20 years ago, an amazingly comprehensive piece of civil rights legislation was passed in the United States.
The law addresses several key pieces of rights and standards for people with disabilities, and laid the groundwork for inclusion as a federal protected class.
The ADA includes references to almost all components of "normal" American life, including but not limited to housing
(work begun in the Fair Housing Act of 1968), labor
, and education
, as well as establishing accessibility standards for construction and modification.
The specific standards for construction as designated by the ADA has historically been the ADA Accessibility Guidelines
, an easy-to-follow set of rules for Title II (Governmental) and Title III (Privately owned) entities. These rules and all amendments are guaranteed and enforced by the DOJ
, with authority granted to the Access Board
, a mostly-civilian organization composed of people with disabilities who advise and recommend changes and report to the DOJ with proposed rule changes, etc.
Since the inception of the ADA, the DOJ as repeatedly promised to adopt new rules, however it hasn't changed much since 1994, minus the addition of some new areas of focus.
This year was the 20th anniversary of the ADA, and the DOJ has finally added new ADAAG standards to the Federal Register, including new rules for implementing Title II and III
, as well as the new standards for construction and modification.
The new rules primarily establish compliance ranges instead of absolute values for things like reach ranges, appliance distance from walls, etc. Additionally, formerly ambiguous rules like "Reasonable Modification" have been more specifically defined (PDF).
Just for fun, other rulesets exist, such as the -ADA-ABAAG
, the UFAS
, and ANSI A117.1
, however these rulesets only apply to very specific circumstances. Thankfully, the Access Board has provided a side-by-side comparison.
The ADA often gets a bad rap because it’s not well understood, however as 20 year old civil rights legislation, there is now little excuse for non-compliance. With at least 20% of Americans having a permanent disability (old numbers, census, PDF
) , ADA rules will touch most people at some point in their lives. Because the ADA is civil law, not criminal law, there are no ADA police; and as such rules are only enforced following complaints. Some states, like California, allow for individuals to directly sue the owners of properties in violation
. This was done as a step to encourage problematic owners to remedy their properties before it directly affects their pocketbook. Otherwise, typically a lawsuit is disallowed pending the opportunity of the property owner to correct the issue at hand. If, however, the DOJ feels that compliance was understood but intentionally disregarded, they may choose to issue fines against the offender
) . Under the Obama Administration, the DOJ has finally been issued permission to proactively seek egregious offenders, in most cases then awarding the money from the fines directly to local, consumer-driven disability activism centers to further increase accessibility in their towns.
For more information, visit http://www.adadata.org
or contact your local DBTAC
. These are resources established specifically to increase civilian understanding and compliance of the ADA.
The rules for accessibility under the ADA should not be confused with the rules for accessibility under fair housing
. Fair housing, interestingly enough, uses the ANSI standards.