The Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design have been revised to introduce numerous changes to the 1991 Standards, which have been the benchmark for ADA accessible design to date.

On July 23, 2010, U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., signed revised final regulations under Titles II and III of the ADA. The revised regulations address both accessible design issues and accessibility issues that go beyond design. For a discussion of issues beyond the scope of accessible design, please click here.

Examples of the changes regarding accessibility design appear below.

Reach Range Requirements. The side reach range requirements for covered elements (outlets, switches, thermostats, and other controls) have been modified from a range of 9 to 54 inches above finished floor elevation to 15 to 48 inches above finished floor elevation.

Water Closet Clearances in Single-User Toilet Rooms. The clearances in single-user toilet facilities must now provide clearance for both forward and parallel approaches, and, in most situations, the lavatory cannot overlap the water closet clearance. The new standard now provides for a door that swings into the clearance, if there is sufficient clear floor space within the toilet room beyond the door's arc.

Assembly Areas. Although the overall number of seating for people with disabilities has been reduced in large facilities (more than 500 seats), the new design standards provide more specific guidance on vertical and horizontal dispersion, sightlines over other standing spectators, companion seating, and accessibility of lawn and overflow-seating areas.

Circulation Paths and Accessible Routes. In employee work areas, the 2010 Standards require new and altered work areas to include accessible common-use circulation paths rather than merely provide access to approach, enter, and exit the area.

Additionally, all accessible routes that connect site arrival points with accessible building entrances must now coincide with or be in the same area as general circulation paths. Where such a general circulation path is in the facility's interior, the accessible route must also be located in the interior. Furthermore, where levels of a parking garage have direct pedestrian connections to another facility, each of the facility’s direct entrances must be fully accessible. Directly accessible routes to stages, whether temporary or permanent, are also required from seating areas if such a circulation path exists for people without disabilities.

Recreation Facilities. In addition to the above changes to the 1991 Standards, the 2010 Standards address, for the first time, recreational facilities. The safe harbors provided for other portions of the 2010 Standards do not apply to these new requirements. If "readily achievable," the changes must be made by the mandatory compliance date. Such new compliance requirements exist for recreational boating facilities, exercise machines and equipment, fishing piers, golf facilities (including miniature golf courses), play areas, swimming/wading pools and spas, and saunas and steam rooms.

Click here to access the final regulations on the DOJ's ADA Web site.