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ADA implementation path exists right now.

With no small amount of political and media fanfare, Congress has passed and the President has signed the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Ostensibly, the needs of 43 million Americans with physical or mental disabilities are addressed through this legislation. Barriers faced by people with disabilities in such areas as housing, employment, transportation, and public/commercial building access will be cast aside.

The Building Officials and Code Administrator's (BOCA's) concern is not with the worthy goals of the act, but with its implementation. The US Department of Justice, in consultation with the federal Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (ATBCB) has 180 days to develop rules and guidelines for its enforcement.

Certainly the intent of ADA legislation is worthy and commendable. How efficiently the act's objectives are delivered to any given disabled individual on Main Street, USA, remains to be seen. Enforcement of the act lies with the attorney general. Civil rights cases are major products entailing lengthy litigation and are suitable for landmark issues such as desegregating educational systems.

Construction regulation is routinely and effectively accomplished across the land through the local building permit process. It involves millions of decisions and interpretations annually. Its effectiveness is extraordinarily high in achieving regulatory intent of complex issues at the point of delivery.

BOCA and the other model-code organizations are several years ahead of the Feds on this issue. Working through the Council of American Building Officials (CABO) and its board for the Coordination of Model Codes (BCMC), these organizations have voluntarily worked since 1987 to develop model regulations for implementing the CABO/ANSI A117.1 accessibility standard uniformly through the nation's model code system. BCMC's report on "Accessibility and Egress for People with Physical Disabilities" is near completion and scheduled for public hearing on October 16.

Disabled people and their advocates have enthusiastically joined with BCMC's code enforcement and construction industry representatives in developing the BCMC report. Brian Black, an advocate for the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans of America (EPVA), has termed the BCMC report "a true consensus document with which the disabled community has taken a leading role."

At a June 23 meeting, BOCA's board of directors unanimously passed a resolution urging the Department of Justice to convene a committee of professionals who have actively participated in the BCMC deliberations to assist ATBCB in developing implementation guidelines. Concerned and knowledgeable representatives of the disabled, construction, and code-enforcement communities have worked diligently for several years to accomplish through the model-code system the very objectives of the just-enacted ADA. The federal government would be sorely remiss not to utilize the fruits of these efforts.

The model-code system reliably delivers responsive code enforcement at the local level across more than 90% of the United States. In the late 1970's, for example, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) preempted the model-code system, as well as state and local governments, in the interpretation and enforcement of safety glazing requirements. The agency soon discovered that with virtually no inspection staff, it was woefully incapable of any effective glazing enforcement without the active support and involvement of the construction industry, including those representing the prevailing regulatory system. By the early 1980's, glazing requirements were back in the model codes and reliably enforced through some 15,000 local governments using the model codes.

More recently, the 1988 Fair Housing Amendments Act also addressed the subject of accessible housing for people with disabilities. Enacted on September 13, 1988, it required the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to issue within 180 days design guidelines for compliance--the same deadline given the Justice Department by ADA. HUD's 1988 Fair Housing Amendments Act guidelines did not appear in the Federal Register until 640 days after the act became law. Compliance with this act is intended to be fully implemented on March 13, 1991, but HUD guidelines are not final as yet.

Implementation is not a minor detail but, in fact, the key to efficient and effective compliance. It won't do disabled people any favor to snarl the well-intended Americans With Disabilities Act in this kind of federal red tape. CABO urges the Justice Department and ATBCB to adopt the CABO/ANSI A117.1 accessibility standard without amendment and to make sensible use of the significant groundwork done by BCMC for implementing enforcement of the standard at the local level through the nation's model-code system.
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Title Annotation:Americans With Disabilities Act
Author:Beasley, Kim
Publication:PN - Paraplegia News
Article Type:column
Date:Oct 1, 1990
Words:723
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