Management Discussion and Analysis


In March 2012, the Access Board approved a new strategic plan. The plan includes a new vision statement (advancing full access and inclusion for all) and a new mission statement (lead the development, advancement, and implementation of accessibility through outreach, rulemaking (standards and guidelines) and education). The plan includes three goals:

  • innovate, develop, and maintain accessibility requirements
  • educate about accessibility
  • enforce compliance with the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA)

The Board has established long and short-range goals and annual objectives that describe the strategies it will implement to achieve the goals. In developing objectives and strategies for achieving its goals, the Board seeks to work together with its stakeholders toward common objectives. The Board’s plan is simple: establish guidelines and standards that are fair, reasonable, and derived from broad consensus among stakeholders; where the Board has enforcement responsibilities over federal agencies, assist those agencies to achieve full compliance; and involve its stakeholders in developing and disseminating materials and manuals that will help them understand and comply with our guidelines and standards.

The Board was established in 1973 under section 502 of the Rehabilitation Act and is the only federal agency whose primary mission is accessibility for people with disabilities. The Board is responsible for developing guidelines under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Architectural Barriers Act, and the Communications Act for ensuring that buildings and facilities, transportation vehicles, and telecommunications equipment covered by these laws are readily accessible to and usable by people with disabilities. The Board is also responsible for developing standards under the Rehabilitation Act for accessible electronic and information technology procured by federal agencies and standards for accessible medical diagnostic equipment.

Under the Help America Vote Act, the Board serves on the Board of Advisors and the Technical Guidelines Development Committee, which assist the Election Assistance Commission in developing voluntary guidelines for voting systems, including accessibility for people with disabilities. In addition, under the 2012 Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act, the Board is responsible for developing best practices on access to information on prescription drug container labels for individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

The Board enforces the Architectural Barriers Act and provides training and technical assistance on each of its guidelines and standards, and on a variety of other accessibility issues. Additionally, the Board maintains a research program that develops technical assistance materials and provides information needed for rulemaking.

The Board’s programs will result in accessible buildings and facilities, transportation vehicles, medical diagnostic equipment, telecommunications equipment, and information and communications technology across our country and, ultimately, the full economic and social integration of people with disabilities into our society. Achieving these results will depend not only on the Board’s activities, but also on the level of commitment and action taken by other federal agencies, State and local governments, and businesses that are required to comply with or enforce the various laws that guarantee the civil rights of people with disabilities.



The Board will continue to develop and update accessibility guidelines and standards and work cooperatively with organizations that develop codes and standards affecting accessibility. We have the following two objectives for this program area:

  • Complete pending rulemakings: Emergency Transportable Housing; Transportation Vehicles; Passenger Vessels; Public Rights-of-Way and Shared Use Paths; Medical Diagnostic Equipment; Information and Communications Technology; Self-Service Transaction Machines; and Classroom Acoustics.
  • Improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the rulemaking process to ensure “state-of-the-art” accessibility guidelines and standards.

FY 2013 Results – Rulemaking

The status of current guidelines and standards efforts is presented below.

Outdoor Developed Areas

On September 26, 2013, the Access Board issued new accessibility guidelines for outdoor areas developed by the federal government. The guidelines provide detailed specifications for accessible trails, picnic and camping areas, viewing areas, beach access routes and other components of outdoor developed areas when newly built or altered. They also provide exceptions for situations where terrain and other factors make compliance impracticable. The guidelines apply to sites developed or altered by federal land management agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Army Corps of Engineers, among others. Proposed guidelines for non-federal sites will be published for comment at a future date.

Emergency Transportable Housing

An advisory committee on emergency transportable housing was created in September 2007. The Board organized the committee, which included representation from disability groups, industry and code groups, and government agencies, to provide recommendations on supplementing its guidelines to cover emergency transportable housing. Access to such housing proved problematic in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. After verifying and examining the issues involved, the Board determined that supplementary guidelines were needed. The committee completed its work and presented its report to the Board in November 2008. The Board published a proposed rule in June 2012. The comment period closed in August 2012; one public hearing was held. At the close of the comment period, the Board had received 45 comments, including those from the public hearing. The Board approved a final rule in March 2013; it will be sent soon to OMB for review.

