Issue Brief: Accessible Design


ASLA works to keep ASLA members informed on compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and to disseminate information on accessible design standards.

Background & Analysis

In 1990, Congress passed, and President George H. W. Bush signed, the Americans With Disabilities Act to protect disabled Americans from discrimination.  The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, State and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications.  The Department of Justice (DOJ) is responsible for issuing regulations to implement ADA, including accessibility standards for design, construction, and alteration of facilities.  The ADA requires the Department of Justice (DOJ) to publish ADA design standards that are consistent with the guidelines published by the U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board).

Current Status

Beginning on March 15, 2012, entities must comply with the revised design standards adopted in the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design that were announced by the Department of Justice in the Federal Register on September 15, 2010. The Access Board adopted these revisions or changes in a series of rules that addressed recreation facilities, play areas, and certain State and local government facilities.

In particular, changes affecting recreation facilities include amusement rides, recreational boating facilities, exercise machines, fishing piers and platforms, golf facilities, miniature golf, play areas, and swimming pools, saunas and steam rooms. Changes to public facilities guidelines apply to detention and correctional facilities, judicial facilities, and public housing units. Others include changes to the 1991 Standards for direct access entrances from parking structures, location accessible routes, assembly areas, and others. DOJ has summarized these changes in a separate, more readable document, Adoption of the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design Fact Sheet.

The 2010 Standards set minimum requirements – both scoping and technical -- for newly designed and constructed or altered State and local government facilities, public accommodations, and commercial facilities to be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.  If the start date for construction is on or after March 15, 2012, all newly constructed or altered State and local government facilities must comply with the 2010 Standards. However, compliance with ADA Standards for Accessible Design as it relates to swimming pools, wading pools, and spas has been extended for a period of 60-days to May 15th.

Landscape architects and LA firms are encouraged to review these revised standards.  For information about the ADA, including the revised 2010 ADA regulations, please visit the Department of Justice’s website; or, for answers to specific questions, call the toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (Voice) or 800-514-0383 (TTY). The Access Board also offers  educations sessions on accessibility design standards and complying with ADA.

Public Rights of Way Guidelines

Currently, the Access Board is developing guidelines for the public rights of way. ASLA solicited feedback and encouraged members with technical expertise in this area to submit comments to the Access Board to help develop guidelines on Pedestrian Facilities in the Public Rights of Way.


Americans for Disabilities Act (ADA)
2010 Standards for Accessible Design (All titles)
2010 Standards for Accessible Design Title II, and Title III
Revised ADA Regulations: Implementing Title II and Title III
Technical Assistance for Practitioners seeking to comply with ADA
Schedule of Education Session on Accessibility Design Standards and Complying with ADA
LAND “U.S. Access Board Releases Rights-of-Way Guidelines for Public Comments” 8/2011
United States Access Board
Proposed Accessibility Guidelines for Pedestrian Facilities in the Public Right of Way

ASLA Public Policies

Universal Design


ASLA Government Affairs