In 2011, the U.S. Access Board published proposed accessibility guidelines for pedestrian facilities in the public right-of-way and revised them in 2013 to include shared use paths. The notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on these guidelines for pedestrian facilities and the supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking (SNPRM) on shared use paths requested public comments on all provisions of the proposed accessibility guidelines. More specifically, the Board sought comments from regulated entities, including state and local governments, on the costs and impacts of certain provisions of the proposed rule. The Board carefully reviewed over 600 public comments received in response to the NPRM and SNPRM before issuing the final rule on accessibility guidelines for pedestrian facilities in the public right-of-way on August 8, 2023.
Listed below are some of the notable changes to the final rule from the versions proposed in the NPRM and SNPRM. These and other changes are described in further detail in the preamble to the final rule.
Advisory Language. In the final rule, the Board eliminated the advisories as these are not mandatory requirements. The Board will provide guidance on its website to assist regulated parties with understanding and properly implement the final enforceable standards that are issued by the standard-setting agencies. Some information that previously appeared in an advisory was moved to the final rule and is thus mandatory. For example, the final rule requires pedestrian circulation paths at driveways controlled with yield or stop control devices or traffic signals to have detectable warning surfaces. In the NPRM, this requirement was discussed in advisory R208.1.
Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways (MUTCD). In the final rule, MUTCD provisions are not incorporated by reference. Instead, the Board has stated all required technical provisions along with applicable definitions directly in the final rule. This approach differs from the NPRM where the Board proposed to incorporate by reference various sections of the MUTCD.
Alterations. In the final rule, the Board has modified the definition of “alteration” and provided a definition for “developed.” These revisions allow added facilities to comply to the maximum extent feasible where existing physical constraints make compliance with applicable requirements technically infeasible. The Board expects full compliance with the requirements for new construction on undeveloped land (i.e., greenfield), while any construction undertaken in an existing developed right-of-way is expected to comply to the maximum extent feasible where existing physical constraints make compliance with applicable requirements technically infeasible.
Alterations that Trigger Installation of Accessible Pedestrian Signals. In the NPRM, the Board indicated that the alteration of a signal controller and software, or the replacement of a signal head, would trigger the requirement to install an accessible pedestrian signal. Upon consideration of public comments, the Board acknowledged the diverse nature of alterations that affect pedestrian signals and declined in the final guidelines to list specific actions that trigger the requirement to install accessible pedestrian signals.
Crosswalk Treatments at Roundabouts. At provision R306.4.2, the final rule expands the crosswalk treatment options at multi-lane segments of roundabouts containing crosswalks to include: a traffic control signal with a pedestrian signal head, a pedestrian hybrid beacon, a pedestrian actuated rectangular rapid flashing beacon, or a raised crossing.
Visual Contrast at Stairs. To provide greater accessibility for people with low vision, the final rule requires visual contrast on stair treads and landings, as noted in R408.6.
Slopes Stated in Ratios and Percentages. In the NPRM, slope measurements were stated only in percentages, which in most cases had been rounded to whole numbers. For consistency with the 2004 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) Accessibility Guidelines, which express slope only in ratios, the final rule provides slopes in both ratios and percentages. The practical effect of this change is that slopes stated as 2% in the proposed rule are now 1:48 (2.1%) in the final rule, which is the ratio used in the 2004 ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines.
Bypass at a Blended Transition. In the final rule, the Board added provision R304.4.3, which requires a bypass where a blended transition serving more than one pedestrian circulation path has a running slope greater than 1:48 (2.1%). This provision is provided so that a pedestrian with a disability may bypass the slope of a blended transition that the individual does not need to use. Without a bypass, an individual with a disability may be forced to unnecessarily traverse a corner at a 1:20 (5.0%) cross slope.
Identification of Places with No Pedestrian Crossing. In the final rule, the Board added provisions R188.8.131.52 and R184.108.40.206 to further clarify that where crossing is prohibited at an intersection or not intended midblock or at a roundabout, jurisdictions must take care to ensure that there is no crosswalk or curb ramp, and the pedestrian circulation path is separated from the roadway. In the NPRM, this information was stated in advisory R206.
Passenger Loading Zones. The Board revised the final text of scoping for passenger loading zones. In R212 (R215 in the NPRM), the final rule clarifies that passenger loading zone requirements apply to zones that are permanently designated for passenger loading, other than transit stops. Passenger loading zones permanently designated for ride share are subject to the technical requirements. Passenger loading zones that vary with the time of day or the occupancy of a particular retail space, such as valet stands that are provided only during certain hours, are not considered permanently designated and are therefore not subject to the technical requirements. NPRM R211.4 required signage at passenger loading zones. In the final rule, this requirement has been eliminated for consistency with the ADA Accessibility Guidelines and to avoid misinterpretation of the sign as indicating exclusive use for passengers with disabilities, particularly where there is only one loading zone.
On-Street Parking. In addition to clarifying the scoping requirements for on-street parking at R211, the Board made several revisions to the technical requirements for on-street parking. The technical requirements revisions include dimensions for parallel and angled parking spaces, and a requirement that the center 50 percent of the length of the sidewalk, or other surface, adjacent to an accessible parallel parking space be free of obstructions, including parking identification signs, parking pay meters, and parking pay stations. Technical requirements for on-street parking are addressed in R310.
The Board provides free technical assistance on accessibility of public right-of-way via email at email@example.com.