Missoula Technology and Development Center Facilities Toolbox: Accessibility Tools
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When is a facility considered accessible?

A facility is accessible if it was constructed in compliance with the accessibility guidelines that were in force at the time of its construction. Many of our facilities predate accessibility laws, but all Federal facilities must be accessible, with few exceptions , regardless of age. Once we bring a facility up to current accessibility standards and guidelines, that facility is considered accessible even if there are changes to the standards and guidelines later. However, if a facility is altered, reconstructed, or replaced, it must be brought into compliance with the highest standard of Federal or Forest Service accessibility guidelines in place at that time.

The current accessibility guidelines include:

For buildings and related facilities:

  • The combined ADA/ABA Accessibility Guidelines replaced the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS) for Federal and federally-funded facilities and the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines for places of public accommodation and commercial facilities in the private sector and State and local government facilities when it was published in the Federal Register on July 23, 2004.

  • Since 1995, Forest Service policy has been that the Forest Service would use both the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS) and the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG). When both standards covered the same features, the Forest Service used the higher standard. Now, there is only the one combined standard.

For developed recreation areas:

A site, facility, or program either meets the requirements of the Federal accessibility standards and guidelines and is accessible or it does not meet the requirements and is not accessible. Plans for some recreation site amenities that meet the requirements of the Federal accessibility standards are available to Forest Service employees at the Accessible Recreation Facilities site.

Two terms that are not correct are "ADA accessible" and "handicapped accessible."

Why not "ADA accessible"? The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is not an accessibility guideline, it is a law. The Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) is one of the accessibility guidelines. If a person is stating that the facility is in compliance with the ADAAG, verses the UFAS or the FSORAG, then that statement should be made in full. However there is generally no need to be that specific. Simply stating that the facility is accessible means it is in compliance with the highest accessibility guidelines for that type of facility.

Why not use the phrase "handicapped accessible"? A handicap is a barrier, such as stairs that handicap passage by a person using a wheelchair. The term "accessible" means "in compliance with the accessibility guidelines." An accessible facility has no barriers. So the term "handicap accessible" means "barrier-no barrier," which makes no sense. The correct terms are simply "accessible" and "not accessible."


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