Board Holds Town Hall Meeting in New York City

New York City town hall meetingThe Access Board travelled to New York City to hold a town hall meeting on May 15 that included briefings on its work, panel discussions on accessibility, and question and answer sessions. At the event, Board representatives conducted presentations on new guidelines for emergency transportable housing the Board recently issued and guidelines for outdoor developed areas on federal sites released last fall. The agenda also included panel discussions on taxicab accessibility in New York City, enforcement activities by the U.S. Department of Justice under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and rebuilding efforts after Super Storm Sandy.

The panel discussion on taxicab accessibility focused on a recent New York City directive that will require half of city cabs to be wheelchair accessible by 2020. This agreement, which the city entered into in response to a class action suit by advocacy groups, will be implemented through rules to be issued by the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission. Panelists also addressed a New York City requirement for induction loops in all new taxicabs to improve access for people with hearing impairments and initiatives to promote taxicabs fueled by natural gas. Panelists included Jim Weisman of United Spinal Association, Janice Schacter Lintz who chairs the Hearing Access Program, Jean Ryan of Disabled in Action, and Marc Klein of Airports Nationwide, Clean Energy.

David Kennedy, Chief of the Civil Rights Unit for the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, provided a briefing on U.S. Department of Justice enforcement actions under the ADA as well as the Fair Housing Act. He reviewed litigation and investigations by the Department involving landmark facilities such as Madison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium, Radio City Music Hall, and the Apollo Theater. He also outlined efforts to improve wheelchair seating in historic theaters in Times Square, as well as ADA cases involving New York City hotels, restaurants, and polling places, and complaints concerning apartments filed under the Fair Housing Act.

Another panel led a discussion on emergency preparedness and response and rebuilding efforts after Super Storm Sandy. Panelists included Marcie Roth, Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Office of Disability Integration and Coordination, Edith Prentiss, Disability Advocate, Rosemary Lamb, Director of the Division of Advocacy at the NYS Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs, and Susan Dooha, Executive Director for the Center for Independence of the Disabled. This discussion focused on efforts made by Federal, state, and local emergency management agencies to further integrate accessibility into emergency response and management operations. Panelists also noted areas where accessibility problems with emergency response and evacuation remain, including incidents identified during the response to Super Storm Sandy.

Board Issues Guidelines for Emergency Transportable Housing

emergency transportable housing unitOn May 7, the Board issued guidelines that address access to temporary housing provided by the government in emergencies and natural disasters. The new requirements supplement the Board’s accessibility guidelines for facilities covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) by adding provisions and exceptions specific to emergency transportable housing units. While the ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines address residential dwelling units, it was determined in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that further detail was needed on addressing access to emergency transportable housing units. Such units are used to provide temporary housing for those whose homes have been destroyed or damaged by a disaster until permanent housing is found. Sized for transport over roadways, they have a smaller footprint than other types of housing and pose unique accessibility challenges and considerations.

The supplemental rule covers access for people who use mobility aids as well as communication access for people with hearing loss. When grouped on sites, at least 5% of units must be accessible for people with mobility disabilities and a minimum of 10% of unit pads must be designed to accommodate accessible units. When units are located on the property of homeowners, commercial sites leased by the government, or military installations, access must be provided according to a needs assessment. The required number of units with accessible communication features is also based on a needs assessment regardless of the type of site.

The guidelines require certain elements and clearances to address usability within the confined living space typical of units. These include requirements for kitchen water spray units, shower seats, floor surfaces, and bedroom clearances. Certain exceptions in the guidelines for residential facilities are not permitted for emergency transportable units. Examples include exceptions that allow later installation of grab bars and shower seats in dwelling units where walls are properly reinforced, or that permit removable base cabinetry below sinks and lavatories. Weather alert systems also must be accessible and include visual output in those units required to have accessible communication features. In addition, smoke alarms must have integrated visual notification devices with a secondary power source in communication accessible units.

The supplementary guidelines are based on recommendations from a Board advisory panel, the Emergency Transportable Housing Advisory Committee, which included representation from disability groups, industry and code groups, and government agencies. The Board released a proposed version of the guidelines for public comment in 2012.

