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ABA Accessibility Standard for GSA Facilities Pocket Guide


About Evan Terry Associates, LLC

Evan Terry Associates (ETA) has been teaching seminars, publishing Pocket Guides and other books, and creating websites on the ADA, other accessibility standards, and universal design for over 25 years. From architects with a history of providing trusted reference materials on access requirements, this book has been written for design professionals, contractors, building officials, facility managers, and others who need to understand their facility-related obligations under the ADA.

No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written authorization from Evan Terry Associates, LLC. The contents of this publication are provided for informational purposes only, may not address the unique facts and circumstances of your specific situation, and do not constitute recommendations, architectural, or legal advice of any kind. While ETA endeavors to communicate the information in these materials as timely and accurately as possible, ETA makes no claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of any information contained herein for the unique purposes of any readers and expressly disclaims liability for any errors and omissions. ETA accepts no liability for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided. By utilizing these materials, you assume responsibility for any loss, damage, or liability resulting from such use.

The Basis for this Pocket Guide

This publication has been compiled from the General Services Administration (GSA) Architectural Barriers Act Accessibility Standard downloaded from the US Access Board website at http://www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/buildings-and-sites/about-the-abastandards/aba-standards and from selected sections from the GSA Final Rule adopting these standards at http://www.gsa.gov/portal/ext/public/site/FMR/file/Part102-_76.html/category/21859/. The accessibility standards for buildings and facilities covered by the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) are set forth in Appendices C (Chapters 1-2 Scoping) and D (Chapters 3-10 Technical) to Part 1191 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 36. These new standards replace the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS) and apply to buildings and facilities subject to GSA regulations. See “GSA Notice, §102-76.65” at http://www.gsa.gov/portal/ext/public/site/FMR/file/Part102-_76.html/category/21859/.

The standards became effective May 8, 2006, for new construction and alterations, and February 6, 2007, for leased facilities. For leased facilities where the Government expressly requires new construction to meet its needs the effective date was August 7, 2006. In addition, new requirements for outdoor constructed features, including trails, picnic and camping areas, and beach access routes, became mandatory as part of the ABA standards on November 25, 2013. These requirements apply to sites that are built, altered, or leased with federal funds. These Guidelines and supporting materials are available on the Access Board’s website at http://www.Access-Board.gov/Guidelines-and-Standards/Recreation-Facilities/Outdoor-Developed-Areas/Final-Guidelines-for-Outdoor-Developed-Areas.

The Access Board’s ABA Standards have also been adopted by the Department of Defense and the United States Postal Service. The Department of Housing and Urban Development is in the process of review and adoption of this standard. This publication contains only the GSA’s ABA Accessibility Standard. Below is information concerning the other departments that have adopted the ABA Accessibility Standard.

The Department of Defense, in a Memorandum from the Deputy Secretary of Defense dated October 31, 2008, adopted the same Appendices to Part 1191 as its standards under the ABA effective the date of the Memorandum. An attachment to the Memorandum, which identifies the facilities that are subject to the standards and describes the requirements for alterations to a primary function area, is also part of the Department of Defense standards. This Memorandum can be viewed at http://www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/buildings-and-sites/about-the-abastandards/background/dod-memorandum.

According to the Access Board, the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS) are still in effect for federally funded housing facilities. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is in the process of replacing UFAS with updated ABA standards. (See http://www.Access-Board.Gov/ABA).

The United States Postal Service published regulations implementing the ABA and adopted by reference Appendices C and D to Part 1191, with the exception of the advisory notes, as the regulatory standards for its postal facilities, effective October 1, 2005. (See http://www.Access-Board.Gov/Guidelines-and-Standards/Buildings-and-Sites/About-the-ABA-Standards/ABAStandards).

The above information is current as of the publication of this pocket guide.

