GSA is committed to assuring that federal facilities are fully accessible to all Americans. The design of public buildings must meet accessibility standards and practices outlined in the Architectural Barriers Act. Federal agencies are responsible for ensuring compliance when funding the design, construction, alteration or leasing of facilities.
Four federal agencies are responsible for the standards: the Department of Defense; the Department of Housing and Urban Development; the General Services Administration; the U.S. Postal Service.
The Architectural Barriers Act (ABA)
The Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) was enacted in 1968 and applies to all federal government buildings. The ABA requires that facilities designed, built, altered or leased with certain federal funds be accessible to persons with disabilities. The ABA is enforced by the U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board). The current implementing standards under the ABA are the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS), published in 1984.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
In 1990, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which expanded accessibility requirements beyond federal government buildings to state and local government buildings as well as the private sector. The ADA recognizes and protects the civil rights of people with disabilities and is modeled after earlier landmark laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race and gender. The ADA requires that buildings and facilities be accessible to and usable by people with disabilities. In 1991, the Access Board published the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG).
Who Must Comply With The Laws?
Any person involved In the design, construction, lease and maintenance of federally owned or federally leased facilities.
Penalties For Non-Compliance
The ABA compliance process emphasizes informal resolution. However, if informal resolution cannot be achieved, the Access Board can initiate formal proceedings before an administrative law judge to obtain an order of compliance. Penalties for non-compliance can also include the withholding or suspension of federal funds with respect to the building found not to be in compliance with standards. Under the ADA, legal action is permitted by an individual who has reasonable grounds for believing that he or she is "about to be" subjected to discrimination in violation of the Act. The Acts can ultimately be enforced through lawsuits and settlement agreements to remedy discrimination.
GUIDELINES AND STANDARDS
GSA Accessibility Design Guidelines
It is GSA policy to make all federal buildings accessible without the use of special facilities for the disabled. The intent of this policy is to use standard building products set at prescribed heights and with prescribed maneuvering clearances to allow easy use by disabled employees and visitors.
Accessibility Standards UFAS/ADAAG
UFAS is mandatory on all GSA projects. Current GSA policy also encourages compliance with the requirements of the ADAAG where those requirements are stricter than UFAS. The A/E is responsible for checking whether there are local accessibility requirements. If they exist, the most stringent will prevail between local codes and UFAS/ADA.
The criteria of these standards should be considered a minimum in providing access to the physically disabled. Where dimensions for clearances are stated, allowance should be made in the design for construction tolerances to ensure that the finished construction is in full compliance. Compliance demonstration is mandatory.
For information listing provisions where UFAS is more stringent or contains different requirements than ADAAG or where those differences are "de minimis," (where provisions result in an equivalent level of access) see the GSA Facilities Standards for the Public Building Service (PBS-P100), section 1.10, Accessibility Design Guidelines, page 29.
Planning for Accessibility
In all areas of a building used by the public, Title II of the ADA requires a totally accessible interior path from point of entry to all public services. The design elements affected by this requirement consist of: