Building Inspector

Building inspectors have to read the long lists of building codes, and keep up to date on changes in building practices.

"We also have to be able to communicate very well," says Larry Willick, a building inspector. "We have to speak with a cross-section of society, with different ethnic groups and make sure that they all understand what we are saying about a building."

You are inspecting a private school that has received complaints about their stairs and wheelchair accessibility. You look at the entranceway, and tell the principal what is wrong.

When you are finished, the principal stares blankly. "Are you speaking English? I have no idea what you're talking about."

In fact, you have been speaking English, but you have been using jargon. Translate what you have said (written below) into everyday speech. Use the vocabulary list if needed.

School entranceway:

This wheelchair ramp isn't wide enough. You see that it would be difficult for a person to wheel up this ramp because the gradient appears to be more than 1/12. I'm concerned about the cross slope on the ramp, which should be minimal.

I'm also concerned about the surface of the stairs. It must be firm and even. There is no tactile warning strip at the start of the stairs. This is important for people entering your building who are ambulant but vision-impaired. When pre-cast units are used to make the stairway, all joints must be as flush as possible.



the slope of the ramp

Cross slope:

the slope of the ramp across the direction of travel

Tactile warning strip:

a ridge in the floor that warns a person she is approaching a stair


able to walk

Pre-cast units:

materials made off-site such as brick pavers, concrete slabs or tiles

Maximum tolerance:

The limit allowed above or below a certain measurement