Final is a relative term; implementation varies.
By Teresa Cox
New Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines, which define how signs are made for the built environment, have been finalized by the U.S. Access Board. These changes, already in effect for some buildings, carry unknown implementation dates for others. This article will outline the latest rule changes and what they’ll mean to sign-industry and environmental graphic designers, specifically regarding accessible interior signs.
Changes to these signs’ requirements have been anticipated and discussed for years. The U.S. Access Board approved its latest design guidelines for ADA and Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) facilities in July 2004. The new guidelines include extensive changes to the technical requirements for interior architectural signs. Although the original ADA sign section was little more than a page of requirements, the very detailed new section spans more than eight pages.
Although “final,” the new guidelines are not enforceable until they are adopted by the various agencies that maintain them (very similarly to the National Electrical Code). The responsible federal agencies are updating their ABA and ADA standards on separate tracks, and their progress to date varies.
The ADA, which covers the private sector as well as state and local governments, is maintained by the Dept. of Justice (DOJ). The ABA, which covers federally funded facilities, is maintained by several different agencies, including the General Services Administration (GSA), the Dept. of Defense (DOD), the Dept. of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Postal Service. The ABA, which replaced the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS), is already in effect for some buildings. Here are some developments:
ADA Standards: The ADA sets design requirements for the construction and alteration of places of public accommodation, commercial facilities, and state and local government facilities. The DOJ maintains the ADA standards for these facilities, except for transportation facilities, which are subject to similar standards maintained by the U.S. DOT. Both departments are working to replace the original ADA standards with new ones based on the Access Board’s guidelines.
DOJ: The DOJ is expected to issue another notice and comment period before finalizing adoption of the new standards. This final notice will indicate when the new ADA standards are to be followed. Until that date, the original version of the Americans with Disabilities Act Guidelines (ADAAG) remains in effect. DOJ indicates the process could require two years.
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