Chapter X - Introduction

Brief History

The "Architectural Barriers Act" (ABA), passed by the United States Congress in 1968, requires access to facilities designed, built, altered, or leased with Federal funds.

The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, also known as the United States Access Board, was created under the "Rehabilitation Act of 1973" to develop and maintain accessibility guidelines which serve as the basis for the standards used to enforce the law.

In 1982, in order to establish a consistent set of enforceable standards, the Access Board issued the "Minimum Guidelines and Requirements for Accessible Design" (MGRAD) to assist the following Federal agencies:
  • General Services Administration (GSA)
  • United States Postal Service (USPS)
  • Department of Defense (DOD)
  • Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD)
  • In 1984, these four Federal agencies issued the "Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards" (UFAS) as the enforceable standards covered by the ABA.

    "American with Disabilities Act"

    On July 26, 1990, "American with Disabilities Act" (ADA) was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush.

    It consists of the following five major titles:

  • Title I : Employment - prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment by businesses having 15 or more employees, or by State and local governments.
  • Title II : State and Local Government Activities - prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in State and local government services, programs and activities.
  • Title III : Public Accommodation and Commercial Facilities - prohibits discrimination against persons...

  • Adoption of the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design

    On July 23, 2010, Attorney General Eric Holder signed final regulations revising the Department of Justice's ADA regulations, including its ADA Standards for Accessible Design. The official text was published in the Federal Register on September 15, 2010.

    The Department has adopted revised ADA design standards that include the relevant chapters of the Access Board's 2004 ADA/ABA Accessibility Guidelines as modified by specific provisions of this rule. To minimize compliance burdens on entities subject to more than one legal standard, these design standards have been harmonized with the Federal standards implementing the Architectural Barriers Act and with the private sector model codes that are adopted by most States...

    ...An accessible path of travel may consist of walks and sidewalks, curb ramps and other interior or exterior pedestrian ramps; clear floor paths through lobbies, corridors, rooms, and other improved areas; parking access aisles; elevators and lifts; or a combination of these elements. The obligation to provide an accessible path of travel may not be evaded by performing a series of small alterations to the area served by a single path of travel if those alterations could have been performed as a single undertaking.

    Under the 2010 Standards, entities can alter as many elements within a room or space as they like without triggering a requirement to make the entire room or space accessible based on the alteration of individual elements.

    ...A "primary function" area is any area where a major activity takes place. It includes both the customer services areas and work areas in places of public accommodation. It includes all offices and work areas in commercial facilities. It does not include mechanical rooms, boiler rooms, supply storage rooms, employee lounges or locker rooms, janitorial closets, entrances, corridors, or restrooms.

    In choosing which accessible elements to provide, priority should be given to those elements that will provide the greatest access, in the following order:
  • An accessible entrance.
  • An accessible route to the altered area.
  • At least one accessible restroom for each sex or a single unisex restroom.
  • Accessible telephones.
  • Accessible drinking fountains.
  • Additional accessible elements such as parking, storage, and alarms.
  • The Department of Justice's regulation states that alterations to windows, hardware, controls, electrical outlets, and signage do not trigger path of travel requirements. If they affect usability, however, they are still considered to be "alterations" and must be done accessibly. ADAAG gives some additional exceptions: the path of travel requirement is not triggered if alteration work is limited solely to the electrical, mechanical, or plumbing system, hazardous material abatement, or automatic sprinkler retrofitting, unless the project involves alteration to elements required to be accessible.

    The 2010 Standards adds a new exception to the scoping requirement for visible alarms in existing facilities so that visible alarms must be installed only when an existing fire alarm system is upgraded or replaced, or a new fire alarm system is installed...


    Every public and common use restroom must be accessible. Generally, only one stall must be accessible. When there are 6 or more stalls, there must be one accessible stall and one ambulatory stall (3-foot wide stall with parallel grab bars).

    Faucets with lever-operated, push-type, touch-type, or electronically controlled mechanisms are acceptable designs. If self-closing valves are used the faucet shall remain open for at least 10 seconds.

    Hot water and drain pipes under lavatories shall be insulated or otherwise configured to protect against contact and there shall be no sharp or abrasive surfaces under lavatories.

    Out-swinging toilet door of the 1991 Standards compares to the 2010 Standards.

    In single-user toilet rooms, under 2010 Standards, the water closet now must provide clearance for both a forward and a parallel approach and, in most situations, the lavatory cannot overlap the water closet clearance. The in-swinging doors of single use toilet or bathing rooms may swing into the clearance around any fixture if clear floor space is provided within the toilet room beyond the door's arc.

    In-swinging toilet door of the 1991 Standards compares to the 2010 Standards...

    Reach Ranges

    One of each type of fixed storage facilities such as cabinets, shelves, closets and drawers must be accessible. Self-service shelves and displays must be on an accessible route but need not be lowered within reach ranges of individuals who use wheelchairs.

    The 2010 Standards reach range requirements have been changed to provide that the front and side reach range must now be no higher than 48 inches (instead of 54 inches) and no lower than 15 inches (instead of 9 inches). The reach requirements apply to operable parts on accessible elements, to elements located on accessible routes, and to elements in accessible rooms and spaces...

    Common Errors & Omissions

    ADA requirements for new construction and alterations include detailed provisions for elements, spaces, and facilities. Successful accessibility is often measured in inches, so attention to detail can make the difference between achieving access and excluding or injuring someone. When the ADA's minimum requirements are not met, the results can limit or exclude a person with a disability and can be dangerous.

    Curb Ramps
  • Error: Curb ramp that is located across a circulation path has steep unprotected side flares.
  • Result: People walking across the curb ramp may trip and be injured. People who use wheelchairs can tip over if they accidentally roll over the non-flared sides.
  • Requirement: If a curb ramp is located where pedestrians must walk across the ramp, or where it is not protected by handrails or guardrails, it shall have flared sides; the maximum slope of the flare shall be 1:10. Curb ramps with returned curbs may be used where pedestrians would not normally walk across the ramp...

  • HSW Credit

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