Enforce Compliance with the Architectural Barriers Act

The Board enforces the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA), which requires that most buildings designed, constructed, altered, or leased by the federal government and certain other federally financed facilities be accessible to people with disabilities.  Complaints received by the Board concern post offices, national parks, military facilities, veterans hospitals, courthouses, and a variety of other facilities.  When we have jurisdiction and find that the applicable accessibility standards were not followed, we request a corrective action plan and monitor the case until the barrier is removed.  Even when the Board does not have jurisdiction or no violation is found, we attempt to negotiate voluntary barrier removal.

We have the following three objectives in this program area:

  • Expand partnerships with federal agencies, state and local governments, advocacy groups, and others.
  • Increase ABA compliance.
  • Develop strategies for better compliance using ABA compliance performance information.

In addition to enforcement, we work with federal agencies and others to ensure compliance with the Architectural Barriers Act and make the federal government a model of accessibility.  Our experience with resolving complaints is that most violations are not intentional.  When violations are found, it is usually because the people responsible for designing buildings, reviewing plans, and on-site construction did not have a good understanding of the accessibility standards and how to apply them.  People responsible for building planning and design at headquarters, regional and field offices, and local sites must have a working knowledge of the accessibility standards if compliance is to be achieved.  As federal agencies are reorganized and personnel assignments and responsibilities change, it is important that agencies have effective systems for training new people responsible for applying the accessibility standards and for monitoring compliance with the ABA.  Training has become even more important now that new accessibility standards for the ABA are being implemented by the standard-setting agencies.

FY 2014 Results — ABA Compliance

The Board received 98 written ABA complaints in FY 2014.  These included complaints investigated under the ABA, and also those concerning facilities not covered by that law but potentially covered by other laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.  Of the 98 complaints, we opened 38 as new ABA cases.  Although we did not have authority in the other 60 complaints, we responded to the complainants, usually by referring them to the appropriate enforcement agency.  In addition, we referred another 11 complainants to other agencies for action when our investigations revealed there was no violation of the ABA or we did not have jurisdiction.

We respond quickly to all new complaints.  Most complainants now file their complaints with us on-line; they receive immediate notice that their complaint has been received, together with a complaint tracking number for their future reference.  It is our practice to keep complainants informed on a regular basis throughout the course of our investigations.  We periodically contact complainants to provide updates on the status of their complaints.  We find that these contacts can be helpful in obtaining additional information about actions being taken that may not have been provided by respondent agencies.  Upon completing investigations, we always give complainants an opportunity to comment on determinations we have made and actions that have been taken before closing complaints.

As part of our efforts to implement the President’s Open Government principles, we are gathering views from the public through a customer satisfaction survey.  The surveys are administered to individuals who filed complaints with the Board under the ABA; complainants receive a copy of the questionnaire at the time we notify them that we have completed our work on the complaint and that the case is about to be closed.  The survey is voluntary and respondents may respond anonymously, or provide their name and complaint number if they wish.

FY 2015 Planned Activities — ABA Compliance

We will continue to investigate complaints under the ABA.  We anticipate responding to complaints in an average of 3 or fewer business days and will continue to provide periodic updates to complainants on the status of their complaints.  Based on previous experience, we expect to receive 96 new complaints in FY 2015.  Of this total, we estimate that 41 will be opened as new ABA cases and 55 will be referred to other agencies for enforcement under other laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.

We will continue to refine program processes based on performance measures developed earlier to better increase efficiency in the operation of the compliance and enforcement program.  We will consider the input we receive from our complainant satisfaction survey to assist us in these efforts.  We have updated and revised our software system for managing and tracking ABA complaints as well.  With the system, complainants now have the option of submitting complaints together with relevant supporting documents electronically through an on-line web-based complaint form.

FY 2016 Objectives — ABA Compliance

The Board will continue to investigate complaints under the ABA.  We estimate that we will receive 96 new complaints.  We expect to open 41 new ABA cases and refer 55 complaints to other agencies for enforcement under other laws.  We will continue to provide good customer service and increase efficiency in the operation of the compliance and enforcement program.

FY 2014 Results — Working in Partnership with Agencies

We completed an update to our complaint tracking system so that it can accept complaint information directly from complainants through submission via a web-based complaint form, and accept other data from Board staff (such as status updates, corrections and additions to complaint information).  As noted above, we also initiated a new customer satisfaction survey for ABA complaints.  Because the survey is voluntary, and because individuals responding are permitted to do so anonymously, we are using this data for anecdotal purposes.  However, we are pleased to note that 80 percent of those individuals responding in the 2014 cohort rated their satisfaction with the complaint process, the outcome of their complaint, and staff knowledge, at the highest rating level.

FY 2015 Planned Activities — Working in Partnership with Agencies

We will continue to work with the Department of Defense, U.S. Postal Service, and agencies covered by the General Services Administration accessibility standards to ensure that covered facilities are in compliance with requirements in the ABA standards.  We will continue to work with the Department of Housing and Urban Development through the development and adoption of its accessibility standards under the ABA.  We will continue to work with federal agency contacts to increase their agency customers’ awareness of the ABA and the availability of the ABA complaint process.  In addition, this year we plan to expand access to our Complaint Tracking and Management System to our points of contact at other federal agencies to allow them to enter information on pending complaints about facilities under their jurisdiction via a web-based questionnaire form.

FY 2016 Objectives — Working in Partnership with Agencies

We will continue working with the ABA standard-setting agencies to ensure that new construction, alterations, and leases are in compliance with the requirements under the ABA.