Frequently Asked Questions

Note: Although several of our frequently asked questions refer to specific facilities such as post offices or courthouses, this is done for illustrative purposes only. Most of the examples given will apply to other facilities covered by the Architectural Barriers Act. Sections of the standards are cited when appropriate.


Are VA Medical Centers required to have van accessible parking spaces?

Not under current Federal requirements.

Are vertical signs designating accessible parking spaces required under current Federal standards?

No. Current provisions require that accessible spaces be designated with the international symbol of accessibility and that the symbol not be obscured by a vehicle parked in the spaces. UFAS 4.6.4. These provisions can be met without installing a vertical sign; however, most accessible spaces are designated with the symbol of accessibility painted in the space and also with a vertical sign.

There are two postal-controlled parking lots at a large postal facility, but only one of them has accessible parking spaces. Must accessible spaces be provided in both?

No. The current Federal standards allow for the distribution of accessible parking spaces among lots, if greater accessibility is achieved. However, there is no requirement to provide accessible spaces in each lot. But, if one lot is designated for employees only and the other for customers or visitors, then each lot must have the required number of accessible parking spaces. UFAS 4.1.1(5)(a).

A new parking lot only for government vehicles has just been installed at a large Federal building. Are they required to provide accessible parking spaces in this lot?

No. The parking requirements in the current Federal standards do not apply to parking provided for official government vehicles owned or leased by the government and used exclusively for government purposes. UFAS 4.1.1.(5)(a) EXCEPTION 2.

The accessible parking spaces for the Federal building where I work are in an above-ground lot, but I would like a space in a covered parking structure which also serves the building.

Current standards under the ABA require that accessible spaces be those closest to the accessible entrance to the building but do not address parking preferences. UFAS 4.6.2. However, a preference for a covered space may be covered under reasonable accommodation provisions in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.


At a 1920s Federal courthouse, they just replaced the front sidewalk but didn’t do anything to the old steps. Don’t they have to put in the ramp?

No. Because this facility was built before passage of the Architectural Barriers Act in 1968 and because the front steps were not altered, there is no requirement to install an entrance ramp.

The main entrance to my post office is not accessible. I have been told to use the loading dock ramp to get my mail. Is a loading dock ramp an accessible entrance?

No. Even though this is a ramped entrance, loading dock ramps generally do not meet the accessibility requirements for ramps. UFAS 4.8. Further, because of safety concerns, many facility managers restrict the use of loading dock ramps to authorized personnel only.


Are all entrances required to be accessible?

No. However, under current Federal standards, each floor that has at-grade access must have at least one accessible entrance and that entrance must be a principal entrance. UFAS 4.1.2(8).

Are Federal buildings required to have automatic entrance doors?


Toilet Rooms

I work on the 4th floor of a new federally financed building, and the only accessible rest room is on the second floor. Is the rest room on my floor required to be accessible too?

Yes. The current Federal standards require that each public or common-use rest room be accessible. UFAS 4.1.2(10).

Other Issues

Why don’t post offices have to comply with the ADA?

U.S. post offices and other Federal facilities are covered by an earlier accessibility law, the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968, and are not covered by the ADA.

What is the Architectural Barriers Act and what does it cover?

The Architectural Barriers Act (ABA), Public Law 90-480, 42 U.S.C. 4151 et seq., is a law that was passed in 1968 to ensure that certain federally funded buildings and facilities are designed and constructed to be accessible to people with disabilities.

The Federal facility about which I want to file a complaint was built before 1968. Does that mean that it doesn’t have to be accessible and that I can’t file a complaint?

No. Facilities built before 1968 are not automatically excluded from accessibility requirements. If the building element being complained about has been altered since 1968 (or if the building is leased by the Federal government), it may be subject to the act. Often it is not obvious if an element has been altered; therefore, it may be best to file the complaint anyway and let us conduct an investigation.

I have heard that the Federal accessibility standards can be waived. Is this correct?

Yes. Under the Architectural Barriers Act, designated government officials are authorized to waive or modify the standards on a case-by-case basis, after determining that the waiver or modification is clearly necessary.

Are there any accessibility requirements for historic buildings or sites?

Yes. UFAS section 4.1.7 includes minimum accessibility requirements for alterations made to historic buildings and sites.

I have heard that new Federal accessibility standards are about to be issued. Is this true?

Yes. The Access Board is developing new accessibility guidelines which will be used by the four standard-setting agencies to revise the current standards.

How will the new guidelines differ from UFAS?

They are designed to make the ABA and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines more consistent and also to achieve greater agreement with private-sector standards and building codes.

The counters at my neighborhood post office are too high. Do they have to be made accessible?

No. There are no requirements for postal service counters in the current Federal accessibility standards. However, if a writing table is provided in the lobby of the post office, it must be accessible. UFAS 9.2.

I live in a large subdivision, and our individual mail boxes are clustered together in a location that is inaccessible. Does the U.S. Postal Service have to make these mail boxes accessible?

No. Current Federal accessibility standards apply only to post office boxes in a postal facility. However, this issue may be covered by section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

I live in an apartment building and receive Federal rental assistance. Does this mean that my building is covered by the Barriers Act?

No. Architectural Barriers Act coverage is unrelated to the receipt of Federal rental assistance.

The laundry room in my apartment building is not accessible. Is this covered under the Barriers Act?

It depends on whether your apartment building is privately owned. The Architectural Barriers Act expressly exempts privately-owned residential structures, unless the structures are leased by the Federal government for subsidized housing programs. So, apartment buildings that are part of public housing may be covered by the Barriers Act, while most privately owned apartment buildings are not. However, privately owned apartment buildings may be covered by other accessibility laws.

About what kinds of facilities do you receive the most complaints?

About 40% of our complaints concern post offices or other postal facilities. This is not surprising since post offices are the most prevalent and often used Federal buildings. We also receive frequent complaints about office buildings, transit facilities, courthouses, national parks and public housing.

From what States do you receive the most complaints?

While this can vary over the years, recently we have received the most complaints about buildings and facilities in California, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.

Does the Architectural Barriers Act cover only Federal facilities like U.S. courthouses and post offices?

No. The Barriers Act sometimes applies to non-Federal facilities, such as a library or senior citizens center, when certain Federal grants or loans are used for their construction or alteration. The grant funds typically are in the form of block grants through State or local governments.

Who can file an Architectural Barriers Act complaint?

Anyone can file a complaint under this act; you don’t have to be a person with a disability. But we do require that all complaints be in writing. You can send information about the facility and the specific accessibility barriers by letter, by e-mail, or by using the complaint form on our web site.

I would like to file a complaint but can I do it without revealing that I am the one complaining?

Our regulations require us to keep your identity confidential unless you give us your written permission to release it. Sometimes a responding agency assumes a certain person is the complainant, but we never reveal complainants’ identities without their permission.

If I file a complaint, is there a guarantee the issues I raise will be addressed to my satisfaction?

While we cannot promise that our investigation will result in the specific remedy you want, we will make sure that the applicable standards are met. Architectural Barriers Act standards address the most common barriers to access for people with disabilities, but no standard can ensure that every building will be accessible to and usable by all people. For example, an entrance ramp could conform to the current Federal accessibility requirements and still not be usable by every individual.