Missoula Technology and Development Center Facilities Toolbox: Accessibility Tools
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What terms will let people know whether our facility is accessible?

A site, facility, or program either meets the requirements of the Federal accessibility standards and guidelines and is accessible or it doesn't meet the requirements and is not accessible. Those are the only acceptable terms.

You've probably heard incorrect or imprecise terms such as "partially accessible," "accessible with assistance," "ADA accessible," "handicapped accessible," and "barrier-free."

Photo of the exterior of the Burgess Junction Visitor Center
The Burgess Junction Visitor Center is accessible.

Forest:
Bighorn
District: Tongue
Region: 2

Why not use terms such as "partially accessible" or "accessible with assistance"? There are no degrees of accessibility. A facility is either accessible, or it is not accessible. For more information on describing a facility that is not accessible, see the How should we describe facilities that only meet some of the accessibility guidelines? section of this toolbox.

Why not say "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 several accessibility guidelines. When stating that the facility is in compliance with the ADAAG, rather than the UFAS or the FSORAG, 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 or circumstance that makes progress or success difficult, such as stairs that handicap passage by a person using a wheelchair. The term accessible means in compliance with the Federal accessibility guidelines. An accessible facility has no barriers. So the term "handicap accessible" means "barrier-no barrier," which makes no sense. The best terms are simply "accessible" and "not accessible."

Why not say "barrier-free"? This term is not legally defined or commonly understood. The meaning of "accessible" is well defined in the accessibility guidelines, so there is no doubt about its implications.


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