How to Use This Pocket Guide

The sections included in this pocket guide from the GSA Final Rule are indicated in gray shading and are intended to simplify the reference process for facility design professionals. They do not include all the facility management responsibilities outlined in GSA’s 212-page Final Rule. Included sections are from 41 CFR—Code of Federal Regulations; Chapter 102—Federal Management Regulation; Subchapter C—Real Property; Part 102-71—General; and Part 102-76 Design and Construction. The applicable subparts and sections are identified where referenced.

This pocket guide includes additional references to requirements in UFAS that potentially fall under the Existing Conditions that Can Remain (ECTCR) provisions found in the 2006 GSA ABA Standards at F203.2:

F203.2 Existing Elements.  Elements in compliance with an earlier standard issued pursuant to the Architectural Barriers Act or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended shall not be required to comply with these requirements unless altered.

F203.2 allows individual elements in certain older facilities that were constructed in full compliance with lesser requirements found in the Minimum Guidelines and Requirements for Accessible Design (MGRAD) or the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS) to remain until they are altered.  As soon as an element is altered, it must be brought into compliance with the current requirements.  This concept is very similar to the safe harbor provision found in the 2010 ADA Standards and regulations. For your convenience, this pocket guide provides a reference to the UFAS requirement where it is less stringent than the comparable ABA Standards requirement.  Due to its short lifespan and other complexities, we have not attempted to reference the MGRAD sections that might apply.

These references are shown in italics within brackets (e.g. [ECTCR UFAS 5.1]) at the end of the ABA section, referring the reader to the comparable, but less strict, section of UFAS. In electronic copies of this pocket guide, the ECTCR reference includes a hyperlink to the UFAS section for your convenience. Where UFAS does not have a comparable requirement to an ABA requirement, the ABA requirement is considered a new requirement and must be followed. This is NOT a comprehensive listing of the ECTCR sections that might apply to any existing element. ECTCR references are not included for residential requirements in the ABA Standard, because residential requirements fall under HUD’s responsibility and not the GSA’s. However, in UFAS, transient lodging (i.e., hotels, motels, and boarding houses) is classified as a residential occupancy (4.1.4(11)(a)). Therefore, we have included ECTCR references from UFAS 4.34 Dwelling Units as they apply to transient lodging.

Definitions from the ABA Standard in Section F106.5 Defined Terms are shown in italics throughout this pocket guide. Selected definitions from the GSA Final Rule are shown with a double underline throughout the text.

ETA Editor’s Notes are shown in a double-bordered box.

Advisory notes are marked with a shaded bordered box.

UFAS for ECTCR is located in the Appendix and is indicated by brown text.

Hyperlinks are used throughout this publication to assist the reader in several ways. Internal hyperlinks point to other sections of the Pocket Guide or Safe Harbor references where applicable and are indicated by dark blue font. External hyperlinks point to more information to expand on particular sections and subjects, as well as other websites; these links are indicated by light blue font. The most frequent type of external hyperlink is indicated within brackets. These links point to www.Corada.com, the Comprehensive Online Resource for the ADA developed by Evan Terry Associates.  Each Corada “more info…” link offers significantly expanded information and resources relevant to the particular section you are reading. Please note that you will need Wi-Fi connectivity or a data plan and a compatible PDF reader to access external links from your mobile device.  We’ve had excellent success using Adobe’s Acrobat, Readers, and their DC app. Also, ezPDF Reader from the Apple App Store works well on iOS devices. We have found that most Kindle readers don’t allow live hyperlinks to function properly. We expect that some other PDF readers will also have difficulty with hyperlinks and we are testing now to determine which ones work best.  For up-to-date information on PDF reader software compatibility under various operating systems, you can go to www.ETAPocketGuides.com.

Updates and Other Pocket Guides

Evan Terry Associates will continue to revise and update this Pocket Guide as new technical assistance is released and interpretations are provided by federal agencies.

We are currently finishing additional Pocket Guide versions covering selected state access standards.  You may visit our website at www.ETAPocketGuides.com where additional information is available about these publications.

