Floor Mats and People with Disabilities

No one likes to admit they are getting older. Many of us are feeling the pains each morning, paying the price for taking our bodies past their limits when we were younger! Arthritis, bursitis and other symptoms slow us from starting each day with vigor. We look to medications to help with our discomforts and fear the possibilities of using canes or walkers to get around. There might be other reasons that have gotten us to this point in life but none the less, we are here!

In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted to help those with disabilities navigate through the many obstacles in the public domain. In August 1992, our industry reached out to Senator Jesse Helms asking for an interpretation of the ADA Accessibility Guidelines regulations as they relate to floor mats. Below are excerpts from the response written by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to Senator Helms.

“The ADA Accessibility Guidelines (Guidelines) were issued by
the Department of Justice as one portion of the regulations
implementing title III of the ADA (enclosed). The Guidelines
apply only to the design, alteration, and new construction of
buildings and facilities, not to movable furniture and equipment,
and not to existing facilities not undergoing alterations. If
floor mats are not actually built-in as a part of a building or
facility, they will not be subject to the provisions of the

Although the DOJ states that floor mats are not subject to the Guidelines, it is clear that if floor mats “impede access for people with disabilities, they may need to be moved or removed under section 36.304 of the title III regulation” (see below). You need to be aware of your responsibility as a floor mat servicer in passing this information along to your customer!

“In addition to circumstances in which the Guidelines will
apply to built-in floor mats, there may also be circumstances in
which different ADA requirements apply to floor mats that are not
built in. If movable floor mats impede access for people with
disabilities, they may need to be moved or removed under section
36.304 of the title III regulation. That section requires that a
public accommodation remove barriers in existing facilities where
removing them is “readily achievable,” that is, easily
accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty
or expense. Even though the requirements of the Guidelines would
not apply to the mats themselves, the Guidelines can provide
helpful guidance in ensuring that mats do not constitute

It is very important that mat servicers know what environment they are placing their products in. Make sure you take time to watch (and evaluate) pedestrian traffic patterns before making any recommendations. A medical building will most likely will see more pedestrian traffic involving canes, walkers, wheelchairs, etc. There is a good chance that people with disabilities will have noticeable changes in their gait. Some people with disabilities seem to choose their footwear more for their personal ease of getting their footwear on and off then for a proper fit increasing the probability of a trip and fall accident. Floor mats need to be able to meet these situations. The weight, size and backing of your mat is critical. The only way you can truly know if you have the proper mat in place is to watch (and evaluate) it in its environment. Your customers will appreciate this! As traffic patterns can change, be proactive, schedule visits with your customer regularly to re-evaluate traffic patterns and note changes. Make recommendations to your customer that assist them with providing a clean and safe environment to all who enter and exit their facility. Always keep in mind the type of clients your customers do business with.

Floor Mats are needed at building entrances to help remove soils and moisture from the bottom of pedestrian footwear. A professional mat service can evaluate each environment and make those recommendations needed. The proper size, weight and backing of each mat you provide your customer is essential to keeping their customers safe!

When evaluating any building entrance or exit, be aware of the concerns listed below. These concerns do not cover every potential hazard and should be considered along with any other hazard or potential hazard you come across during your visit.

Walkers With Proper Hardware:

a) Tennis balls (on the bottom of front posts) or any other non-recommended modification to a walker should be noted.

Gait: a) Changes in a normal stride can lead to a person “kicking” a mat leading to a trip and fall accident.

b) Floor mats need to be wide enough to allow any person to walk across them without having one foot stepping on the mat and the other foot stepping on the floor itself. This can cause a person shuffle their feet leading to a slip/trip fall.

c) Improper footwear can cause a person to mis-step causing a potential trip and fall accident.

d) Make sure the floor mat is of a contrasting color. It helps alert a pedestrian to a change in front of them and can possible slow their stride during the transition.

e) Encourage customers to discourage any type of solicitations or marketing materials which can cause distractions to those entering or exiting. This area is considered a transitional area and distractions should be eliminated or minimized.

When you involve decision makers in this process, you find ownership. Many times good managers will bring their safety committee into the decision making process thus making a policy change more valuable to you and your customers relationship.

Finally, all floor mats need to have the proper backing, the proper weight, and the proper placement to be successful. Borders need to be intact (with no damage). The floor mat must lay flat without any buckles or ripples and to be the proper size for the area it is being placed in. Floor mat standards back these concerns and are a great selling tool! Professional floor mat companies are the most successful companies!

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