20 Years: Americans with Disabilities Act Reaches Milestone
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.