Accessibility Guidelines and Standards
Services and Resources
A FEDERAL AGENCY COMMITTED TO ACCESSIBLE DESIGN
U N I T E D S T A T E S A C C E S S B O A R D M E M B E R S
David L. Bibb
General Services Administration
|Douglas Anderson||Wheaton, Illinois|
Joseph A. Cirillo, R.A.
Middletown, Rhode Island
|Pamela Dorwarth||Sarasota, Florida|
|James J. Elekes, M.Ed, MPA/CPM||Surfside Beach, South Carolina|
|Tricia Mason||Arlington, Virginia|
|Philip G. Pearce||College Station, Texas|
|Denis Pratt, AIA||Kennebunk, Maine|
|Daniel O. Rios, P.E.||McAllen, Texas|
|Elizabeth A. Stewart||Winter Haven, Florida|
|Gary L. Talbot||Auburndale, Florida|
|Gwendolyn Trujillo||Cincinnati, Ohio|
|John O. Woods, Jr., P.E.||Alexandria, Virginia|
John C. Wyvill
Little Rock, Arkansas
|Otto J. Wolff||Department of Commerce|
|Michael L. Dominguez||Department of Defense|
|John H. Hager||Department of Education|
|Alex M. Azar, II||Department of Health and Human Services|
|Kim Kendrick||Department of Housing and Urban Development|
|R. Thomas Weimer||Department of Interior|
|Wan J. Kim||Department of Justice|
|W. Roy Grizzard, Jr., Ed.D.||Department of Labor|
|Tyler D. Duvall||Department of Transportation|
|R. Allen Pittman||Department of Veterans Affairs|
|Tom Samra||United States Postal Service|
The U.S. Access Board is an independent Federal agency committed to design that is accessible to persons with disabilities. Under several different laws, including the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Access Board develops and maintains guidelines and standards to ensure access to facilities, public transportation, telecommunications, and electronic and information technology. In addition, the Board provides technical assistance and training on accessible design, enforces standards for federally funded facilities, and promotes accessibility through outreach, dissemination of information, and research.
ACCESSIBILITY GUIDELINES AND STANDARDS
Through its work developing guidelines and standards, the Access Board serves as a leading source of information on accessible design. The Board is pursuing a varied rulemaking agenda that includes the development of new guidelines and the update of existing ones. In 2006, the Board initiated efforts to update its design criteria for electronic and information technology, telecommunications products, and transportation vehicles. It also advanced work on new guidelines for passenger vessels and for public rights-of-way and explored the need for supplementary guidelines covering emergency transportable housing and communication access.
Section 508 Standards and Telecommunications Act Accessibility Guidelines
Electronic and information technology procured by the Federal government is required to be accessible under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. Under this law, the Board maintains access standards for the wide array of technologies covered, including computer hardware and software, websites, phone systems, fax machines, and copiers, among others. The ever-evolving nature of these technologies makes periodic review of the Section 508 standards essential. Last year, the Board implemented steps to update these standards through an advisory panel of interested stakeholders. As part of this effort, the Board’s guidelines for products covered by the Telecommunications Act will be updated as well.
Advisory Committee Members
The was organized by the Board to review the standards and guidelines and to recommend how they should be updated. The committee’s 42 members include representatives from industry, disability groups, standard-setting bodies in the U.S. and abroad, government agencies, and others. The Board structured the committee to represent a balanced cross section of interested parties and stakeholders and to help promote international coordination.
The committee, which held its first meeting in September, will provide a forum for establishing consensus on updating the Section 508 standards and telecommunication guidelines. Topics the committee will explore include coverage of products and technologies, including new or convergent types, solutions to identified access barriers, the content of new or revised specifications and criteria, and their harmonization with comparable international efforts in this area. The Board will propose updated standards and guidelines for public comment based on the committee’s recommendations which are due in 2007.
The Board examined newer types of vehicles, such as double-decker buses, in Las Vegas.
Guidelines for Transportation Vehicles
The Board’s accessibility guidelines for transportation vehicles, address buses, vans, rail cars, and other modes of public transportation covered by the ADA. In 2006, the Board began a review of these guidelines, which were first published in 1991, and held meetings to solicit input from the public on issues to address in their update. These meetings, which took place in Washington, D.C. and Las Vegas, provided an opportunity for people with disabilities, vehicle manufacturers, transit providers and operators, and industry trade associations to highlight needed changes. For example, participants called attention to advances made in the design of mobility aids over the past 15 years, and urged the Board to revisit the specifications to accommodate the broader range of mobility aids now in use. It was also recommended that new transportation technologies, such as bus rapid transit, be addressed. The Board will publish any proposed revisions to the vehicle guidelines for public comment.