The Board’s ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines serve as the basis for enforceable standards issued by other agencies. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) maintains standards for residential facilities covered by the ABA, which applies to federally funded facilities. The provisions for emergency transportable units will become mandatory under the ABA when adopted by HUD in the pending update of its ABA Standards. The Department of Justice (DOJ) maintains standards under the ADA which apply to state and local government facilities, places of public accommodation, and commercial facilities.

Board General Counsel James Raggio to Retire

James J. Raggio, the Board’s General Counsel for the past 25 years, will retire on June 27. Raggio began working at the Board in April 1989, a year before the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 was signed into law. Throughout his tenure, he played a key role in Board’s development of accessibility guidelines and standards. He was active in the Board’s issuance of the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) for buildings and facilities and for transportation vehicles. He also was instrumental in rulemaking that led to the Section 508 Standards for Electronic and Information Technologies, the Telecommunications Act Accessibility Guidelines, the joint update of the ADA and the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) Accessibility Guidelines, and various supplements to the ADA or ABA guidelines, including, most recently, guidelines for outdoor sites and emergency transportable housing. In addition, he was involved in rulemaking currently underway on public rights-of-way, passenger vessels, and updates to the vehicle guidelines. Raggio also spearheaded the Board’s effort to collect information and to promote collaborative action on access for people with multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS).

Prior to joining the Board, Raggio served as Assistant Attorney General in the Maryland Attorney General’s Office where he served as counsel to agencies in the state’s Department of Education. Before that, he was employed by the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and was instrumental in spurring the U.S. Department of Transportation to issue regulations addressing access to public transportation, including standards for low floor buses. He also developed an advocacy training program on implementation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act for disability organizations that served as a national model. He received a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University and earned a law degree from New York University.

The Board commends Raggio for his dedicated service to the agency and for his career-long commitment to accessibility and equality for people with disabilities.

Upcoming Board Webinars

The next webinar in the Board’s free monthly series will take place July 10 from 2:30 – 4:00 (ET) and will feature an in-depth review of requirements for toilet and bathing facilities in the ADA and ABA Accessibility Standards. Presenters will focus on more advanced topics and issues on achieving access to toilet and bathing facilities. Questions can be submitted in advance of the session (total limited to 25) or can be posed during the webinar. An earlier webinar providing a basic overview of these requirements is available in the webinar archives. Participants are encouraged to review this archived webinar in advance of the upcoming session.

For more information, including registration instructions, visit An archive of all previous Board webinars is also available on this site.

Section 508 Best Practices Webinar Series

The Board, in partnership with the Accessibility Committee of the CIO Council, also conducts the Section 508 Best Practices Webinar Series. These webinars provide helpful information and best practices for federal agencies in meeting their obligations under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act which ensures access to electronic and information technology in the federal sector. The next webinar in this series will be held July 29 from 1:00 – 2:30 (ET). For further information, visit

Online Guide to the ADA and ABA Standards Available

Technical guides and animations on the ADA and ABA StandardsIn April, the Board released the first installment of a series of online guides to the ADA and ABA Accessibility Standards. The Guide to the ADA Standards covers design requirements that apply to places of public accommodation, commercial facilities, and state and local government facilities subject to the ADA in new construction, alterations, and additions. The Guide to the ABA Standards addresses similar standards that apply under the ABA to facilities that are designed, constructed, altered, or leased with federal funds.

The released guides cover the first three chapters of the standards, including application and use of the standards (Chapter 1), scoping in new construction, alterations, and additions (Chapter 2), and basic “building block” technical provisions (Chapter 3). In addition, there is a a series of animations that address wheelchair maneuvering, doors and entrances, and accessible toilet and bathing facilities. Future installments to the guides will be published as they become available. Users can sign-up to receive email updates on the release of new technical guides in the series.

Access Currents is a free newsletter issued by the Access Board every other month by mail and e-mail. Send questions or comments to or call (800) 872-2253 ext. 0026 (voice) or (800) 993-2822 (TTY). Mailing address: 1331 F Street, N.W., Suite 1000; Washington, D.C. 20004-1111.