Missoula Technology and Development Center Facilities Toolbox: Accessibility Tools
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Which accessibility guidelines must we use?

First, here's a little background about laws, guidelines, and standards:

The laws governing accessibility include:

The 1968 law—the Architectural Barriers Act(ABA)—requires that facilities built, bought, rented, or leased by or on behalf of a Federal agency must be accessible.

The 1973 law—Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act — requires provision of equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities to participate in all Federal or federally-funded programs and activities.

  • The 1994 USDA regulation—7 CFR 15e and 15b —is the USDA implementation of Section 504. It provides specific requirements for ensuring the accessibility of the programs and activities conducted by or for USDA agencies.

The 1990 law—the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)—prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in public accommodations and commercial transportation in the private sector and in State and local government. This law includes requirements for accessible new construction and renovation, reasonable accommodation, transportation, telecommunications, and just about everything affecting people's daily lives. However, the ADA does not apply to the programs and facilities provided by Federal agencies, except for, Section 12207 Federal wilderness areas, which pertains to federally designated wilderness areas. The ADA is modeled on the 1968 Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Logo for the U. S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service Universal symbol of a person in a wheelchair, indicating handicap accessibility

The guidelines and standards resulting from these laws include:

The new ADA/ABA Accessibility Guidelines were officially published in the Federal Register on July 23, 2004. The new combined guidelines replace both the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS) and the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG). The ADA/ABA Accessibility Guidelines cover all of the facilities and associated features that were addressed in the UFAs and the ADAAG. The General Services Administration (GSA) officially adopted the ABA portion of the combined guidelines in November 2005. The Architectural Barriers Act Accessibility Standards (ABAAS) is the name given by GSA to the standards the Forest Service must follow for all construction and alterations that begin after May 8, 2006.

The new combined guidelines have two chapters 1 and 2. Chapters ADA1 and ADA2 contain the application, administration, and scoping requirements for all entities under the ADA (state and local governments and public accommodations). Chapters ABA1 and ABA2 contain the application, administration, and scoping requirements for all entities under the ABA (Federal agencies). All numbering in chapters ABA1 and ABA2 begins with F for Federal. The Forest Service is to follow only the ABA1 and ABA2 chapters for guidance and scooping. Be sure the scoping direction you are following starts with the letter F.

Chapters 3 through 10 contain the common set of technical provisions. The technical provisions are now the same for federal, state, and local governments, as well as public accommodations. The technical provisions are now also more consistent with the model building codes, including the International Building Codes, and with industry standards such as the American National Standards Institute. The modifications should eliminate a good deal of confusion over which guidelines and standards are appropriate in different situations.

Updates to accessibility guidelines and terminology:

Do NOT follow the information in the 1993 publication Universal Access to Outdoor Recreation, A Design Guide with its three levels of difficult, easier, moderate.

Do NOT follow the information in the 1999 Draft Outdoor Recreation Developed Areas accessibility recommendations. In particular, don't post the wheelchair symbol at all accessible campsites.

DO follow the ADA/ABA Accessibility Guidelines for buildings and facilities.

DO follow the Forest Service Outdoor Recreation Accessibility Guidelines (FSORAG) and the Forest Service Trail Accessibility Guidelines (FSTAG). The Accessibility Guidebook for Outdoor Recreation and Trails explains how to use the FSORAG and FSTAG.


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