Gretchen Jacobs, the U.S. Access Board’s General Counsel, plans to retire at the end of this year. As General Counsel, she guided the Board’s legal affairs and led enforcement efforts under the Architectural Barriers Act. Jacobs was also instrumental in the Board’s development of guidelines and standards, which, during her tenure, included publication of updated accessibility guidelines for buses and vans (December 2016), refreshed Section 508 Standards for information and communication technology in the federal sector (January 2017), and new accessibility standards for medical diagnostic equipment (January 2017).
Prior to joining the Board, Jacobs worked at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for over 20 years and served as lead counsel in over 40 federal district and appellate cases nationwide. As a trial attorney with DOJ’s Disability Rights Section, she litigated several high-profile enforcement actions under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other federal disability-rights laws, including a series of nationwide pattern-or-practice cases concerning access to stadium-style movie theaters. She also served as a senior advisor on regulatory matters, where her responsibilities included conducting cost-benefit analyses and advising senior DOJ officials. She was a key player in DOJ’s development of updated ADA standards, as well as regulatory initiatives on movie captioning, Next Generation 9-1-1, and website accessibility. Jacobs joined DOJ as an Honors Program trial attorney in the Civil Division’s Federal Programs Branch. Throughout her DOJ career, she received numerous awards, including the Civil Rights Division’s highest award for her leadership on ADA regulations and related cost-benefit analyses.
Jacobs graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Law School with honors (Order of the Coif) and earned a bachelor’s degree in history with highest honors from the University of California at Berkeley. As a young lawyer, she worked for then-Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the D.C. Circuit and served as a judicial clerk for Judge Warren J. Ferguson on the U.S. Court of Appeals’ Ninth Circuit.
The Board commends Jacobs for her 32 years of dedicated federal service and for her long-time commitment to equality and accessibility for people with disabilities.