Transportation Vehicles Guidelines Update

In November 2008, the Board released for public comment a second draft of revisions updating its accessibility guidelines for buses and vans covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The second draft was issued because the format had been significantly changed, provisions for over-the-road buses were added, and changes were made in response to comments on a first draft that was published in April 2007. In 2009, we contracted with the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center to assist the Board in finalizing the regulatory assessment for this rulemaking. A notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to revise and update the accessibility guidelines for buses, over-the-road buses, and vans was published in July 2010. Two public hearings were held during the comment period that closed in November 2010.

One important issue was raised after the close of the comment period. As a result, the Board re-opened the comment period for additional public input related to the late comments. The commenters raised issues about the 1:6 ramp slope requirements and a new design that locates the shallower ramp partially inside the vehicle. This design constrains the maneuvering space within the vehicle at the top of the ramp and at the fare box and creates a grade break within the ramp run. During the extended comment period which ended in October 2102, the Board held two information meetings to gather input on these issues. Because we do not want to delay rulemaking for subjects that do not require further development, we plan to move forward with the sections that have been vetted through public comment and that will result in better accessibility e.g., automated stop announcements. Additional research needs will be identified along with a time schedule for completion of the remaining issues.

Passenger Vessels

On June 25, 2013, the Board released for public comment proposed guidelines for passenger vessels. Developed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the guidelines provide design criteria for large vessels when newly constructed or altered to ensure that they are accessible to people with disabilities. The guidelines address various features of vessel accessibility and include provisions for onboard routes, vertical access between decks, doorways and coamings, toilet rooms, guest rooms, alarm systems, and other spaces and elements used by passengers. The Board’s guidelines apply to passenger vessels that are permitted to carry more than 150 passengers or more than 49 overnight passengers, all ferries, and certain tenders that carry 60 or more passengers. On July 15, 2013, the Cruise Lines International Association requested that the 90-day comment period be extended by an additional 120 days to review and more fully assess the proposed rule. Although the Access Board has already provided a 90-day comment period and has held a public hearing on the proposed rule, the Board decided to provide additional time for the public to submit comments on this proposed rule. The new comment period ends on January 24, 2014.

Public Rights-of-Way and Shared Use Paths

In 2009, we contracted with the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center to assist the Board in finalizing a regulatory assessment for the public rights-of-way rulemaking. An NPRM was published for public comment in July 2011. An ad hoc committee of Board members and staff are working to develop a final rule.

When the Board approved the draft final accessibility guidelines for outdoor developed areas, coverage of shared use paths was deferred to a future rulemaking. Commenters on the outdoor developed areas rule had previously raised concerns about the need for differing guidelines for shared use paths. Commenters noted that shared use paths differ from trails and typically are located in more developed outdoor areas, as opposed to the more primitive trail settings. Unlike trails, they are designed to serve both bicyclists and pedestrians and are used for transportation and recreation purposes.

In September 2010, the Board held a public information meeting in conjunction with the ProWalk/ProBike 2010 Conference. This meeting provided an opportunity for individuals with disabilities, designers of shared use paths, and others with expertise in this area to share information with the Board to assist in the development of new accessibility guidelines. The Board then published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking for shared use paths in March 2011. In February 2013, the Board published a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to include requirements for shared use paths as part of the public rights-of-way rule.

Medical Diagnostic Equipment

The Access Board is developing accessibility standards for medical diagnostic equipment, including examination tables and chairs, weight scales, radiological equipment, and mammography equipment. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into law in March 2010 requires the Board to issue these standards in consultation with the Food and Drug Administration. The standards are to address independent access to, and use of, equipment by people with disabilities to the maximum extent possible.

In July 2010, the Board held a public information meeting on this rulemaking to gather information from stakeholders, including consumers, equipment manufacturers, the health care industry, government agencies, and others with an interest in the new standards.

A proposed rule was published in February 2012 and two public hearings were held. The comment period closed in June 2012 and 53 comments were received. In March 2012, the Board created a 24-member Medical Diagnostic Equipment Accessibility Standards federal advisory committee to advise the Board on matters associated with the comments the Board received and information it requested in proposing the standards. The committee plans to conclude its meetings in November 2013.

