Recovery Requires Accessibility

Stimulus projects must meet federal access standards

March 30, 2009recovery

The recent stimulus bill, also known as the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,” funds a wide array of projects and programs to jump start the economy and create jobs. The $787 billion measure provides aid to cities and states, supports tax cuts, and funds initiatives to improve infrastructure, transportation, energy efficiency, education, and health care.

Various Federal agencies are responsible for spending and distributing stimulus funds. It is important that these agencies and funding recipients comply with all applicable laws, including those protecting the rights of people with disabilities. These include the:

  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which bans discrimination on the basis of disability by state and local governments and private sector entities in employment, programs and services, transportation, and the built environment;
  • Architectural Barriers Act (ABA), which requires access to facilities designed, built, altered or leased with federal funds; and the
  • Rehabilitation Act, which covers access to federally funded programs, federal employment, and electronic and information technology procured by federal agencies. Standards issued under these laws include ADA standards for facilities and transportation vehicles, ABA standards for federally funded facilities, and standards for electronic and information technology issued under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. The U.S. Access Board leads the development and upkeep of these standards and provides technical assistance and training on them to the public. The Board is available to provide further guidance on applying these to stimulus projects. The Board also offers supplementary resources that explain how accessibility can be integrated into certain types of projects.

Accessibility Standards and Resources

These laws and standards apply according to the nature and scope of projects and the funding involved.

Facility Construction and Renovation The stimulus bill funds the construction and renovation of federal buildings, including U.S. courthouses, customs and border protection facilities, and other facilities operated by federal agencies. These and most other projects undertaken with federal dollars must meet the ABA accessibility standards. State and local government facilities, as well as places of public accommodation and commercial facilities, must comply with ADA standards in new construction and alterations (whether or not federal funds are used). See the Board’s guide to the ADA and ABA standards for further details and related information.

Transportation Systems The recovery bill supports projects to improve and expand public transportation throughout the nation. The ADA comprehensively covers access to public transportation. New and altered facilities, including rail stations, bus stops, and airports, are subject to ADA standards for transportation facilities. New or remanufactured buses, vans, rail cars, and other modes of public transit must meet ADA vehicle standards. Issued by the Department of Transportation, these standards are based on Access Board guidelines.

The Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) requires access to transportation systems receiving federal funds. Compliance with ADA standards for transportation facilities and vehicles will help entities fulfill section 504 obligations.

Housing Housing that is federally funded is subject to the ABA or the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504). An earlier version of the standards, the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS), is in effect for housing under these laws. Housing owned or operated by state or local governments is covered by the ADA whether or not federal funds are involved. At this time, state and local governments can follow UFAS as well under the ADA. In addition, guidelines may apply under the Fair Housing Act which covers most multifamily housing.

Streets and Sidewalks Many types of infrastructure projects will impact or improve public streets and sidewalks. It is important that work involving streetscapes integrate accessibility. The Access Board is developing new guidelines for public rights-of-way since coverage in existing ADA and other standards is minimal. These guidelines will address street crossings, sidewalks, on-street parking, common constraints, and other topics. Draft guidelines released by the Board are widely being used as an interim resource until final guidelines are issued. Other resources on rights-of-way accessibility are also available from the Board.

Outdoor Environments Stimulus projects involving parks and other outdoor sites must also incorporate accessibility but, as with public rights-of-way, existing standards lack sufficient detail. The Access Board is developing new guidelines specific to outdoor developed areas, including parks, camp sites, trails, and beach access routes. Guidelines proposed by the Board can be used as a reference at this time since final guidelines are pending. Guidance on accessible parks and trails is also available from the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and other entities.

Information Technology It is likely that stimulus money will be used to acquire or upgrade IT systems and infrastructure. Electronic and information technologies procured by federal agencies must be accessible under the Rehabilitation Act (Section 508) and meet the Board’s 508 standards. These standards cover computer hardware and software, websites, phone systems, fax machines, copiers, and similar technologies. Non-federal entities can follow these standards voluntarily to make sure acquired technology is accessible. For more information on Section 508, visit www.section508.gov.

Technical Assistance and Training

Technical assistance on these standards and accessible design is available from the Board through its toll-free help line at (800) 872-2253 (voice) or (800) 993-2822 (TTY), or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . The Board also provides training upon request. Training requests should be directed to the Board’s Training Coordinator, Peggy Greenwell, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , (202) 272-0017 (voice), or (202) 272-0082 (TTY).

Other Resources

Americans with Disabilities Act Information on other requirements of the ADA is available from:

  • Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers (a national network of regional centers that provide information on all parts of the ADA) www.adata.org (800) 949-4232 (v or TTY)
  • U.S. Department of Justice www.ada.gov (800) 514-0301 (voice) or (800) 514-0383 (TTY)
  • U.S. Department of Transportation (transportation access) www.fta.dot.gov (202) 366-4648
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (employment and hiring practices) www.eeoc.gov (800) 669-4000 (voice) or (800) 669-6820 (TTY)

 

The Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) Federally funded programs are required to be accessible under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Federal agencies are responsible for ensuring that the programs they fund are compliant. For further information, see the Board’s list of agency 504 contacts.