improve the quality of life for the citizens of Reston. As a result, our projects are usually
Reston-specific. Every once in a while,
though, we have a chance to do something that benefits people beyond our community’s
Accessibility Committee and its hard-working chair, Ken Fredgren. For the last two years, Ken and others have
been pushing for the adoption of changes to Virginia’s statewide building code
to make it friendlier to people with disabilities. Those changes have now been
adopted, and the people of Virginia, not just Reston, will benefit.
codes? As you might know, RAC works with
Reston’s commercial property owners and managers to make their properties more
accessible for people with disabilities.
In the course of doing this kind
of work, they have naturally become familiar with the relevant laws and codes. RAC felt that Virginia’s building codes could
be improved to incorporate more language on accessibility.
recommend accessibility-related changes to Virginia’s building codes and laws. And Ken Fredgren was tapped to serve on that
working group. This time, instead of
helping property owners understand the accessibility regulations, Ken got to
help write them.
developers, county and city permitting officials, and disability advocacy
groups collaborated to develop their recommendations. It was a fine example of the good that can
happen when the private and public sectors work together for a common goal.
with a total of 7 proposed changes to the building code and one General
Assembly bill that would provide tax credits for businesses that made
accessibility-related improvements. Ken
proudly presented the group’s products to RCA, and naturally we were in full
support. In October of that year, RCA and
several co-sponsors held a community forum to discuss the changes and urge
Restonians to call and email in support of their adoption.
to Richmond on a regular basis to meet with the working group, and over the
following year, he made several more trips to present their proposals to the
Board of Housing and Community Development (which makes changes to Virginia’s
building code), then to discuss and make revisions to the proposals, and on and
on. These trips weren’t always easy for Ken, but
he kept at it because of his commitment to the cause of accessibility.
were dropped, others were modified. It
was a long and sometimes frustrating process.
But Ken persevered; he wrote letters to the Board, exchanged emails with
staffers, and kept attending meetings.
proposals. Together, these changes
represent a huge step forward in the building code.
which makes buildings easier for older people and those with disabilities to
use, for use in building new homes.
Another mandates wider interior doors on the main floor of new dwellings,
so that people in wheelchairs or mobility devices can move from room to
room. That second change is important
for people with and without disabilities.
Imagine if you invited a friend who uses a wheelchair to your house,
only to discover she couldn’t use the bathroom because the door was too narrow.
accessible spaces required in parking lots.
Another increases the number of accessible parking spaces that must be
constructed in large lots. And the last
one calls for additional accessible parking spaces in lots connected to medical
facilities such as outpatient clinics and dentist’s offices. A lot of RAC’s work involves adding or
modifying accessible parking spaces, and I know that Ken is acutely aware of
the challenge of finding accessible spaces in busy lots.
our building code is friendlier to people with disabilities than it has ever
been. Almost 20% of Virginians have a
disability, and I’m proud that my state’s building code is now working for
them. Parking lots, medical buildings,
and homes are basic facilities, and people with disabilities should have the
same ability to access them as people without.
Virginia remain an appealing place to live.
If people with disabilities can’t find homes with Universal Design
features or can’t find places to park where they shop, eat, or go to the
doctor, they’re less likely to remain in Virginia and spend their money
here. Accessibility improvements aren’t
just good for people with disabilities – they’re good for business.
group. These building code modifications
are lasting changes that will make life better for Virginians with
disabilities, their families and friends, and all of us.
effort doesn’t mean that RAC has stopped making progress on projects here in
Reston. They’ve remained active on
several projects all over our community, and I look forward to sharing the news
once they’re successfully completed.
and that’s great. But I’m really glad
for this opportunity to do something that has a statewide impact. Ken
Fredgren is a model of hard work and dedication to service, and this example
demonstrates how serving your community can have a bigger impact than you ever
UPDATE: Ken Fredgren followed up to point out that the building code changes will need to receive written approval from the governor before they become law. After the governor’s approval, DHCD will have several months to implement them.