Guidelines for Passenger Vessels
On a separate track, the Board is developing new guidelines for passenger vessels. These guidelines will provide specific criteria for different types of vessels, including cruise and gaming ships, ferries, and excursion boats, among others. Last year, the Board released a revised draft of these guidelines which incorporated input from the public on an earlier draft. This follow-up version provided another opportunity for public comment. During a four-month comment period, input was received from people with disabilities and disability groups, vessel operators and manufacturers, and industry trade associations, among others. The Board will further refine the guidelines based on this feedback.
Sidewalks, street crossings, and other elements of public rights-of-ways present unique challenges to accessibility for which specific guidance is considered essential. The Board is developing new guidelines for public rights-of-way that will address various issues, including access for blind pedestrians at street crossings, accessible on-street parking, and constraints posed by space limitations and terrain, among others. In FY 2006, the Board released a revised set of draft guidelines developed with input from the public, including people with disabilities, civil engineers, public works departments, state highway divisions and transportation departments, and leading industry organizations. This information was made available to facilitate the preparation of an impact analysis which must be completed before the guidelines can be officially proposed and eventually finalized.
Emergency Transportable Housing
The devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 brought to light issues concerning access to emergency transportable housing used by the government in emergencies and natural disasters. In May, the Board convened a roundtable meeting that brought together industry representatives and trade groups, manufacturers, disability organizations, and government agencies to explore design issues and to determine how access can best be achieved. To further the dialogue and pin-point access concerns, the Board outlined potential design solutions for several different types of units based on existing access standards. Trade association representatives and manufacturers provided input on industry standards and design constraints that can influence how access is provided. The Board will use the information gained from this meeting to determine whether supplementary provisions to the Board’s facility guidelines, which cover residential facilities, are needed.
As recommended by its customers and stakeholders, the Board began exploring the need for supplementary guidelines on communication access to various types of elements, including kiosks, point of sales and other interactive transaction machines, drive-through communication devices, public address systems, signage, and alarms. In July, the Board held a public meeting on this initiative to solicit input on key issues and considerations that should be addressed. Attendees of the meeting, including representatives from disability groups, code organizations, research entities, and manufacturers, identified areas where access has been most challenging or where further information is needed. These included access for people with vision or hearing impairments to kiosks and point of sales machines, various types of alarms, including carbon monoxide detectors, acoustics, telephone volume control, drive-through communication devices, and public address systems. Some commenters highlighted the need for research in certain areas or called attention to new or emerging technologies for improved access, such as vibrating alarms, directional sound alarms, and audible or “talking” signs and wayfinding cues.
In an effort to reach out to various audiences and to promote greater access, the Board regularly undertakes activities that highlight focus areas and topics, particularly those where accessibility has been problematic. Last year, a Board advisory committee concluded work on an initiative to promote courthouse accessibility. In addition to this and other outreach activities, the Board held a town meeting in Las Vegas on accessibility and the work of the Board.
Committee’s Final Report
Access to courthouses remains a problem, even in the design of new facilities, due to a lack of information and awareness. Design features essential to courthouses, particularly courtrooms, pose challenges to access that are not adequately addressed by existing resources. Through an advisory committee, the Board undertook an initiative to promote inclusiveness in the design of courthouses so that they are accessible to all users. The Courthouse Access Advisory Committee, which the Board organized in 2004, developed design recommendations and best practices that ensure access without compromising traditional features essential to courthouse design. The Committee’s 35 members included courthouse architects, disability groups, members of the judiciary, court administrators, representatives of the codes community and standard-setting entities, government agencies, and others with an interest in the issues to be explored.
Over the course of its two-year charter, the Committee examined design issues in depth, toured different types of courthouses across the country, and crafted access solutions. The Committee also developed an outreach and education plan for the Board’s use in disseminating this new guidance and promoting greater awareness. The Committee completed its work last November and issued its final report, “Justice for All: Designing Accessible Courthouses.” The report provides design guidance and best practice recommendations for achieving access in courthouses, including courtrooms. To test the Committee’s recommendations, several full-scale mock-ups of Federal courtrooms were built and toured by Committee and Board members.
Board members listen to comments from the public at the town meeting.
Las Vegas Town Meeting
Each year the Board holds one of its bi-monthly meetings in a location outside the Washington, D.C. area to discuss various aspects of accessibility and the work of the Board. These town meetings typically focus on topics that relate to the Board’s rulemaking agenda and allow members of the public to discuss issues of accessibility with Board members in an informal setting. They also provide an opportunity for the Board to visit sites and explore access issues in greater depth.