If you would like to be notified when new Pocket Guides become available, when changes are made to this Pocket Guide or when new Standards are adopted by DOJ and other federal agencies as ADA, ABA, and/or Rehab Act design standards, you can register to receive email notices of those occurrences by visiting us at www.AccessUpdates.com, emailing us at ETA@EvanTerry.com, or contacting us at (205) 972-9101 (voice) or (205) 972-9110 (fax).

For additional current information on ADA and other access compliance requirements, please visit our website at www.Corada.com.

For ADA survey and compliance tools that will simplify your field measurement process and plan reviews, the Corada Shop has a growing collection of templates and tools that you can download for free or buy on plastic stock.

Upcoming Revisions to ADA Standards

Although these topics are out of the scope of this Pocket Guide, the following additions and updates to the ADA standards are worth watching for. More information on each of these can be found on the Access Board’s website and on Corada.

1. Public Rights-of-Way

Public Rights-of-Way Guidelines are still under study by the Access Board, DOJ and DOT. From the Board’s website:

“Sidewalks, street crossings, and other elements in the public right-of-way can pose challenges to accessibility. The Board’s ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines focus mainly on facilities on sites. While they address certain features common to public sidewalks, such as curb ramps, further guidance is necessary to address conditions and constraints unique to public rights-of-way.

“The Board is developing new guidelines for public rights-of-way that will address various issues, including access for blind pedestrians at street crossings, wheelchair access to on-street parking, and various constraints posed by space limitations, roadway design practices, slope, and terrain. The new guidelines will cover pedestrian access to sidewalks and streets, including crosswalks, curb ramps, street furnishings, pedestrian signals, parking, and other components of public rights-of-way. The Board’s aim in developing these guidelines is to ensure that access for persons with disabilities is provided wherever a pedestrian way is newly built or altered, and that the same degree of convenience, connection, and safety afforded the public generally is available to pedestrians with disabilities. Once these guidelines are adopted by the Department of Justice, they will become enforceable standards under title II of the ADA.”

Until they are adopted, an excellent publication, Designing Sidewalks and Trails for Access Part II of II: Best Practices Design Guide, has been published by the Board and the Federal Highway Administration and can be downloaded for free at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bicycle_pedestrian/publications/sidewalk2/index.cfm.

2. Shared Use Paths

From the Board’s website:

“Shared use paths provide a means of off-road transportation and recreation for various users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, skaters, and others, including people with disabilities. In its rulemaking on public rights-of-way and on trails and other outdoor developed areas, comments from the public urged the Board to address access to shared use paths since they are distinct from sidewalks and trails. Shared use paths, unlike most sidewalks, are physically separated from streets by an open space or barrier. They also differ from trails because they are designed not just for recreation purposes but for transportation as well.

“In response, the Board is supplementing its rulemaking on public rights-of-way to also cover shared use paths.  The proposed rights-of-way guidelines, which address access to sidewalks, streets, and other pedestrian facilities, provide requirements for pedestrian access routes, including specifications for route width, grade, cross slope, surfaces, and other features. The Board proposes to apply these and other relevant requirements to shared use paths as well. This supplementary rulemaking also would add provisions tailored to shared use paths into the rights-of-way guidelines.”

In February 2013 The Board released for public comment proposed requirements for accessible shared use paths used by pedestrians, bicyclists, and others for transportation or recreation. More information can be found on the Access Board’s website at http://www.Access-Board.gov/Guidelines-and-Standards/Streets-Sidewalks.

3. Emergency Transportable Housing

From the Board’s website:

“The Board has issued guidelines for temporary housing provided by the government in emergencies and natural disasters. Emergency transportable housing units, which are designed and manufactured for transport over roadways, have a smaller footprint than other types of housing and pose unique accessibility challenges. Access to such housing was found to be problematic in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. The new guidelines supplement the Board's ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines by adding provisions and exceptions that specifically address emergency transportable housing. The Board developed these guidelines according to recommendations from an advisory panel it organized, the Emergency Transportable Housing Advisory Committee, which included representation from disability groups, industry and code groups, and government agencies...  The final rule was effective June 6, 2014. Compliance is not required by entities subject to the ADA until DOJ updates its accessibility standards to be consistent with the final rule.  Compliance is not required by entities subject to the ABA until HUD updates its accessibility standards to be consistent with the final rule.”

