Accessibility standards are policies that establish a set of minimum rules or guidelines for ensuring that certain facilities and services are accessible by those with physical disabilities. They most often apply to facilities; for example, requiring that all school facilities have bathrooms usable by those cannot walk and entrance ramps or elevators suitable for those who cannot ascend steps. Accessibility standards can also extend into accommodating sensory impairments; for example, providing closed captioning or sign language translation for the hearing-impaired or braille versions of written materials for the visually impaired.
Local School District is constructing a new school facility. In its initial architectural design, its primary entrance is accessible by ascending steps. However, following the passage of national accessibility standards, architects adjust the entrance to include a wheelchair-accessible ramp. In designing the school to be accessible by students with certain physical disabilities, the jurisdiction is able to comply with federal mandates while also increasing the share of its population that is able to receive an education without undue burdens or barriers.
Tradeoffs of implementing this policy may include:
- Increased cost of serving special needs populations.
- Potential inconveniences for those who do not have special needs in that facilities may not be designed exclusively to accommodate them,
- Potentially significant one-time costs for older facilities that if it is necessary to bring them into compliance with new standards.
If answered yes, the following questions indicate superior conditions under which the policy is more likely to be appropriate:
- Is the current level of access to education and other government services inadequate for individuals with certain disabilities?
- Do known solutions exist that would allow access for individuals with disabilities?
- Would the implementation of standards to require such solutions place an undue burden on institutions?
The following questions should be considered when determining how to implement this policy:
- In what instances should accessibility standards be based on general principles as opposed to specific requirements?
- What institutions or new employees are required to ensure such standards are effectively implemented?
- Common. Accessibility standards are in force at a national level in numerous countries.
- Early Childhood, Primary, Secondary, Post-Secondary, Graduate. Accessibility standards are typically implemented across all levels of education.
- Notable entities who have implemented or adopted this policy include:
- Advocates - Educational Equity. Assumption: Accessibility standards increases educational equity by providing better access to those with special needs.
- Advocates - Special Education. Assumption: Accessibility standards provide better access to education for students with disabilities.
- Advocates - Educational Choice. Assumption: Overly strict mandates and requirements reduce choice in education.
- Wheelchair accessibility of public buildings in Utica, New York. Martin, Linda M. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, April 1987, Vol. 41, 217-221. doi:10.5014/ajot.41.4.217
- A standard method of profiling the accessibility needs of computer users with impairments. Fourney, D., & Carter, J. (2006). Proceedings of the Conference on Assistive Technologies for Vision and Hearing Impairment (CVHI'2006), July 19-21, Kufstein, Austria
- 2010 ADA standards for accessible design. These 2010 U.S. Department of Justice standards set minimum requirements – both scoping and technical -- for newly designed and constructed or altered State and local government facilities, public accommodations, and commercial facilities to be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.
- Americans with Disability Act (ADA) of 1990. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Americans_with_Disabilities_Act_of_1990
- National Accessibility Legislation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accessibility#National_legislation