The Standards Behind the Americans with Disabilities Act

A wheelchair user rolls-up to buttons that are low to the ground inside an elevator to selected their desired floor

Even with a national disability law in place, access barriers persist and make it difficult for people with disabilities to participate fully and equally in society. Image yourself in one of these scenarios:

  • You have been wanting to use the bus for years–but you can’t, because it doesn’t have a wheelchair lift.
  • You had trouble hearing the teacher in school because the acoustics in your classroom were terrible.
  • There is a website you need to consult for your job–but you can’t, because its design doesn’t allow your screen reading software to convert text into speech.

How can the government, or the people designing public transportation, buildings, and web sites, fix these problems?

Accessibility standards that guide the design of places, communications, services, and programs are critical to ensuring that disabled citizens have equal access in all sectors of society. For example, standards can provide guidance on how wide doorways need to be so that wheelchair riders can pass through, or how photos on a website should be described so that people with vision disabilities can understand the information being conveyed through the images.

In the United States, the U.S. Access Board has written standards and guidelines to help people understand exactly how to make buildings, sidewalks and intersections, technology and communication, transportation vehicles, and other public places accessible as required under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other laws.

Visit the U.S. Access Board website for a collection of links to their accessibility guidelines and standards, which cover categories such as:

  • Information and communication technology, websites, and telecommunication products and equipment accessible for people with disabilities.
  • Public places, commercial facilities, state and local government facilities, and temporary housing during disasters and emergencies accessible; guidelines for acoustics in classrooms.
  • Recreation facilities, play areas, swimming pools, sports facilities, amusement rides, picnic and camping sites, beaches on federal sites, and other outdoor developed areas.
  • Sidewalks, intersections, street crossings, on-street parking, shared use paths, transportation facilities and transportation vehicles, and passenger vessels.
  • Medical diagnostic equipment.