Information and Communications Technologies Update

In July 2006, the Board created an advisory committee to update and revise the Section 508 standards and the Telecommunications Act Accessibility Guidelines. Forty-one organizations served on the Telecommunications and Electronic and Information Technology Advisory Committee. The committee’s membership included representatives from industry, disability groups, standard-setting bodies in the U.S. and abroad, and government agencies, among others. The committee completed its work and presented its report to the Board in April 2008. In March 2010, the Board published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) to update the Board’s Information and Communications Technologies guidelines and standards based on the committee’s report. A second ANPRM was published in December 2011. The public comment period ended in March 2012 and two public hearings were held. Ninety-one separate commenters filed comments or spoke at the hearings. We have contracted with Econometrica to assist the Board in preparing a regulatory assessment for this rulemaking. The Board approved a proposed rule in March 2013; it will be sent soon to OMB for review.

Self-Service Transaction Machines

At its November 2010 meeting, the Board decided to separate the rulemaking on ADA self-service transaction machines from the rulemaking on information and communication technology. The Departments of Transportation (DOT) and Justice (DOJ) are undertaking related rulemakings that present an opportunity to work collaboratively to develop a single set of technical requirements that would be referenced and scoped by each participating agency. We have contracted with Econometrica to assist the Board in preparing a regulatory assessment for this rulemaking. An ad hoc committee of Board members and staff are working to develop a proposed rule.

Classroom Acoustics

The Board was petitioned in 1997 to include classroom acoustics provisions in revisions then underway to ADAAG; lack of notice precluded this. Instead, in 1998 the Board published a Request for Information that was strongly supported in comment by parents and by audiology and acoustics professionals. Opposition was largely based upon assumed cost increases when weighed against undemonstrated efficacy. The Board has worked hard to resolve these issues.

Instead of pursuing rulemaking at the time, the Board participated in the development of a voluntary consensus standard on the topic. In 2002, the ANSI/ASA S12.60 Classroom Acoustics Standard was finalized. However, the standard is voluntary until it is required to be complied with. In 2009, the Board worked to revise the standard to make it easier to reference in the International Building Code to make the voluntary standard mandatory. Revisions to the standard were finalized in April 2010. The Board then sought to have the new standard adopted by the International Code Council (ICC) so that it would be a required part of the International Building Code. However, the Board’s proposal was defeated. Therefore, at its July 2010 meeting, the Board approved a motion to go forward with rulemaking under the ADA and Architectural Barriers Act to reference the ANSI/ASA standard for new classroom construction and for alterations of significant scope.

We have contracted with the National Institute for Building Sciences to complete the regulatory assessment for a proposed rule. Phase 1 of the draft assessment has been completed but phase 2, a case study model, is pending depending on available resources.

Best Practices for Making Prescription Drug Container Label Information Accessible to Persons Who are Blind or Visually-Impaired or Who are Elderly

The Board is leading an effort to develop advisory guidance on making prescription drug container labels accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired or who are elderly. This initiative is 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) authorizes 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. On July 10, 2013, the working group submitted to the Board best practices 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.

FY 2013 Results – Codes and Standards

Adoption of Board Guidelines as Enforceable Standards

In order for the Board’s accessibility guidelines to become enforceable, other federal agencies must generally complete rulemaking to adopt the guidelines as standards. The Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Defense, the General Services Administration, and the U.S. Postal Service use the Board’s guidelines to develop enforceable standards under the Architectural Barriers Act. The Departments of Justice and Transportation use the Board’s guidelines to develop enforceable standards under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The U.S. Postal Service, General Services Administration, the Department of Defense, and the Departments of Justice and Transportation have adopted the Board’s guidelines as standards. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has not acted yet to adopt the Board’s guidelines.

Voluntary Consensus Standards

Our long-range goal is to take a leadership role in the development of codes and standards for accessibility. The Board works with model codes organizations and voluntary consensus standards groups that develop and periodically revise codes and standards affecting accessibility. We have voting membership in several codes and standards organizations, and monitor or are actively involved in the development or revision of dozens of other codes and standards affecting accessibility. Some of the codes and standards groups that we work with include the ICC/American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A117 Committee; American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) A18 Platform Lift and Stairway Chair Lift Committee; National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Disability Access Review Advisory Committee; National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS); World Wide Web Consortium (W3C); and the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Committee on Playground Surfacing Systems.

We believe this goal enhances the Board’s credibility as a knowledgeable source of information regarding technical aspects of accessibility. Additionally, by working cooperatively with model codes organizations and standards-setting organizations, federal and private codes and standards will be more similar, or harmonized, and the Board will be more alert to non-federal influences affecting its constituencies. Harmonization between federal and private requirements will make it more likely that buildings and facilities will be accessible, thus reducing the necessity for complaints and litigation.