More information can be found on the Access Board’s website at https://www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/buildings-and-sites/emergency-transportable-housing.

4. Passenger Vessels

In June of 2013 the Board released for public comment proposed guidelines for access to ferries, cruise ships, excursion boats, and other passenger vessels under the ADA. Once finalized, these guidelines will supplement the Board’s ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Transportation Vehicles. The Department of Justice and the Department of Transportation will use the guidelines to set mandatory standards. More information can be found on the Access Board’s website at https://www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/transportation/passenger-vessels/about.

5. Medical Diagnostic Equipment

On January 9, 2017, new accessibility standards were published in the Federal Register for medical diagnostic equipment. From the Board’s website:

“The Board has issued accessibility standards for medical diagnostic equipment under section 510 of the Rehabilitation Act. These standards provide design criteria for examination tables and chairs, including those used for dental or optical exams and procedures, weight scales, radiological equipment, mammography equipment and other equipment used for diagnostic purposes by health professionals. The standards address equipment that requires transfer from wheelchairs and other mobility aids and include requirements for transfer surfaces, support rails, armrests, compatibility with lift devices, and other features. Equipment that accommodates mobility devices without transfer is also covered.

As issued by the Board, the standards are not mandatory on health care providers or equipment manufacturers. The U.S. Department of Justice may adopt them as mandatory requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Other federal agencies may implement them as well under the Rehabilitation Act which requires access to federally funded programs and services.”

For the most up-to-date information regarding effective date, visit the Access Board’s website at https://www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/health-care/about-this-rulemaking/final-standards/text-of-the-proposed-standards-9

6. Classroom Acoustics

The Board is undertaking rulemaking to address acoustics in classrooms by referencing a voluntary consensus standard developed by the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) with support from the Board. Accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the “ANSI/ASA S12.60-2010 American National Standard Acoustical Performance Criteria, Design Requirements, and Guidelines for Schools (Parts 1 and 2)” sets specific criteria for maximum background noise and reverberation time in classrooms. Consistent with long-standing recommendations for good practice in educational settings, the standard set specific criteria for maximum background noise (35 decibels) and reverberation time (0.6 to 0.7 seconds) for unoccupied classrooms. Once these guidelines are adopted by the Department of Justice, they will become enforceable standards under the ADA.  More information may be found on the Access Board’s website at https://www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/buildings-and-sites/classroom-acoustics.

7. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Standards and Guidelines

From the Board’s website:

“On January 18, 2017, the Access Board published a final rule that jointly updates requirements for information and communication technology covered by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 255 of the Communication Act. The Section 508 Standards apply to electronic and information technology procured by the federal government, including computer hardware and software, websites, multimedia such as video, phone systems, and copiers. The Section 255 Guidelines address access to telecommunications products and services, and apply to manufacturers of telecommunication equipment.

The final rule jointly updates and reorganizes the Section 508 standards and Section 255 guidelines in response to market trends and innovations, such as the convergence of technologies. The refresh also harmonizes these requirements with other guidelines and standards both in the U.S. and abroad, including standards issued by the European Commission and with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), a globally recognized voluntary consensus standard for web content and ICT.”

For more information on communications topics and up-to-date information on the effective dates, visit the Board’s web site at https://www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/communications-and-it/about-the-ict-refresh/final-rule

Although these standards and guidelines do not apply directly under the ADA, when followed, they provide strong evidence that private and public entities are meeting applicable portions of their effective communication requirements under the ADA.

