Author’s note: Originally I stated that the path of
travel must have a 48-inch wide path for the actual pedestrian access route
(PAR) for public sidewalks and facility sidewalks. I was wrong. Facility
sidewalks can still be 36 inches wide for the pedestrian access route. The
Public Rights-of-Way Accessibility Guidelines are still not in affect for the
48-inch wide PAR. It was published July 26, 2011 and public comments are
Q: Is it true that the standards have finally been updated?
On July 23, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder signed the first major
update since the Americans with Disabilities Act became law in 1991.
The new standards take effect March 15, 2011.
However, under the "safe harbor" allowance, facilities built
or altered according to the original standards don't have to comply until they
undergo a planned alteration.
Other important changes:
For the first time, residential housing for sale to
individual owners that are built by or on behalf of public entities are subject
to disability-design requirements.
Also for the first time, 3% of newly constructed or altered
detention and correctional facility cells must be accessible.
Exact measurements such as a maximum or minimum (i.e., 48
inches maximum height) are allowed construction tolerances (deviations).
However, measurements with a range allowance (i.e., 17 to19 inches) have no
allowances since they are already built-in.
Side reaches must be no higher than 48 inches (instead of
54 inches) and no lower than 15 inches (instead of 9 inches). These dimensions
apply to operable parts on accessible elements, to elements located on
accessible routes, and to elements in accessible rooms and spaces.
The actual "path of travel" that pedestrians use either on
public sidewalks or to facilities is now 48 inches versus 36 inches.
Wheelchairs and other power-driven mobility devices
designed for people with mobility limitations must be permitted in all areas
open to pedestrian use. Other devices - like the Segway PT, which is often used
by individuals with disabilities as their mobility device of choice - must be
permitted unless your agency demonstrates their use would fundamentally alter
programs, services, or activities or create a direct threat or safety hazard.
The rule lists factors to consider in making this determination. This approach
accommodates both the legitimate business interests in the safe operation of a
facility and the growing use of the Segway PT as a mobility device by returning
veterans and others.
Childrens' scoping and measurements for reach ranges are
now addressed according to age where building elements such as coat hooks,
lockers, or operable parts are designed for use primarily by children.
Service animals are defined as trained dogs, with specific
The revisions amend Title II regulation, 28 C.F.R. Part 35, and Title III
regulation, 28 C.F.R. Part 36.
Appendix A to each regulation includes a section-by-section analysis of the
rule, and responses to public comments on the proposed rule.
Appendix B to the Title III regulation discusses major changes in the
Standards for Accessible Design and responds to public comments received on the
The department's Final Regulatory Impact Analysis detailing financial impacts
on those who must comply with the new regulations will be posted on www.ada.gov as soon as it is
You'll also find fact sheets summarizing:
Changes to Title II
Changes to Title III
Changes to Standards for Accessible Design
My advice: start complying now. It's a best practice that will lead you to a
better access for all.