20 Years: Americans with Disabilities Act Reaches Milestone

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Many people will experience a disability at some point in their lives. It might be temporary, like a broken leg. Or it may be more permanent, such as mobility impairment, vision loss, or reduced hearing. Or it may just be the natural process of aging that increases reliance on some mobility aid. Such disabilities, whether temporary or permanent, may affect how people get around at home, at work, shopping, seeing a museum, or even visiting the doctor.

In that last 20 years, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has improved access in the built environment. President George H.W. Bush signed “the world’s first comprehensive declaration of equality for people with disabilities” into law on July 26, 1990. Twenty years later, U.S. World Standards Day will recognize ADA’s anniversary with the theme “Standards for Accessibility.”

As a member of the U.S. World Standards Day Planning Committee, the International Code Council is looking forward to using the opportunity to advocate the needs and rights of the disabled. Long before the ADA was enacted, ICC and its founding members were working to address disability needs through changes to building and fire safety codes.

“Federal agencies, state and local governments, codes and standards organizations, the construction industry, and disability advocacy groups have worked together to make buildings accessible and safe,” said International Code Council CEO Richard P. Weiland. “The Code Council, at the request of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, became responsible for the ICC A117.1 accessibility standard in the late 1980s.”

In fact, the Code Council’s model codes began to address accessibility as early as 1975, 15 years before the ADA was enacted. In addition to codes, ICC A117.1 Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities is a nationally recognized standard of technical requirements for making buildings accessible. An update of the standard is expected this year.

First published in 1961, A117.1 is referenced by many federal documents and state accessibility laws. ICC (through its precursor organization the Council of American Building Officials) has been responsible for the document since 1987. To support use of the ICC A117.1 standard, the Council provides commentaries, written and verbal interpretations, and Web-based and classroom accessibility training for design, construction and inspection professionals. The Code Council also offers Accessibility Plan Review services.

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2 Responses

  1. Mrs. Eileen Curras widow to Hernandez (WWII) says:

    Yes, many people will experience a disability at some point in their lives but that awareness only comes when consumers face a temporary situation like a broken leg or when consumers face a permanent debilitating condition which is permanent, such as Multiple Sclerosis that can provide a mobility impairment, vision loss, or reduced hearing. Even the natural process of aging that increases reliance on some mobility aid Florida proves not to have made proper planning and I hope the census will definitively will open the eyes of legislators in the State of Florida. In a way legislators in the State of Florida are doing the same as legislators in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico but coming from the State of Florida is an eye opener.
    Certainly disabilities, whether temporary or permanent, may affect how people get around at home, at work, shopping, seeing a museum, or even visiting the doctor which was the factor that brought me to Florida.
    Maybe in that last 20 years, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has improved access in the built environment but unless consumers enact it or know the law nothing will get done. President George H.W. Bush could have signed “the world’s first comprehensive declaration of equality for people with disabilities” but unless the mechanism and resources are offer nothing gets done. Just as Puerto Rico where the law is not enforce by federal agencies. The law was amended again on July 26, 1990 but unless the consumers do not have access to appropriate resources nothing get done. There is much needed to be done twenty years later besides “Standards for Accessibility.”
    Much more needs to be done even as a member of the U.S. World Standards Day Planning Committee. Now the challenge is the economy for the International Code Council. I hope they understand the task before them to advocate the needs and rights of the disabled on this new challenge that has being use at the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to stop the progress of the ADA Act.
    The reality on the International Arena is very different from the United States and the crude reality is that the international arena has kept themselves distant and I am going to use as a resource the book “Nothing About Us Without Us” from James Charlton.
    “Federal agencies, state and local governments, codes and standards organizations, the construction industry, and disability advocacy groups need to worked together to everything accessible and safe. This is new to me that the Code Council, at the request of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, became responsible for the ICC A117.1 accessibility standard in the late 1980s. What does that means for the territories of the United States where corruption and local politics distant consumers of the proper enforcement of the law.
    I will wait for the update of the standards since is expected this year. Certainly the ICC needs to work the need of the territories of the United States too providing those commentaries, written and verbal interpretations, to the territories of the United States. Not every library in Puerto Rico has access to the d Web and the economy is simply terrible at the island. Classroom accessibility training sounds great for places that have access to computers for things like design, construction and inspection professionals. Maybe it is time for the ICC to prepare a visit to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Maybe the Code Council can work Accessibility Plan Review services for the territories.

  2. john curtis says:

    My company has been working with ADA signage for over 25 years.. one of the glitches in our area of Accessible Signage is that local fire agencies or building departments are left to their own devices to determine the size and colors and layouts of ADA signage and each city writes its own spec for these signs required for occupancy in new construction. ex: Braille EXIT signs for walls are different for 15 of the local southern California cities we are forced to try to explain this to our contractor clients.. and it becomes very frustrating for them .. and architects often only supply the federal guidelines with maximim and minimum ond drawings that conflict with local regulations.

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