The Board held its 2006 town meeting in Las Vegas in September. The event focused on access issues of concern to the public and ways in which the Board’s various program areas, including rulemaking, technical assistance, and training, can be responsive to them. Citizens and representatives from various organizations called attention to issues concerning implementation and enforcement of the ADA’s design standards, plan reviews, and training for designers and architects. Participants also raised issues concerning access to trails, sidewalks and bus stops, polling places, courthouses, and communication. Accessibility for people who are deaf and those with vision impairments were highlighted as areas meriting greater attention. In addition to the town meeting, the Board held a forum on the update of its vehicle guidelines and explored new types of vehicles available in the area, including a bus rapid transit system, double-decker buses, and a monorail.
SERVICES AND RESOURCES
The Board provides an array of services to the public to promote compliance and ensure access, including training, technical assistance, and enforcement. In addition, it regularly develops and disseminates information and resources that provide useful tools in achieving accessible design. On a daily basis the Board provides guidance to people involved in architecture and design, disability policy and advocacy, information and communication technology, public transportation, housing, and other fields and disciplines.
The Board routinely provides training on accessible design to various audiences at different conferences and events across the country. Training sessions are tailored to the particular interests and information needs of each audience. Most sessions are focused on the Board’s facility guidelines and its standards for electronic and information technology. Last year, the Board conducted 89 sessions through which it provided training to over 7,600 people.
Comprehensive sessions on facility guidelines the Board updated in 2004 under the ADA and the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) remained a centerpiece of its training program. The ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines are being used to update standards maintained by other agencies to enforce these laws. The Board partnered with government agencies, including the General Services Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration, to provide training on new ABA standards covering various types of Federal facilities. The Board offered a full-day program on the updated ADA and ABA guidelines and standards.
The Board also partnered with organizations in the private sector to provide training targeted to particular audiences. In cooperation with National Recreation and Park Association, the Board developed a new training course on its guidelines for play areas. The three-hour course will be used to train park and recreation professionals, designers, landscape architects, manufacturers, operators, and others concerned with ensuring access to play areas.
In applying accessibility requirements to the real world, uncertainty can arise on the best way to achieve access or how a certain requirement should be interpreted. To address these and other questions, the Board provides technical assistance on its guidelines and standards and accessible design through a toll-free line as well as by email and fax. Guidance is provided on access requirements for facilities, vehicles, telecommunications, and electronic and information technology. Most inquiries concern facility access and come from architects, code officials, and other members of the building professions. The Board responded to over 13,000 technical inquiries last year.
The Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) stands as the first law passed by Congress to ensure access to the built environment. Passed in 1968, this law requires access to facilities built or renovated with federal money. It covers a wide range of government buildings, including post offices, social security offices, and Federal office buildings. It also applies to non-Federal buildings that are federally funded, such as schools, transit stations, local courthouses and jails, and public housing.
The Board was originally created to ensure compliance with the ABA, a responsibility it maintains to this day. Enforcement is achieved through the investigation of complaints from the public concerning facility access. In conducting an investigation, the Board first determines whether the facility is covered by the law and, if so, whether it meets the applicable design standards. If it does not, the Board will pursue a corrective action plan and monitor the case until all necessary work is completed. In 2006, the Board opened 86 new cases, in addition to 107 complaints already under investigation. Over the course of the year, the Board completed 70 investigations. Corrective action was achieved in over half of the cases (36). The remaining cases were closed due to either a lack of jurisdiction (20) or the absence of a violation (14).
Publications and Resources
The Board maintains a variety of publications and materials that cover different aspects of accessibility. This information includes copies of all of its guidelines and standards and related guidance materials, such as technical bulletins, design guides, and manuals. The Board sent out over 7,200 copies of its publications last year and further disseminated this information through its website which received almost 32 million hits and logged more than 2.6 million user sessions over the course of the year.
The Board also developed new resources last year. To facilitate implementation of the updated ADA guidelines, the Board published a side-by-side comparison with the original version as well as with the International Building Code (IBC), a key counterpart code that is used by a growing number of states and local jurisdictions.
In addition, the Board teamed up with ADA Technical Assistance Centers, a federally funded network, to develop a web-based resource on integrating access into the efforts to rebuild communities destroyed in the 2005 hurricane season. The Rebuilding Accessible Communities initiative was conceived as an opportunity for community groups, advocates and the building industry to collectively reconstruct communities in a way to be accessible to all. A new website at www.adata.org/rac/index.aspx provides relevant resources and answers to common questions. Additional materials will be added to the site.
Every year, the Board sponsors and promotes research on various subjects pertaining to architecture, communications, or transportation. Many projects are undertaken in partnership with other organizations. During the year, on-going projects advanced research on human measures and wheeled mobility aids, surfaces, accessible play areas and public rights-of-way. New research projects initiated in 2006 will focus on communication access in transportation systems, outdoor wayfinding cues for pedestrians with vision impairments, audible pedestrian signals, and indoor environmental quality.