Accessibility Guidelines and Standards
Events and Initiatives
Training, Technical Assistance, and Guidance
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|
|Pamela Dorwarth||Sarasota, Florida|
|James J. Elekes, M.Ed, MPA/CPM||Union, New Jersey|
|Bruce S. Growick, Ph.D.||Columbus, Ohio|
|James R. Harding, II Ed.D.||Tallahassee, Florida|
|Tricia Mason||Cheyenne, Wyoming|
|Philip G. Pearce||College Station, Texas|
|Denis Pratt, AIA||Kennebunk, Maine|
|Daniel O. Rios, P.E.||McAllen, Texas|
|Gary L. Talbot||Auburndale, Florida|
|Gwendolyn Trujillo||Cincinnati, Ohio|
|Jan Tuck||Marina del Rey, California|
|John O. Woods, Jr., P.E.||Alexandria, Virginia|
|Otto J. Wolff||Department of Commerce|
|David S. C. Chu||Department of Defense|
|John H. Hager||Department of Education|
|Paula Stannard||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|
|Jeffrey N. Shane||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. The Board maintains design criteria covering access to the built environment, transit vehicles, telecommunications, and electronic and information technology under several different laws, including the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Other Board services include technical assistance and training on its accessibility guidelines and standards and enforcement of design standards covering federally funded facilities. The Board also promotes accessibility through targeted outreach, dissemination of information, and sponsored research.
ACCESSIBILITY GUIDELINES AND STANDARDS
A key program goal of the Board is to serve as a leading source of information on accessible design. The Board has assumed a leadership role in this area through its work developing and keeping up to date design criteria for accessible buildings, vehicles, and communication and information technologies. In recent years, the Board has focused on efforts to address new areas where access has been problematic or not covered elsewhere, such as accessible sidewalks and intersections and passenger vessels. In 2005, the Board made significant progress on these fronts. In addition, the Board helped shape guidelines for voting systems adopted by the Election Assistance Commission.
Being a leading source of information also involves coordination and consultation with peer organizations and key counterparts. Such initiatives are important on both a national and international scale, particularly in the global sphere of information technology. The Board has become increasingly active in coordinating its work with other codes and standard-setting organizations both in the U.S. and abroad. Last year was no exception. The Board advanced greater coordination among building code organizations both domestically and with other nations, particularly Canada and Mexico .
Public Streets and Sidewalks
Sidewalks, street crossings, and other elements of the 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 2005, the Board prepared 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. The completed draft will enable the Board to proceed with an assessment of cost impacts, which must be completed before the guidelines can be officially proposed for public comment.
The ADA ensures access for people with disabilities to public transportation as well as to transit services provided by private entities. The standards currently used to enforce the ADA 's transportation provisions cover access to buses, vans, rail cars, and other vehicle types but do not address passenger vessels. To fill this gap, the Board is developing new guidelines that will provide specific criteria for different types of vessels. Last year, the Board released information, including draft guidelines, for public review and comment. The material was available for comment for a period of eight months. During the comment period, the Board held two public hearings in Washington , D.C. and a third in Los Angeles . Representatives from a variety of interested organizations provided feedback at these hearings and submitted comments, including trade associations, cruise line and charter boat operators, naval architects and marine engineers, accessible travel and hospitality services, and persons with disabilities. The Board proceeded to consider revisions to the draft guidelines based on this input.
The Board, along with other agencies, helped shape new guidelines for voting systems adopted by the Election Assistance Commission last December. Issued under the Help America Vote Act of 2002, the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines cover usability, including accessibility for people with disabilities, security, and privacy. States can follow them on a voluntary basis to ensure that voting systems function accurately and reliably. An advisory body drafted the guidelines for the Commission. This group included representation from various entities with technical and scientific expertise on voting systems and relevant aspects, such as accessibility. The Access Board was represented on this panel by Board members J.R. Harding, Ed.D. and James Elekes, M.Ed, MPA/CPM. Through their seats on the guidelines committee, as well as the Commission's Board of Advisors, Elekes and Harding provided input on the scope of the guidelines and the testing of voting system access.
