The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) has announced that it is permitting developers of federally funded construction projects to use an alternative design standard to meet the accessibility requirements under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. With a few exceptions, developers may use the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 2010 Standards (2010 Standards) for accessible design as an alternative to the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS) when undertaking new construction or alterations to existing structures on or after May 23, 2014.
Section 504 requires that programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance be readily accessible to persons with disabilities, including construction projects. Many of the projects that are subject to HUD’s Section 504 regulation and UFAS, however, are also subject to ADA requirements for state and local governments. When both accessibility standards apply, it was previously necessary for recipients to determine on a section-by-section basis which afforded greater accessibility and meet that.
With issuance of the notice, HUD permits fund recipients to use the 2010 Standards, except for specific provisions identified in the notice, as an alternative to UFAS until HUD formally revises its Section 504 regulation. HUD is excepting some provisions of the 2010 Standards because those provisions provide a lower level of accessibility than is currently required under UFAS and HUD’s Section 504 regulation.
“This action allows HUD-funded entities the option to design and build using a single accessibility standard, with some adjustments, to meet requirements under both laws,” said Dave Ziaya, HUD’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “We believe these streamlined federal standards will help ensure the production of housing and facilities that are open and accessible to persons with disabilities.”