# 163 DJ 202-PL-957 III-1.

8200 March 8, 1995

Mr. Fred Burgess United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America P.O. Box 1542 Aurora, Illinois 60507 Dear Mr. Burgess: I am responding to your letter concerning the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA authorizes the Department of Justice to provide technical assistance to individuals and entities that have rights or responsibilities under the Act. Pursuant to that authority, this letter provides informal guidance to assist you in understanding the ADA. However, this technical assistance does not constitute a legal interpretation of the statute, and it is not binding on the Department. Your letter asks about the application of the ADA to a proposed change to the building code of the City of Aurora, Illinois. That change would require an architect or structural engineer to attest that each newly constructed or altered public facility complies with the Illinois Environmental Barriers Act. An exception is provided for construction or alterations costing less than $50,000. Your letter raises several issues regarding the relationship between State and Federal law in the area of accessibility to persons with disabilities. First, the ADA is a Federal law and is enforced by Federal agencies, including the Department of Justice. State and local governments are not authorized to enforce the ADA, to monitor compliance therewith, or to grant waivers of the ADA's requirements. Second, the ADA does not preempt all State and local regulation in the area of accessible design. States and

localities are free to enact and enforce code provisions that provide equal or greater access than the ADA standards. To the extent possible, covered entities must comply with both the State or local code and the Federal requirement. However, if the State or local code provisions differ from the ADA requirements in a way that results in less accessibility, then an entity subject to title III of the ADA is required to comply with the Federal standard. To the extent that the Federal standard is irreconcilable with the State or local standard, a covered entity must comply with the Federal standard. The ADA encourages the coordination of State and local building codes with the ADA and provides for certification of equivalent State and local codes. The proposed building code change cited in your letter may undermine that goal by increasing the distinctions between Federal and local requirements and by increasing builders' confusion regarding their accessibility obligations. Nonetheless, the ADA neither requires nor prohibits the proposed change. Public accommodations and commercial facilities must comply with the ADA requirements for new construction and alterations regardless of the cost of the project. The proposed local rule will exempt small projects only from local requirements, not from the requirements of the ADA. I hope that this information is helpful to you. Sincerely,

John L. Wodatch Chief Public Access Section