The Board participated in new committees created by the International Code Council (ICC) and the National Fire Protection Administration (NFPA) that are exploring access issues relating to building design and life safety. These committees provide a forum for further coordinating ICC and NFPA codes and standards with the Board's facility guidelines. The ICC's Code Technology Committee is charged with identifying and addressing conflicts among ICC Codes and Standards. Specific areas of investigation include fire protection, use of elevators in emergencies, assisted living facilities, and further harmonization of the International Building Code (IBC) with the Board's ADA guidelines. The NFPA's ADA Advisory Committee is identifying emerging issues and existing needs among people with disabilities and will develop recommendations on how NFPA can be responsive to them.
In July, the Board hosted a meeting of representatives from the U.S. , Canada , and Mexico to discuss access issues in the built environment, share information, and learn more about each country's accessibility codes and standards. The meeting and exchange of information provided an initial step in a process to improve coordination among North American countries on accessible design and solutions to access issues. Held in Washington , D.C. , the event featured presentations by officials from codes and standards organizations in each country and a discussion session. There were also presentations made on international standards, research on space requirements for powered mobility devices, and the results of studies on evacuation of people with disabilities from the World Trade Center after the terrorist attack of September 11th. Members from each country supported further efforts to coordinate their work on access codes and standards and to develop a cooperative network in order to improve accessibility in all three nations. The event helped lay the groundwork for stronger avenues of communication and greater coordination not only on design standards, but also on technological advances and research outcomes.
EVENTS AND INITIATIVES
The Board's interest in public feedback is not limited to its work developing guidelines and standards. Last year, the Board undertook several initiatives to draw input from customers and interested stakeholders in other venues. These include organization of a new advisory committee on courthouse accessibility, a public forum the Board held on its agenda and services, and a new outreach initiative on education.
Courthouse Access Advisory Committee
As part of an on-going effort to improve outreach to various audiences, the Board has implemented a plan to undertake activities that highlight accessibility within a particular sphere or focus area. The goal of this program is to increase the visibility of different facets of accessibility in a manner that supplements the Board's technical assistance and training programs, builds partnerships with other entities, improves compliance with access requirements, and showcases best practices for accessible design. The first such effort under this plan focuses on access to courthouses. Such access has been problematic even in the design of new facilities due to questions concerning the best way to provide access to various elevated courtroom spaces, including witness stands, jury boxes, and judges' benches. The Board has received many requests for guidance on how access can best be achieved while meeting traditional design features.
To explore these and other design issues and to develop best practice recommendations, the Board chartered the Courthouse Access Advisory Committee in October 2004. The committee's 35 members include designers and 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. The committee held four quarterly meetings over the course of the year that took place in Washington , D.C. , Phoenix , and Chicago . As part of its meetings, the committee toured area courthouse facilities operated by local governments, states, and the Federal government. The Committee is scheduled to complete its work in the fall of 2006.
|Courthouse Access Advisory Committee|
|Accessibility Equipment Manufacturers
Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts
American Institute of Architects
American Bar Association
Arizona State Bar Association
California Administrative Office of the
Conference of State Court Administrators
Cook County (IL) Government
David Calvert, PA
Disabilities Law Project
District of Columbia Courts
HDR Architecture, Inc.
Hearing Loss Association of America
Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum, Inc.
International Code Council
Lift-U Division, Hogan Manufacturing
Michael Graves & Associates
Michigan Commission for the Blind
Montana Advocacy Program
As part of a series of events celebrating the 15th anniversary of the ADA on July 26th, the Board held a public forum on its work and goals under the ADA . The event allowed the public to make recommendations to the Board on topics or issues that should be addressed in its work writing guidelines and standards or sponsoring research. The Board also welcomed suggestions for new guidance and training materials and how this information and related services can be delivered most effectively to its various audiences.
The feedback received at this forum, which attracted a wide audience, touched on a variety of topics, including information technology, indoor environmental quality, communication access, mobility access, and guidance materials, among others. Attendees urged the Board to assume an active role in coordinating its work on accessible electronic and information technology with international organizations, such as the European Union, in order to advance global harmonization and standardization. In addition, it was recommended that the Board address new or convergent types of technologies through its section 508 standards.
