Building  Owners  and  Managers  Association  International

Building Owners and Managers Association International

Accessibility Laws, Codes and Standards

BOMA Position

BOMA International submitted comments to the Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding the DOJ notice to amend and update portions of its Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG), which reflect the revised Americans with Disabilities Act that were issued in 2004 by the US Access Board. BOMA called on the DOJ to maintain a broad grandfather clause to protect existing facilities and elements already in compliance with current ADAAG. In essence, a grandfather clause is an exception that allows an old rule to apply to existing situations, while a new rule will apply to all future situations.

BOMA stated that without a broad grandfather clause, “the Department would be ignoring the extensive initial costs and efforts that have gone into implementation of the ‘barrier removal’ concept of Title III since 1992. Existing facilities that have already implemented significant improvement programs will be severely impacted,” having to spend even more money attempting to meet the new Guidelines. Furthermore, some facilities may face a form of “double jeopardy.” “Those facilities that previously implemented widespread and expensive barrier removal programs, will be most likely to have created new ‘barriers’ as defined by the new, but not the current, Standards.”


On November 16, 1999, the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Federal Register to revise and update its accessibility guidelines for buildings and facilities covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 (ABA). These guidelines cover new construction and alterations and serve as the basis for enforceable standards issued by other Federal agencies. BOMA is committed to having as much influence shaping this revised set of accessibility guidelines as we did in responding to the original ADAAG in 1991. BOMA Internationals codes consultant, Lawrence G. Perry, AIA, who served as BOMA's representative on the ADAAG Review Advisory Committee, also testified at two hearings on the board's "notice of proposed rulemaking." The first was held January 31, 2000 in Los Angeles, CA, and the second hearing was held March 13, 2000 in Arlington, VA.

Historical Background

The most significant milestone in the history of accessibility in the United States occurred on July 26, 1990, with the signing into law of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This landmark civil rights law guarantees the rights of people with disabilities and prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. With the signing of the ADA, the US Access Board was given responsibilities that include: (1) Developing the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG); (2) Providing technical assistance and training on ADAAG; and, (3) Conducting research to support ADAAG; the US Department of Justice was given enforcement responsibility of the portions of the ADA most directly affecting commercial real estate.

BOMA Position

BOMA strongly supports the forthcoming "next generation" of accessibility requirements. BOMA will work to ensure that these new regulations, codes and standards provide increased consistency between federal, state, local and model accessibility requirements, offer more reasonable, more flexible, and clearer technical requirements, and lead to more consistent interpretation, application, and enforcement.

Background

BOMA has been recognized as the industry leader on accessibility since 1991, and has had extensive input in key accessibility forums where the new accessibility provisions took shape. BOMA serves on the ANSI A117 Committee, which develops the accessibility standard referenced by each of the model building codes, and which is also used as the basis of many state and local accessibility regulations. In addition, from 1994 through 1996, BOMA had the opportunity to serve on the ADAAG Review Advisory Committee, a federal advisory committee formed by the US Access Board to develop recommendations for the pending revision of the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG). The work of these two committees included extensive efforts to "harmonize" the respective documents, setting the foundation for consistency between accessibility requirements of federal law, model codes, and state and local regulations.

Recent History

For the past several years, BOMA has worked to revise the model codes to be consistent with the final recommendations of the ADAAG Review Advisory Committee, which the Access Board has used as the basis for the pending changes to ADAAG. In addition, the 1998 ANSI A117.1 Standard is incorporated by reference into the 1999 BOCA National Building Code, 1999 SBCCI Standard Building Code, and 2000 ICC International Building Code. These documents will begin to be considered for adoption by numerous jurisdictions during the coming year. The US Access Board has been working since late 1996 to develop their Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to revise the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG). The Board is also using this extensive revision to merge all federal accessibility guidelines, including the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (which are applicable to many federal agencies), into a single package. The notice of proposed rulemaking for the revised ADAAG was published November 16, 1999.

Action Requested

BOMA will work to ensure that these new regulations, codes and standards provide increased consistency between federal, state, local and model accessibility requirements, offer more reasonable, more flexible, and clearer technical requirements, and lead to more consistent interpretation, application and enforcement.

Please keep in mind that as the new federal accessibility provisions unfold, some states and local jurisdictions will likely undertake revisions to their own accessibility provisions in 2000. At the state and local level, BOMA members should monitor legislative and regulatory activity to ensure that any efforts to make changes to state or local accessibility requirements incorporate the new "state-of-the-art" documents. In particular, BOMA members should support the adoption of the 1998 A117.1 standard as the technical standard for accessibility.

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