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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Focus > November 2002 > The ADA and Transportation: Improving Safety and Access on Public Rights-of-Way
November 2002Publication Number: FHWA-RD-03-012

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The ADA and Transportation: Improving Safety and Access on Public Rights-of-Way

For the more than 54 million Americans with disabilities, transportation is a vital link to participating in all aspects of society, including work, commerce, and leisure activities. The U.S. Department of Transportation is committed to carrying out the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and building a transportation system that provides equal access for all persons. As part of this effort, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is working with the Access Board, a Federal agency that focuses on accessible design, to produce guidelines that cover access to sidewalks and streets, including crosswalks, curb ramps, street furnishings, parking, and other components of public rights-of-way.

FHWA is the lead agency in ensuring that access for persons with disabilities is provided wherever a pedestrian way is newly built or altered, and that the same degree of convenience, accessibility, and safety available to the general public is provided to persons with disabilities. The Access Board and FHWA are active partners in fulfilling this mission.

In 1992 and 1994, the Board proposed guidelines for public rights-of-way. Due to comments it received, the Board decided to coordinate with the transportation industry and State and local governments on the rulemaking process. This effort led to the development of an outreach and training program on accessible public rights-of-way, and in 1999, the Board chartered an advisory committee to develop recommendations on access guidelines. The committee's recommendations are contained in a report, Building a True Community, which was released in January 2001. The report provides criteria for sidewalks, street fixtures and furnishings, street crossings, vehicular ways, parking, and other components of public rights-of-way.

In June 2002, the Board released draft guidelines based on the committee's recommendations. The draft guidelines focus on answering questions pertaining to conditions unique to public rights-of-way, including various constraints posed by space limitations at sidewalks, roadway design practices, and terrain. Issues that often require additional guidance, such as access for blind pedestrians at road crossings, wheelchair access to on-street parking, and the construction of work zones that are detectable to a blind pedestrian, are also covered.

The Board is now preparing a proposed rule based on a review of the public comments received. The proposed rule is expected to be available for public comment in the spring of 2003.

"There is a lot to still be learned about the ADA and how it applies to public rights-of-way, but it's clear that the ADA is a tool that, through proper application, will help provide an equitable and safer lifestyle for all Americans," says Barbara McMillen of FHWA's Office of Civil Rights.

The draft guidelines and supplementary information can be found on the Web at www.access-board.gov/rowdraft.htm. Building a True Community is available at www.access-board.gov/prowac/commrept/index.htm. Copies of the documents can also be obtained by contacting the Access Board at 202-272-0080 (TTY: 202-272-0082). Alternative formats are available upon request.

Additional guidance can be found in two FHWA publications: Designing Sidewalks and Trails for Access, Part I (Publication No. FHWA-HEP-99-006) is available online at www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bikeped/access-1.htm, while Part II (Publication No. FHWA-EP-01-027)of the document can be obtained from the FHWA Research and Technology Report Center at report.center@dot.gov. For more information on the ADA and the proposed design guidelines, visit the Access Board's Web site at www.access-board.gov. For more information on FHWA's work to implement the ADA, contact Barbara McMillen at FHWA,202-366-4634 (email: barbara.mcmillen@fhwa.dot.gov).

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Updated: 04/07/2011

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