Participants also urged the Board to undertake actions to help improve the quality of indoor environments for people who have multiple chemical sensitivities, address various communication access issues for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and consider recommendations for improving access for people with vision impairments. The Board also received feedback on other topics and specific suggestions for guidance materials, research projects, training, outreach, and web-based services.
Promoting Education on Accessible Design
In recognizing the critical role education plays in ensuring access to the built environment, the Board introduced an initiative to promote accessible design in the education of architects, interior designers, engineers and others. As a first step in this endeavor, the Board held a forum to get advice from various experts on how this effort can be advanced through education curricula, design competitions and awards, and outreach to colleges and accrediting organizations.
Participants included representatives from university programs, accrediting organizations, trade associations, professional societies, and disability groups. The participants provided guidance and suggestions on how this initiative can be undertaken most effectively and strategically. Many recommendations centered on how training on accessible design could be made an integral part of the education curricula. Input was received on various considerations involved in advancing this goal and suggestions were made on the shape and substance of courses and training materials. For example, the Board was cautioned against relying on a “one size fits all” approach since design programs among accredited schools vary widely. It was also recommended that the Board not focus solely on students in light of the continuing education requirements and practices among design professions. The discussion also touched on various venues for providing education and training on accessible design, training materials and potential partnerships, the effectiveness of design competitions and outreach efforts to schools, accrediting bodies, and professional and student societies.
TRAINING, TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE, AND GUIDANCE
Through training, technical assistance, and guidance materials, the Board promotes accessibility by helping people understand what access means and how it can be achieved. In any given year, these programs play a critical role in fulfilling the Board's mission.
The Board routinely provides training on its guidelines and standards at various events across the country. Often, these sessions are part of larger programs organized by different groups and associations. Training events are tailored to the particular interests and information needs of each audience. Most training centered on the Board's facility guidelines and its standards for electronic and information technology. It conducted more than 100 sessions over the course of the year, reaching a total of over 9,100 people through its training program.
In 2005, the Board's training program focused on the updated facility guidelines the Board published the previous year. This training featured a full-day session on new provisions in the guidelines, which are being used to update the standards used to enforce the ADA and ABA . The Board's training sessions offered a detailed preview that allowed participants to get a handle on the new requirements before they take effect as standards. The Board partnered with various agencies to provide this training, including the U.S. Postal Service, which adopted new standards for postal facilities in April. Board staff trained Postal Service designers and facility personnel at eight regional centers across the country.
The Board provides technical assistance on accessible design through its toll-free telephone line, as well by fax and e-mail. Guidance is available on the design of facilities, transit vehicles, telecommunications, and electronic and information technology. Most inquiries concerned the Board's facility guidelines and came from architects, code officials, and other members of the building profession. The Board responded to more than 12,200 technical inquiries last year.
Publications and On-Line Guidance
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. More than 30 publications are available. Materials are provided free upon request and are posted on the Board's website at www.access-board.gov.
Websites are now the “front door” for the vast majority of an agency's customers. The quality of information and service an agency provides is demonstrated through its site. Over the years, the Board has continuously enhanced and improved its on-line information and services. Its website has become the primary channel for disseminating information and providing services to its varied audiences. Traffic to the site continues to grow significantly. Over the course of the year, the site logged over 2.2 million visitor sessions and 32.2 million hits.
In June, the Board unveiled a completely redesigned site which features a new look and organization, improved navigational and search features, and additional on-line services. Visitors can now order Board publications through the site in addition to signing up for the Board's newsletter or filing a complaint under the Architectural Barriers Act. The site's revamped design provides a portal page or “mini-homepage” for each of the Board's guidelines and standards, including those under development, which contain links to all relevant materials and related resources for easier one-stop shopping.
On a regular basis, the Board develops guidance material on accessible design that supplements its guidelines and standards. Increasingly, these resources are being generated specifically for the Board's website. For example, the Board has developed a series of interactive web-based tutorials on the section 508 standards for electronic and information technology. Last year, the Board completed the final installment of this series with the release of a course on telecommunications products. Other tutorials in the series cover software, computers, and self contained, closed products, such as information kiosks and fax machines.
