Board ABA Case Results in Improved Access to Historic Federal Building

Joel W. Solomon Federal Building and United States Court HouseThe General Services Administration (GSA) has improved access to the Joel W. Solomon Federal Building and United States Court House in Chattanooga, Tennessee in response to a complaint filed with the Board under the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA). Completed in 1933, the historic building is a notable example of the Art Moderne style typical of government buildings of the era and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It has several distinctive architectural features, including two main entrances at end pavilions that are approached by wide granite staircases. The only accessible way into the building was through a steep ramp at a loading dock that served a locked, unsupervised entrance. Visitors at this entrance had to wait until an employee passed to open the door for them.

In response to the complaint, GSA’s Public Buildings Service, in consultation with GSA’s Historic Buildings Program, undertook a project to improve access to the building. The work, which was recently completed, features a new compliant ramp at one of the main entrances. In addition, the entrance doorway and vestibule were enlarged and an automatic door opener installed. The result is a good example of how accessibility improvements can be integrated into a historic structure’s existing architecture.

The ABA applies to facilities designed, built, or altered with federal money or leased by federal agencies and requires compliance with accessibility standards. While facilities that predate the law are generally not covered, the ABA does apply to any alterations and leasing actions made after it took effect. For further information on filing a complaint under the ABA, visit the Board’s website.

The new ramp blends with the building’s historic façade.

Pictures of the new ramp installed at one entrance pavilion of the Solomon Federal Building

 


Board to Hold Next Meeting on March 13
Board meeting webcastThe Access Board  will hold its next meeting March 13 from 1:30 – 3:00 (ET) at the Board's conference space in downtown Washington, D.C. The public is welcome to attend in person or through a live webcast of the meeting. The meeting agenda includes election of Board officers and other activities.

A public comment period will be held during the final 15 minutes of the meeting. Those interested in making comments in person or by phone should send an email by March 6 to Rose Bunales at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with “Access Board meeting - Public Comment” in the subject line. Please include your name, organization, state, and topic of your comment in the body of the message.

Meeting of the U.S. Access Board
March 13, 1:30 – 3:00
Webcast link: www.access-board.gov/webcast
Access Board Conference Center
1331 F Street, NW, Suite 800
Washington, D.C.
Note: For the comfort of all participants and to promote a fragrance-free environment, attendees are requested not to use perfume, cologne, or other fragrances.

 


Upcoming Board Webinars
Person using power chair at entrance doorEntrances, doors, and gates are key components of access along routes and to buildings, rooms, and spaces. The next webinar in the Access Board's free monthly series will take place March 7 from 2:30 – 4:00 (ET) and will cover requirements in the ADA and ABA Standards for entrances, doors and gates. Presenters will review in detail the specifications for maneuvering clearances at doors and explain the rationale behind these provisions. They will also address recessed doors, automatic doors and gates, doors in a series, door hardware and other topics.

The following webinar on April 4 from 2:30 – 4:00 (ET) will review differences between accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and those of the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) which apply to federally funded facilities. Passed by Congress in 1968, the ABA is the first federal law to address access to the built environment. It greatly informed the ADA’s requirements for access to facilities in the private and state and local government sectors. This session will compare the ABA and ADA and review differences between the accessibility standards issued under these laws. It will highlight how the ABA and ADA Accessibility Standards differ in application, scope, specific provisions, and enforcement.

For more information or to register, visit www.accessibilityonline.org. Questions can be submitted in advance of the session (total limited to 25) or can be posed during the live webinar. Webinar attendees can earn continuing education credits. The webinar series is hosted by the ADA National Network in cooperation with the Board. Archived copies of previous Board webinars are available on the site.

Section 508 Best Practices Webinar
laptop with "Sec. 508 webinars" on screenThe Board also offers a free webinar series on standards issued under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act which requires access to information and communication technology (ICT) in the federal sector. The upcoming webinar in this series will take place on March 26 from 1:00 – 2:30 (ET) and cover how to provide access to social media. Representatives from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will share their experiences in ensuring access to various social media sites and platforms, including Facebook, Flickr, Google+, Twitter, and YouTube. They will also cover internal guidance that NIH has developed and other resources on the subject. Questions can be submitted in advance of the session or can be posed during the live webinar.

This will be followed by a webinar on April 30 from 1:00 – 2:30 (ET) that will feature an open question and answer session on the revised Section 508 Standards with the Board’s ICT Accessibility Specialists. They will also take questions on companion guidelines for telecommunications equipment covered by Section 255 of the Communications Act and other topics related to the Board's activities on accessible ICT. Participants are encouraged to submit their questions in advance of the session through the registration portal. They can also pose questions during the live webinar.

For more details or to register, visit www.accessibilityonline.org/cioc-508/schedule. The Section 508 Best Practices Webinar Series is made available by the Accessibility Community of Practice of the CIO Council in partnership with the Board.

 


FCC Extends Disability Advisory Committee
FCC logoThe Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has appointed its Disability Advisory Committee to a new two-year term. The Committee, which the FCC first organized in 2015, provides advice and recommendations to the FCC on a variety of communications access subjects, including hearing aid compatibility, telecommunications relay services, closed captioning, video description, 911 emergency services, and other topics. The Committee’s term was previously extended in 2017.

The FCC recently announced in a public notice the membership of this term of the Committee. The 37 members represent a cross-section of stakeholders and interested parties, including disability organizations, the communications and video programming industries, the public safety industry, trade associations, academics, researchers, and government agencies, and others. The representatives from the Access Board will continue to serve on the Committee as ex officio members.

Three plenary sessions of the Committee are due to be held each year in Washington. As with the prior terms, working groups and subcommittees will likely be organized to advance work in between full committee meetings. The first Committee meeting is tentatively scheduled for April 10.

Visit the FCC’s website at www.fcc.gov/dac for further information or contact Will Schell, the Committee’s Designated Federal Official at (202) 418-0767 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 


ODEP Issues Report on Forum on Autonomous Vehicles and Disability Policy
 “Autonomous Vehicles: Driving Employment for People with Disabilities (report cover)The emergence of self-driving or autonomous vehicles (AVs) raises important questions and possibilities concerning accessibility for people with disabilities. Last fall, the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and the Department of Transportation held a forum to gather information and recommendations on ways to promote access to AVs and to advance employment for people with disabilities. Representatives from over 30 groups attended and provided information and ideas on the subject. Attendees included advocacy organizations, government officials, including representatives from the Access Board, and subject matter experts.

ODEP has released a report on the forum, “Autonomous Vehicles: Driving Employment for People with Disabilities,” which summarizes key recommendations and considerations. They cover suggestions for making AVs accessible, improving access to employment in various settings, including rural areas, collaboration in AV development, mobility as a service, equitable deployment, AV safety and training, and next steps. ODEP and DOT are continuing this dialogue through an online portal where visitors can share information and their ideas and experiences on this subject.

 


Access Currents is a free newsletter issued by the Access Board every other month by mail and e-mail. Send questions or comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (800) 872-2253 ext. 0026 (voice) or (800) 993-2822 (TTY). Mailing address: 1331 F Street, N.W., Suite 1000; Washington, D.C. 20004-1111.