Should I Still Be Concerned About ANSI A117.1?

Published by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), ANSI A117.1 Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities provides standards used for the specification and construction of accessible facilities.

But what should you use today for creating an accessible facility? The Americans With Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design (ADASAD) or ANSI A117.1?

ANSI A117.1Let’s take a look at a little history first.

The original ANSI A117.1 was created in 1986 and was overseen by the Council of American
Building Officials (CABO).  As it pre-dated the introduction of the ADA, if you were interested in using an accessibility standard for your project, this was the document to use.

With the merging of the various code bodies in 1999, the standard is now overseen by the International Code Council (ICC).

The ANSI standard was to be updated on a five-year cycle, however, the most recent version is the 2009 edition. The lack of an update is likely a result of the approval of the ADASAD in 2010.

When the ADA was approved as a civil rights law in 1990, it also included its own set of guidelines — The Americans With Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG). The ADAAG  was basically a copy of the 1986 ANSI standard.

The problem was that by the time that the ADA was approved as a law, CABO had updated ANSI A117.1 in 1990. ADAAG  was therefore out of sync with the new ANSI standard.

ADASADHowever, the federal government moves slowly and those changes were not approved by the Access Board until 2005 and were not approved by congress until 2010 with the publication of the ADASAD.

With the updated ADASAD, the importance of ANSI A117.1 was diminished. As a civil rights law, failure to comply with the ADASAD subjected building owners to discrimination suits. As a standard, ANSI A117.1 has no enforcement requirement.

However, while ANSI A117.1 has not been updated since 2009, hearings are underway to review suggestions for changes and updates.

On the other hand, the ADAAG  took twenty years to correct. If one were interested in updating ADA, in my opinion, the first step would be to make a proposal to change ANSI A117.1 and then work through the process of updating ADA.

For now, ANSI A117.1 has been dwarfed by the ADASAD. It will be interesting to see what the new ANSI A117.1 will look like once the dust settles.



  • Is there a document that compares and contrasts the 2010 ADA and the 2017 A117.1?
    We work with the A117 a lot but not so much the ADA. Is there a somewhere to go to know what is different, when we need to look at both to compare the differences?
    Thank you,

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