The Board was created to develop and enforce design requirements for facilities covered by the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) of 1968, a responsibility it keeps to this day. The ABA requires access to facilities designed, built, or altered with Federal dollars. The law covers a wide range of facilities, including post offices, Social Security offices, and national parks. It also applies to non-government facilities that have received Federal funding, such as certain schools, public housing, and mass transit systems.
The Board enforces the ABA through the investigation of complaints it receives concerning particular facilities. It opened 90 investigations in 2005, in addition to 86 cases that were active at the beginning of the fiscal year. Some of these complaints concerned post offices, courthouses and town halls, schools, and office buildings, among others. Over the course of the year, the Board completed 69 investigations. Corrective action was achieved in almost half of the cases (32). In the remaining cases, it was found that the Board lacked jurisdiction (26) or that the access issue did not constitute a violation of the applicable standard (11).
Specifying accessibility is both an art and a science. The science involved centers on research to collect data that is needed in developing or assessing guidelines, exploring solutions to compliance problems, and generating supplementary guidance material. The Board sponsors and promotes research on various subjects each year pertaining to architecture, communications, or transportation. Many projects are undertaken in partnership with other organizations. In 2005, the Board completed projects on indoor air quality, wheeled mobility, vessel access, and pedestrian safety. It also helped promote the development of access devices for amusement rides in partnership with a leading trade organization. Throughout the year, progress was made on a variety of other on-going projects, including a study on accessible play surfacing and an examination of construction tolerance practices.
Indoor Environmental Quality
A growing number of people suffer a range of debilitating physical reactions from exposures to everyday materials and chemicals found in building products, floor coverings, cleaning products, and fragrances, among others. There are those who have developed an acute sensitivity to various types of chemicals, a condition known as Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). In response to these concerns, the Board sponsored a study on ways to improve indoor environmental quality for people with MCS as well as for the population generally. Conducted for the Board by the National Institute of Building Sciences, this project brought together various stakeholders to explore issues and to develop an action plan. The project report, issued in July, includes recommendations on improving indoor environmental quality.
In August, a report was released on a study the Board commissioned on wheeled mobility and human measures. This report, Standards and Anthropometry for Wheeled Mobility, was prepared by the Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access which is undertaking a major multi-year project to collect human measures data on people who use wheeled mobility aids. Started in 1999, this work will continue at least through 2006. Drawing upon information collected and developed in completed phases of the project, the report reviews research conducted in other countries and its influence on their access standards. The comparative analysis provides a framework for the future comparison of research findings and standards and offers a foundation for improving the utilization of research for standards development.
Vessel Doors with Coamings
Conducted for the Board by the U.S. Department of Transportation, this project explored ways to provide access at vessels doors with coamings or sills, which are used to prevent water infiltration. The results provide information on solutions to this issue which will supplement the Board's work in developing new guidelines for passenger vessels. The study results provide data that can be useful to vessel designers, operators, and inspectors in improving access without compromising weather-tight doors.
The Board and the Federal Highway Administration sponsored a project on pedestrian channeling devices that will help guide pedestrians with vision impairments through work zones that encroach on sidewalks and crosswalks. In February, both agencies, along with the American Traffic Safety Services Association, held a day-long evaluation of 19 different products, ranging from the traditional, such as barricades, to the more hi-tech, such as auditory devices. The event enabled manufacturers to demonstrate their products and allowed individuals with disabilities to try them out in a controlled setting and to provide feedback.
Amusement Ride Transfer Device Design Competition
The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), in partnership with the Board, organized a competition for the design of a transfer device for access to amusement rides. The goal of the design competition was to inspire creative solutions for a device that could serve rides with seats below platform level. Entries from engineering and accessibility design professionals and college students were received. A panel organized by IAAPA and the Board reviewed the designs and selected the top three designs. The three winning design teams, each from the University of Kansas School of Mechanical Engineering, received monetary awards. A model of the winning design was showcased at IAAPA's annual expo.