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Legal Authorities

The Rehabilitation Act (Act), as amended by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) allows the courts to use the same standards for litigation established under the ADA. Therefore, we need to be familiar with case decisions under both acts.

Architectural Barriers Act (ABA)
Rehabilitation Act (Act), Section 508
Accessible Electronic and Information Technology: Section 508
Air Carriers Access Act


Guidelines under review: Architectural Barriers Act (ABA)

The Architectural Barriers Board (Board) has received the proposed updates to the accessibility guidelines under the ADA. The proposal will update the ABA guidelines, which applies to facilities in the Federal sector and others designed, built, altered or leased with Federal funds. The vast majority of the comments from individuals with disabilities addressed reach range requirements, access for people with multiple chemical sensitivities, movie theater captioning and access to certain elements such as ATMs. Comment from business and manufacturing dealt with topics that included alarms, handrails, assembly areas, van space and ATMs. Now that the comment period has closed, the Board is reviewing and analyzing the comment and will deliberate on changes to the proposed guidelines based on the comments. After completing and approving a final document, the Board will submit it to the Office of Management and Budget for review and clearance. Once cleared by OMB the final guideline will be published in the Federal Register. Th updated requirements must then be adopted by Federal agencies responsible for the actual enforcement standards that are based on the Board's guidelines. Department of Justice, Department of Transportation, Department of Defense, Department of Housing and Urban Development, General Services Administration and the US Postal Service. The reference to ATMs above leads us into the next topic.

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Guidelines under review: Rehabilitation Act (Act), Section 508

The comment period has ended on the Standards for Electronic and Information Technology, which will revise section 508 of the Act. Section 508 requires access to the Federal government's electronic and information technology. The law applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain or use electronic and information technology. Federal agencies must ensure that this technology is accessible to employees and members of the public with disabilities to the extent it does not pose an undue burden." The standards cover various means for disseminating information, including computers, software, and electronic office equipment in the Federal sector. The standards will provide criteria specific to various types of technologies and performance-based requirements, which focus on the functional capabilities of covered technologies. For example, control keyboards and keypads, software applications and operating systems, web-based information or applications, telecommunications, video or multi-media products, information kiosks, transaction machines and adaptive equipment commonly used for information and communication access. For more information see the US Access Board's web page at

Accessible Electronic and Information Technology: Section 508

In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act and strengthened provisions covering access to information in the Federal sector for people with disabilities. As amended, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires access to the Federal government's electronic and information technology. The law applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. Federal agencies must ensure that this technology is accessible to employees and the public. The law directs the Access Board to develop access standards that will become part of the Federal procurement regulations. The website is found at

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Air Carriers Access Act

Under the ACAA, airline carriers may not:

  • Refuse to provide service to individuals on the basis of disability.
  • Limit the number of IWD on a particular flight.
  • Require an IWD to travel with an attendant, except in limited circumstances.
  • Require advance notice that an IWD is traveling, except when the airline will be providing an accommodation that requires preparation time. Airlines are required to provide assistance to passengers with disabilities as needed with respect to boarding, deplaning and making connections.

For more information see Breaking Down Travel Barriers, Government Executive June 2000

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