Two Access Board members serve as members of the Technical Guidelines Development Committee and the Board of Advisors, which provide recommendations to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) under the Help America Vote Act. We are also a member of the Interagency Committee on Standards Policy, which is the body that is responsible for overseeing the use of standards by federal agencies in accordance with the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act.


The Board provides technical assistance to a wide variety of people regarding the accessibility guidelines and standards it issues. The Board’s customers include architects, builders, designers, manufacturers, people with disabilities, State and local governments, and federal agencies. The Board’s technical assistance program has four components:

  • Responding to customer inquiries. The Board responds to about 13,000 customer inquiries each year. We have toll-free telephone lines for customers to call with questions. Customers also e-mail and fax us questions. Many literally are sitting at a drawing table with a design problem. They want accurate, reliable, and timely advice. Our customers value being able to discuss their questions directly with our accessibility specialists who developed the guidelines and standards.
  • Developing and disseminating bulletins, manuals, and other publications. The Board maintains about 30 publications on accessibility issues. These range from short bulletins responding to frequently asked questions about specific issues such as accessible parking, to manuals on the Board’s guidelines and standards.
  • Providing training. The Board conducts about 90 training sessions each year. Training usually is provided at conferences and seminars sponsored by other organizations. Training sponsors generally reimburse us for travel expenses.
  • Maintaining the Board’s website. The Board’s website ( has become a very effective way to distribute information to the public. Customers can download many of our publications and view our accessibility guidelines and standards from our website.

We have the following two objectives in this program area:

  • Broaden education and outreach efforts.
  • Use new technologies to deliver training and guidance.

The Board’s long-range goal is to be known as the leading source of information about accessibility and to disseminate information to our customers in effective ways. As we develop guidelines for new areas such as outdoor developed areas, passenger vessels, public rights-of-ways, and emergency transportable housing, there will be increased demands for technical assistance from existing and new customer groups. The Board has informal partnerships with organizations such as the National Association of ADA Coordinators and the ten Regional ADA National Network Centers to disseminate information about the Board’s programs. Many of the Board’s guidelines and publications are available through these organizations’ on-line networks. The Board also provides training for these organizations. As we develop new guidelines and standards, there will be opportunities to use existing partnerships and establish new partnerships with customer groups to disseminate information about the Board’s rulemaking.

FY 2013 Results

The Board is developing an online guide on the ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines that will consist of illustrated technical bulletins covering all sections of the guidelines and a supplementary series of short animations that will dynamically explain various requirements and the rationale behind them. Complete drafts of technical bulletins covering Chapters 1-3 of the ADA and ABA standards were distributed to Board members and federal liaisons for review. We have revised drafts of Chapter 1 bulletins according to comments received to date from this review. Agency comments on Chapter 2 and 3 bulletins are still pending. Meanwhile, we proceeded to draft content and generate illustrations for technical guides covering Chapters 4 and 5 of the standards. Work on these bulletins is still underway. Animations have been completed on wheelchair maneuvering, doors, toilet rooms, and bathing facilities. We plan to release the completed materials in December 2013; additional materials on the remaining chapters will be released as they become available.

We continue to offer our very successful monthly webinar series through a partnership with the National Network of ADA Centers. Sessions are conducted on a monthly basis with most scheduled for 90 minutes. Sessions also provide an opportunity to earn continuing education credits (CEUs) for a fee, but general attendance is free. We have also expanded our webinar series by adding an additional six webinars per year on section 508 issues in conjunction with the Chief Information Officers Council Accessibility Committee.

The Board has upgraded its news distribution services to provide enhanced features and options for email subscribers. Implemented through GovDelivery, a firm specializing in email subscription services for government entities, the new system offers more choices in receiving news updates on Board initiatives and activities. In addition to its email newsletter, Access Currents, subscribers can sign-up to receive instant news updates. Subscription lists also are available for updates specific to Board rulemaking initiatives. Those interested in the Board’s development of a particular guideline or standard can subscribe to a dedicated list to be kept apprised of progress on that rulemaking.

We redesigned our website and implemented a content management system to aid in the ability to more easily update the site on a regular basis. We unveiled the new website in September 2013. Our last redesign was in June 2005.

