in seating||Signage||Floor surfaces|
|Countertop width||Emergency alarms||Coat rack height|
|Light switch placement|
|Occupational Health and Safety Laws (governed by state and federal laws)|
|Storage of chemicals||Ergonomic issues||Biological waste management|
|Ventilation in dental lab
and sterilization area
|Ventilation for nitrous oxide use||Radiation hazard protection|
|Considerations that Affect Where and How a Dental Facility May Be Constructed *|
|Zoning Laws||Land-Use Restrictions||Environmental Laws|
|Required essentials||Safety requirements such as fire protection||Storm water run-off requirements|
*Subject to federal, state, and local regulations and laws