8. Transportation Vehicles

On December 14, 2016, the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buses and Vans was published in the Federal Register. The final rule became effective on January 13, 2017. From the Board’s website:

“The Access Board has issued a final rule updating sections of its accessibility guidelines for transportation vehicles covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The rule revises provisions in the guidelines that apply to buses and vans to enhance accessibility and to address industry trends and improvements in design and technology. The guidelines, which the Board originally published in 1991, apply to new or remanufactured vehicles (they also include provisions for rail vehicles that the Board will update separately)… The Board’s vehicle guidelines serve as the basis for mandatory standards issued by the Department of Transportation (DOT) under the ADA. Compliance with the updated requirements for buses and vans will become mandatory once specified by DOT in a future update of its ADA standards.”

More information can be found on the Access Board’s website at https://www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/transportation/vehicles/about-adaag-for-transportation-vehicles.

9. Outdoor Developed Areas

From the Board’s website:

“Achieving accessibility in outdoor environments has long been a source of inquiry due to challenges and constraints posed by terrain, the degree of development, construction practices and materials, and other factors.

The Board has issued requirements that are now part of the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) Accessibility Standards and apply to national parks and other outdoor areas developed by the federal government. They do not apply to outdoor areas developed with federal grants or loans. A guide that explains these requirements also is available.

The new provisions address access to trails, picnic and camping areas, viewing areas, beach access routes and other components of outdoor developed areas on federal sites when newly built or altered. They also provide exceptions for situations where terrain and other factors make compliance impracticable. The new requirements are located in sections F201.4F216.3F244 to F248, and 1011 to 1019 of the ABA Standards.

The Board intends to develop guidelines for non-federal outdoor sites covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and areas developed with federal grants and loans covered by the ABA through a subsequent rulemaking.” 

Until the final ADA guidelines are published, following these guidelines should provide strong evidence that public entities are meeting their program access requirements under the ADA.

More information can be found on the Access Board’s website at https://www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/recreation-facilities/outdoor-developed-areas

10. Prescription Drug Container Labels

From the Board’s website:

“The Board has led the development of advisory guidance on making prescription drug container labels accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired or who are elderly. This initiative was authorized by the “Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act" which President Obama signed into law in July 2012.  A provision of the act (section 904) directs the Board to convene a working group to develop best practices for making information on prescription drug container labels accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired.

Shortly after the law was enacted, the Board formed the Working Group on Accessible Prescription Drug Container Labels, an 18-member stakeholder panel comprised of representatives from advocacy organizations and industry. The working group explored various access alternatives, including braille, large print labels, and auditory technologies such as “talking bottles” and radio frequency identification tags. In July 2013, it submitted to the Board its best practice recommendations for pharmacies on providing independent access to prescription drug container labels.  These recommendations are advisory only, not mandatory, and will not have the force of guidelines or standards.

The law directs the National Council on Disability (NCD) to conduct an informational and educational campaign in cooperation with the stakeholder working group to inform the public, including people with disabilities and pharmacists, of the best practices. In June 2016, NCD issued a brochure on the best practices recommended by the Board's working group.  The law also calls upon the Comptroller General to conduct a review to assess the extent to which pharmacies are implementing the best practices and to determine whether barriers to prescription drug labels remain.”

More information can be found on the Access Board’s website at https://www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/health-care/about-prescription-drug-container-labels

Research Projects

The Board sponsors and coordinates research for use in developing accessibility guidelines and providing technical assistance to the public. The Board’s research program is focused on the study of accessibility relating to architecture and design, communication, and transportation. A number of research projects have been completed by the Access Board and others are underway or planned. More information about these projects can be found on the Access Board’s website at http://www.Access-Board.gov/Research.

The results of those projects will be incorporated into future editions of the Pocket Guide only when they are integrated into the guidelines and then published as enforceable Final Rules by the Department of Justice and other adopting agencies.

No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written authorization from Evan Terry Associates, LLC.  These materials are provided for informational purposes only and are intended to serve as a guide for design professionals and building owners.  Users must bear any risks and or liabilities associated with reliance on these guidelines and shall have the sole responsibility to evaluate the information contained herein, to form their independent judgments as to using it, and to modify or adapt it as may be appropriate to specific circumstances.  The user should consult legal counsel of their choice to determine how these matters relate to their own problems, questions or situations.


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