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ADA Standards for Accessible Design

The ADA Standards for Accessible Design—along with the Title II and Title III regulations—say what is required for a building or facility to be physically accessible to people with disabilities.

Law, Regulations, & Standards

Read this document to understand your legal rights or responsibilities under the ADA.

The ADA Standards for Accessible Design (“ADA Standards”) cover:

  • Newly constructed buildings and facilities;
  • Alterations—such as, renovations and other changes that affect usability—made to buildings and facilities;
  • Making architectural changes in existing state and local government buildings to provide “program access”; and
  • Removing architectural barriers that are easily accomplishable without much difficulty or expense in existing buildings of businesses.
What are architectural barriers?

Architectural barriers are physical elements of a building that prevent movement or access for people with disabilities. For example, if the only way to get to the entrance of a business is by using stairs, those stairs are a barrier for wheelchair users.

What does readily achievable mean?

Readily achievable means easy to do without much difficulty or expense. This is based on the Title III business’s size and resources. So, a business with more resources is expected to remove more barriers than a business with fewer resources. The ADA strikes a careful balance between increasing access for people with disabilities and understanding the financial challenges of many small businesses.

What does program access mean?

State and local governments are required by Title II to provide program access. The program access requirement makes sure that individuals with disabilities are not excluded from any program, service, or activity provided by the state or local government because existing buildings and facilities are inaccessible. State and local governments must look at their programs, services and activities in their entirety or as a whole to ensure that they are accessible to individuals with disabilities.

Versions of the ADA Standards

The Department of Justice adopted the first ADA Standards for Accessible Design (“ADA Standards”), on July 26, 1991, known as the “1991 ADA Standards” and adopted revised ADA Standards on September 15, 2010, known as the “2010 ADA Standards”, along with the Guidance on the 2010 Standards. The Guidance on the 2010 Standards addresses the changes to the ADA Standards, the reasoning behind those changes, and responses to public comments received on these topics.

Knowing when the 1991 or the 2010 ADA Standards apply to buildings and facilities is important in determining if your building or facility complies with the ADA. The ADA Requirements: Effective Date and Compliance Date guide helps to explain which version of the ADA Standards to use and when.

No guidance document is available for the 1991 standards