The Board responded to 13,575 customer inquiries, distributed 1,240 information packets, and conducted 85 training sessions that were attended by approximately 7,865 people. An information packet usually contains several publications. Since we do not collect data on publications disseminated through partner organizations, the actual number of publications disseminated to our customers is greater than our current data indicate.

We have used our website to provide copies of the Board’s guidelines and answers to frequently asked questions about the guidelines so that more customers can get the information they need. The usage of our website continues to grow. There were approximately 3.8 million user sessions and 51 million “hits”. We also distributed six issues of Access Currents, a free newsletter the Board issues every other month by e-mail.


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 the Board has jurisdiction and finds 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, the Board works 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 Architectural Barriers Act. Training has become even more important now that new accessibility standards for the Architectural Barriers Act are being implemented by the standard-setting agencies.

FY 2013 Results - ABA Compliance

The Board received 148 written ABA complaints in FY 2013. These included complaints investigated under the Architectural Barriers Act, 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 148 complaints, we opened 60 as new Architectural Barriers Act cases. Although the Board did not have authority under the Architectural Barriers Act in the other 88 complaints, we responded to the complainants, usually by referring them to the appropriate enforcement agency. In addition, we referred another five complainants to other agencies for action when our investigations revealed there was no violation of the Architectural Barriers Act or we did not have jurisdiction.

The Board responds quickly to all new complaints. We sent initial letters to complainants acknowledging receipt of their complaint or began an investigation of the issues they raised within an average of five days. It is Board practice to keep complainants informed on a regular basis throughout the course of our investigations. We contacted 67 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, the Board is gathering views from the public through a customer satisfaction survey. The surveys are administered to individuals who filed complaints with the Access Board under the Architectural Barriers Act; 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 2013 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, accept other data from Access Board staff (such as status updates, corrections and additions to complaint information), and from points of contact at other federal agencies via a web-based questionnaire form. 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 95 percent of those individuals responding in the 2012 cohort rated their satisfaction with the complaint process, the outcome of their complaint, and staff knowledge, at the highest rating level.


The Access Board operates in a stable environment, and can confidently predict that it will operate and succeed in the future as it has in the past. We anticipate slow growth in our appropriated budget with ample time to anticipate any changes.

The Board constantly monitors its environment, notes changes, and updates its rulemaking plan on a periodic basis. It is cognizant of the fact that technology changes rapidly and is in the process of revising and updating some of its accessibility guidelines and standards to reflect this recognition.

In its rulemaking activities, the Board has always tried to work closely and amicably with its stakeholders. It has paid special attention to those companies in industries where the Board is developing new accessibility requirements where none existed before. For example, we work closely with the passenger vessel industry in developing guidelines for passenger vessels. We strongly believe that we will achieve better access for people with disabilities if we work with an industry, involve them in our rulemaking, and get their “buy-in” to the accessibility guidelines at the earliest possible moment.

Management Assurances

The Access Board’s management is responsible for establishing and maintaining effective internal control and financial management systems that meet the objective of the Federal Manager's Financial Integrity Act. The Board conducted its assessment of the effectiveness and efficiency of internal control and ensures compliance with applicable laws and regulations in accordance with OMB Circular A-123, Management's Responsibility for Internal Control. Based on the results of this evaluation, we can provide reasonable assurance that our internal control over the effectiveness and efficiency of operations and compliance with applicable laws and regulations as of September 30, 2013, was operating effectively and no material weaknesses were found in the design or operation of the internal controls.

The Board conducted its assessment of the effectiveness of internal control over financial reporting, which includes safeguarding of assets and compliance with applicable laws and regulations, in accordance with the requirements of Appendix A of OMB Circular A-123. Based on the results of this evaluation, the Board can provide reasonable assurance that its internal control over financial reporting as of September 30, 2013, was operating effectively and no material weaknesses were found in the design or operation of the internal controls over financial reporting.

Limitations of the Financial Statements

The principal financial statements for the Board have been prepared to report the financial position and results of our operations pursuant to the requirements of 31 U.S.C.3515 (b). While the statements have been prepared from the books and records of the Board in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles for federal entities and the formats prescribed by OMB, the statements are in addition to the financial reports used to monitor and control budgetary resources, which are prepared from the same books and records.

The statements should be read with the realization that they are for a component of the U.S. government, a sovereign entity.