The United States Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, also known as the “Access Board” in Washington, D.C., develops and maintains the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines, or ADAAG, which has been adopted by the Departments of Justice and Transportation as the design standards for new construction and alteration under the Americans with Disabilities Act. These standards are applicable in all 50 states and serve as the minimum required access standard. Individual states, as well as municipalities, have to use standards that meet this minimum standard but can enforce a standard that is much stricter.
Public transportation providers that receive funds from the Federal Transportation Administration must comply with ADAAG design standards. Other state and local governments covered by Title II may choose either ADAAG or the original Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards. For consistency, we recommend all entities use the ADAAG standards.
The Department of Justice and the Federal Transit Administration specify which facilities and vehicles must be accessible. The Access Board provides technical assistance on the guidelines themselves, that is, the design features which must be incorporated in such new or altered facilities or vehicles.
The ADAAG guidelines have been in place since July 1990. There have been no changes to the actual standards since that time, but there have been additional sections added as supplements. Sections 11-16 are the supplemental sections added for additional information, but have not yet been adopted by the Department of Justice as the “required” standard. That does not, however, mean they cannot be used for the types of facilities they address. A downloadable copy of the current ADAAG standards can be obtained at the Access Board web site.
The Access Board has completed work on an entirely new federal standard that was published in 2010 which became the new enforceable minimum federal standard and is required to be used as the minimum standard in all 50 states. On September 15, 2010, the Department published final regulations revising the Department’s ADA regulations, including the adoption of updated ADA Standards for Accessible Design (2010 Standards). The revised final rules went into effect on March 15, 2011. Compliance with the 2010 Standards was required on March 15, 2012, except that compliance with the requirements in the 2010 Standards with respect to existing swimming pools was subsequently extended to January 31, 2013.
On July 15, 2016, Attorney General Loretta Lynch signed a final rule revising the ADA Title II and III regulations to implement the requirements of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. The final rule was published in the Federal Register on August 11, 2016, and took effect 60 days after publication, on October 11, 2016. Congress enacted the ADA Amendments Act to clarify the meaning and interpretation of the ADA definition of “disability” to ensure that the definition of disability would be broadly construed and applied without extensive analysis.
The Title III regulation was again revised on November 21, 2016, when Attorney General Loretta Lynch signed a final rule that further clarified a public accommodation’s obligation to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services for people with disabilities. The final rule provides that public accommodations that own, operate, or lease movie theaters are required to provide closed movie captioning and audio description whenever showing a digital movie that is produced, distributed, or otherwise made available with these features. The final rule was published in the Federal Register on December 2, 2016, and took effect 45 days after publication, on January 17, 2017.