ADA Standards for Accessible Design
Americans With Disabilities Act
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination (under most circumstances) based on disability. The act was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990. While the act covers a wide-ranging set of rules and regulations, architects are most concerned with Title III, Public Accommodations (and Commercial Facilities) and the provision of Title V that creates the Accessibility Guidelines.
Under ADA, Title III, "No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation." Public accommodations basically cover most places a person can visit, such as: restaurants, theaters, parks, offices, retail stores, businesses, gyms, hospitals, schools, etc. Private clubs and religious organizations are excluded.
Effective December 26th, 1992, all new construction or significant renovations to existing construction must be "readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, except where an entity can demonstrate that it is structurally impracticable to meet the requirements of such subsection in accordance with standards set forth or incorporated by reference in regulations issued."
Title V, section 12204 indicates that "the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board shall issue minimum guidelines" that supplement the rest of the ADA law. Also known as the Access Board, the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, manages the specific design guidelines that building designers and constructors must follow; however, the US Department of Justice is responsible for enacting the guidelines and making them standards.
ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) for Buildings and Facilities
The currently enacted ADAAG (July 1, 1994) is available from the US Department of Justice at: ADA Standards for Accessible Design. These shall be used for all public facilities except in certain jurisdictions that have adopted their own, more stringent, versions of the codes.
On July 23, 2004, the US Access Board issued an updated set of guidelines. Please keep in mind that these guidelines have not been enacted by the US Department of Justice and are not mandatory at this time.
Federal Facility Guidelines ABA
For all federally funded projects, the ABA Accessibility Standards shall be used.
State and Local Accessibility Regulations
States and other local jurisdictions can adopt more stringent standards than the ADAAG. The access board provides a State Code Contact List that gives local code information and contacts for acquiring the local codes.
ANSI 117.1, published in 1961, was the first accessibility standard. Most of the above make reference to or follow many of the guidelines established by ANSI 117.1.
So, Which Accessibility Regulation Should I Use?
There is no straightforward answer to the question of which code should be used. Unfortunately, it really depends on which jurisdictions the building will be constructed under. A combination of the Guide to the ADA and ABA Standards and the State Code Contact List should help point you in the right direction.
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