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Standards Aid Accessibility on 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act


08/05/2015

At a recent White House reception, President Obama commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a civil rights law that ensures equality to people with all types of disabilities. Just as the groundbreaking law has enabled millions of people to work and contribute to society, several widely recognized standards support the ADA by providing technical criteria for making sites, facilities, buildings, and elements accessible.

There are 56.7 million people in the United States with a disability, which represents about 19 percent of the population, according to the most recent (2012) U.S. Census bureau statistics. Of those with a disability, many (30.6 million) have difficulty walking or climbing stairs, or use a wheelchair, cane, crutches, or walker to get around. Even so, with contributions of the ADA, more people with disabilities are in the workforce today than at any point in the last 30 years because of this legislation, as President Obama highlighted in his commemoration speech.

While the ADA enables equal opportunity in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation, several standards help ensure that buildings are accessible to the hundreds of people who work in them.

For example, the International Code Council’s ICC/ANSI A117.7 Accessible and Useable Buildings and Facilities is an American National Standard that supports the disabled by providing technical criteria for making sites, facilities, buildings, and elements accessible. ICC is a member of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and is an ANSI-accredited standards developer.

ICC/ANSI A117.1 ensures that sites, facilities, buildings, and elements are accessible to and usable by people with an inability to walk, difficulty walking, reliance on walking aids, blindness and visual impairment, deafness and hearing impairment, incoordination, reaching and manipulation disabilities, lack of stamina, difficulty interpreting and reacting to sensory information, and extremes of physical size. The intent of this standard is to allow a person with physical disability to independently get to, enter, and use a site, facility, building, or element.

The standard meets goals outlined by the longstanding ADA by eliminating barriers (and enabling related opportunities) for people with physical disabilities.

Another standard, ISO/IEC 10779:2008, supports ADA goals through information technology, an integral part of various businesses in the U.S. The standard, last reviewed in 2013, specifies accessibility guidelines to be considered when planning, developing and designing electrophotographic copying machines, page printers, and multi-function devices. These guidelines are intended to improve accessibility required when primarily older persons, persons with disabilities and persons with temporary disabilities use office equipment. This standard was developed by Joint Technical Committee (JTC 1), Information Technology, of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). The U.S. plays a leading role in JTC 1, with ANSI holding the secretariat and Karen Higginbottom, director of standards initiatives at Hewlett-Packard Company, serving as JTC 1’s chair.

Office design and accessibility is imperative for the disabled American workforce. ANSI provides an extensive list of accessibility guidelines that represent office ergonomics suitable for the handicapped, and elderly, as well accessible building standards by different standards developing organizations for designers and builders.

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