July 23, 2004

Access Board Issues New Guidelines for Accessible Design

The U.S. Access Board announces the release of new design guidelines that cover access for people with disabilities under the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. The guidelines update access requirements for a wide range of facilities in the public and private sectors covered by the law. "These guidelines are our guarantee that when a building is built or renovated anywhere in the nation, its doors are wide open to our citizens with disabilities," noted Jan Tuck, Vice Chair of the Board. It is estimated that 54 million Americans have some type of disability.

The Board's guidelines detail how accessibility is to be achieved in new construction and alterations and provide specifications for various building elements and spaces, including entrances, ramps, parking, restrooms, and telephones, among others. The new design document is the culmination of a comprehensive, decade-long review and update of the Board's ADA Accessibility Guidelines, which were first published in 1991. Revisions have been made so that the guidelines continue to meet the needs of people with disabilities and keep pace with technological innovations. For example, new provisions for ATMs specify audible output so that people with vision impairments are provided equal access, and reach ranges have been lowered to better serve people who use wheelchairs and persons of short stature. The guidelines also feature a new format and organization and have been extensively edited for greater clarity. "This new version of the guidelines will not only improve access, but will also enhance compliance by making it easier to achieve," said Tuck.

As part of this update, the Board has made its guidelines more consistent with model building codes, such as the International Building Code (IBC), and industry standards. It coordinated extensively with model code groups and standard-setting bodies throughout the process so that differences could be reconciled. As a result, a historic level of harmonization has been achieved which has brought about improvements to the guidelines as well as to counterpart provisions in the IBC and key industry standards, including those for accessible facilities issued through the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The Board believes that this achievement will greatly facilitate compliance.

The updated guidelines are based largely on recommendations from an advisory committee the Board established for this purpose. The ADAAG Review Advisory Committee represented a cross section of stakeholders, including representatives from disability groups, the design profession, and building codes organizations. The final version was further shaped by input received from the public, including over 2,500 comments received in response to a previously published draft.

As part of this update, the Board also revised its guidelines for Federal buildings under the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) of 1968. The ABA requires access to facilities designed, built, altered, or leased with Federal funds. Under the new guidelines, a more consistent level of access is specified under both the ADA and the ABA.

The Board's guidelines serve as the baseline for standards used to enforce the ADA and the ABA. These standards, which are maintained by other Federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Justice under the ADA, will be updated according to the new guidelines. It is these standards, not the Board's guidelines, that the public must follow.

Copies of the new ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines and other information are available on the Board's website at http://www.access-board.gov/ada-aba.htm.

Posted by rollingrains at July 23, 2004 05:17 PM | TrackBack