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The Beginning of Accessibility

The Beginning of Accessibility

Did you know that twenty-two years prior to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the federal government was already making strides to increase accessibility in federally funded building projects? In 1968 Lyndon B. Johnson signed a law entitled The Architectural Barriers Act (ABA). This law requires all buildings or building alterations to be designed with the intent of making the building accessible. This law opened the door to accessibility and would be enforced by several federal agencies such as the Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the General Services Administration (GSA), and the United States Postal Service (USPS).

Creation of the Access Board

Seeing a need to improve oversight and design standards, Congress passed the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. In section 502 of this act, the Access Board was created.  Originally named the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, this board is responsible for “ensuring agency compliance with the ABA” and soon after published the Universal Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS). When ADA was signed into law on July 26, 1990, the board was assigned the task of developing guidelines for accessibility for facilities and transportation systems.  On the first anniversary of the law passing, the Access Board published the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG).

Increased Unification

Building codes have been in existence for a long time but have lacked unification between jurisdictions.  In 1994 the International Code Council came into existence and after much research, published the first International Building Code (IBC). Working together with the American National Standards Institute, ICC/ANSI A117.1 Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities was produced. 

Recognizing the need for unification between the codes, the Access Board in conjunction with the ANSI A117.1 subcommittee published the 2004 ADAAG. The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Transportation (DOT), are the enforcing agencies for the ADA. In 2010, the DOJ combined 2004 ADAAG with the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Title 28 chapter 1 parts 35 and 36 Subpart D in either Part, to form the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design. This is the current enforceable guideline for accessibility in both governmental and commercial building design, construction and alteration as of March 15, 2011.

For Additional Information

If you have questions about your project, please contact a local elevator dealer. These individuals are well versed in code requirements for the jurisdiction having authority and can work with you to ensure your project meets all requirements. Many manufacturers also offer the assistance of product specifiers who can answer your questions and work with you to get you in touch with the appropriate local representatives.

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