Federal Accessibility Laws

The federal government has had laws for many years that prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities. Some of these laws address access to services, and some address physical access to buildings. Some, but not all, accessibility requirements are tied to federal funding.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a federal law created in 1990, grants individuals with disabilities comprehensive civil rights protection.  Title II and Title III include accessibility in buildings and their associated sites.  The ADA covers commercial buildings, government buildings and transient housing.  The scoping and technical requirements are found in the 2010 ADA Standard for Accessible Design.  Compliance with the 2010 ADA Standard is required for all new construction and alterations started after March 15, 2012.

Two resources for ADA and the 2010 ADA Standard are:

The Code Council is proud that the 2010 ADA Standard references the IBC for accessible means of egress. (link to the same brochure listed above)

The Fair Housing Act (FHA)

The Fair Housing Act is a civil rights law written in 1968 that prohibits discrimination for housing based on race, religion, sex or national origin. In 1988, the Fair Housing Amendments Act expanded the law to include disabilities and familial status. In 1990, The U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released technical standards, the Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines (FHAG), to help builders comply with accessibility requirements.

HUD has certified several editions of the IBC and the A117.1 standard as “safe harbor” documents. Safe harbor means that compliance with this code/standard meets or exceeds the requirements in the Fair Housing Act. HUD is finalizing a review of 2009 ICC A117.1 and 2009, 2012, 2015 and 2018 IBC for safe harbor. A resource for FHA or FHAG is Fair Housing Accessibility First

The International Code Council is committed to meeting or exceeding the accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Fair Housing Act (FHA). Accessibility requirements are incorporated into the International Codes as the codes are updated, through the International Code development process.

Why use the IBC for accessibility?

The 2010 ADA Standard for Accessible Design and the Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines (FHAG), as federal guidelines, must go through a rulemaking process to be amended or updated. The process can take a long time.

The IBC is updated on a three-year cycle. The International Code Council uses an open-hearing, consensus process to develop its building safety and fire prevention codes, including the IBC. It is an inclusive process that allows input from all individuals and groups, including federal agencies and disability advocacy groups. Each cycle includes the opportunity for public comments. Final decisions are made by International Code Council voting members -- code enforcement and fire officials who, with no vested interests beyond public safety, represent the public’s best interest. This process allows for new ideas, techniques and products to be incorporated in the requirements.

Most jurisdictions update their building codes on a regular basis. Therefore, as new technologies and accessibility provisions are incorporated into the IBC and adopted by jurisdictions, they are built into new construction.