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The Honorable Sam Nunn United States Senator 75 Spring Street, S.W. Suite 1700 Atlanta, Georgia 30303 Dear Senator Nunn: This letter is in response to your inquiry on behalf of James L. Cherry, concerning the American National Standards Institute's technical specifications for the design of accessible buildings and facilities (ANSI A117.1-1992). The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) authorizes the Department to provide technical assistance to individuals and entities that have rights or responsibilities under the Act. This letter provides informal guidance to assist you in responding to Mr. Cherry. However, this technical assistance does not constitute a determination by the Department of Justice of the rights or responsibilities of any individual under the ADA, and it is not binding on the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice regulation implementing title III of the ADA establishes the requirements that govern the new construction of facilities subject to title III. The regulation adopts the ADA Accessibility Guidelines as the Federal accessibility standard for places of public accommodation and commercial facilities. The ADA does not require States to amend their building codes to incorporate the ADA Accessibility Guidelines, but it does establish a procedure by which States can request the Department to certify that their accessibility codes meet or exceed the ADA's requirements. The ADA does not authorize the Department to certify model codes or other private sector standards, such as the American National Standards Institute, but the title III regulation provides that the Department will, upon request, provide
cc: Records; Chrono; Wodatch; McDowney; Blizard; FOIA; MAF. :udd:blizard:control:nunn 01-01883 -2technical assistance to the ANSI committee and other private sector organizations that develop model accessibility standards and model codes to assist them in determining if their models are consistent with the requirements of the ADA. Even though we are reviewing a June draft of the ANSI A117.1 Standard at the request of the Council of American Building Officials, which serves as the secretariat for the ANSI A117.1 Committee, the Department has not received the Committee's final proposal so that it is not possible to determine whether the draft Standard will be consistent with ADA requirements. We plan to respond to the Council of American Building Officials inquiry as promptly as our resources permit. In his letter, Mr. Cherry noted that he wants to recommend the adoption of the 1992 ANSI standard as the Georgia accessibility code because, in his view, it appears "to correct some glitches" in ADA Accessibility Guidelines. Mr. Cherry should be aware that compliance with the ADA Accessibility Guidelines is required by Federal law. The ANSI A117.1 committee is free to comment on, or request amendments to, the ADA Accessibility Guidelines; but no action by the ANSI committee, or by any State adopting the ANSI technical requirements, can relieve any individual of the obligation to comply fully with the requirements of the ADA. Any State Government that plans to seek certification of its accessibility code must ensure that its code requirements meet or exceed the requirements of the ADA established in the title III regulation. I have enclosed a copy of the title III regulation and the Department's Technical Assistance Manual. The new construction and alteration requirements are addressed at pages 35599-35602 and 35574-35589 of the regulation, and pages 43-64 of the Manual. Certification is discussed at pages 35603-04 and 35590-35592 of the regulation, and pages 68-73 of the Manual. I hope that this information is helpful to you in responding to your constituent.
James P. Turner Acting Assistant Attorney General Civil Rights Division Enclosures (2) 01-01884 AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ASSOCIATION INC. James L. Cherry, J.D., Ph.D. Founder - National Chairman November 10, 1992 Honorable San Nunn United States Senator United States Senate Washington, D. C. RE: Department of Justice Office of Americans With Disabilities Act Dear Senator Nunn: I am working with the Georgia Safety Fire Commissioner, State Fire Marshal and Department of Vocation Rehabilitation to craft some state legislation that would bring the state accessibility code for people with disabilities into conformity with the federal Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The existing Georgia access code incorporates by reference the 1986 version of the American National Standards Institution (ANSI - A117.1-1986) specifications for making buildings accessible to and usable by people with disabilities. Georgia's code for disability access does not conform with the federal law, and state or local officials are only authorized by law to approve construction plans based upon state law that is not in conformity with the ADA.
Since we had ANSI A-117.1-1986 standards placed in state law in 1987, the Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted in 1990 and the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) were promulgated by the DOJ and became effective on July 26, 1991. The ADAAG was an improvement over the 1986 accessibility standards developed by ANSI. ANSI is a national consensus standard that is preferred by many construction officials, and now ANSI has revised its standards on accessibility to reflect and improve upon the ADAAG. Coincidentally, ANSI has a policy of reviewing ANSI accessibility standards every six years. Therefore, the 1992 ANSI revisions are in line with their review policy. The revised ANSI A117.1-1992 version of the standards will be published in December, 1992. I reviewed an advance copy of the new ANSI A117.1-1992 and have determined that those standards ADA-PAC America's First Political Action Committee For People With Disabilities 625 Reds Circle Lilburn, Georgia 30247 (404) 921-5822 01-01885 may be superior to the ADAAG, since the ANSI accessibility standards appear to correct some glitches identified within the ADAAG that have now been in effect since 1991. I am inclined to craft Georgia state legislation to incorporate the 1992 version of ANSI-A117.1 into state law, provided the U.S. Department of Justice determines that ANSI-A117.1-1992 standards are substantially equivalent to ADAAG, thereby establishing that compliance with ANSI-A117.1-1992 would constitute compliance with the accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The Department of Justice, Office of the Americans With Disabilities Act, has been reviewing this question since the advance copy of the 1992 ANSI A117.1 standards were made available in July 1992, but no findings have been reported. To expedite our decision on which standard to use in a proposed new state law, we need a decision from the DOJ on two questions: 1. In the opinion of DOJ, does the ANSI A117.1-1992 accessibility standards meet or exceed the ADAAG standards?
2. Will the DOJ Certify that ANSI A117.1-1992 is substantially equivalent to the ADAAG for purposes of complying with the ADA? If so, when? These decisions are needed soon in Georgia, because we are preparing legislation to be presented to the 1993 Georgia General Assembly. Specifically, I am asking for your timely help with an inquiry to the DOJ, Office of ADA to determine an answer to the above questions. Thank you in advance for your assistance in this matter. Please call me at any time if you need further explanation of this situation. Very truly,
James L. Cherry, J.D., Ph.D. Chairman JLC/rsc 01-01886
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