New Accessibility Standards Adopted for Federal Facilities

Jan. 5, 2006
Standards guarantee greater access to federal buildings

The General Services Administration (GSA) has adopted new accessibility standards for federally funded facilities based on updated guidelines the United States Access Board issued in 2004. The adopted standards will apply to a wide range of new or altered buildings under the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA), which requires access to facilities designed, built, altered, or leased with federal money. “GSA was eager to adopt the new standards,” noted David L. Bibb, acting GSA administrator and vice chair of the Board, “because they will ensure greater access to all types of federal buildings while making compliance easier.”

The standards apply to the design and construction of new facilities, altered areas of existing facilities, and leased facilities. As indicated in a notice GSA published in the Federal Register on Nov. 8, the new standards will apply to construction and alterations that commence after May 8, 2006, and to leases entered into after this date. Compliance with the previous standards, the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards, will be permitted for construction and alterations that begin before this date and for projects whose design is substantially complete by this date.

As adopted by the GSA, the standards apply to all federally funded facilities, except residential, postal, and military facilities, which are covered by standards maintained by other federal agencies. Last May, the U.S. Postal Service similarly updated its standards which govern post offices and other postal facilities. The departments of Housing and Urban Development and Defense will follow suit and complete the implementation of new standards under the ABA.

New standards based on the Board’s guidelines also must be adopted under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which complements the ABA by ensuring access to facilities in the private and state and local government sectors. ADA standards are maintained by the Department of Justice and, in the case of transit facilities, the Department of Transportation. The Board updated its ABA and ADA guidelines jointly in order to establish a uniform level of accessibility under both laws.

Further information on the efforts to issue new standards under the ABA and ADA, including the recent action by GSA and links to its notice, is posted on the Board’s website at (

This article was reprinted with permission from the United States Access Board. The article originally appeared in the Vol. 11, No. 6 November/December 2005 edition of the Access Currents e-newsletter. For more information or to contact the Washington, D.C.-based Access Board, visit (, call (800) 872-2253, or e-mail ([email protected]).

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