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Accessibility For People With Disabilities: Scoping and Coverage

Outdated: being updated

The Fair Housing Toolkit brings together available resources to help appointed and elected leaders, and municipal planning, housing and redevelopment officials, developers, citizen board members, and other volunteers understand how to affirmatively further fair housing.   Affordable, accessible and appropriate housing is essential and integral for a community that is livable for people with disabilities.

This section provides a resource to municipal planners and developers to understand the accessibility regulations, guidelines and standards that must be evaluated for housing development projects.

What does it mean to perform a scoping and coverage for accessibility?

When a municipality or developer undertakes a residential development project, either new construction or rehabilitation, a scoping and coverage assessment needs to be undertaken on the project. This means that both the planner and the developer who are working together on the project need to understand which state and federal accessibility requirements apply to the project. After that is established they need to determine which technical requirements within those regulations, standards or guidelines apply to the specific project at hand.

Performing a Scoping and Coverage for Accessibility on housing construction and rehabilitation projects in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, a scoping and coverage must be performed on all housing projects within the context of the regulations promulgated by the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board (MAAB) Regulations (521 CMR).

If the project includes the new construction of multi-family housing, comprising four or more units, that will be occupied after March 13, 1991, scoping and coverage must address Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (Fair Housing Act), as amended in 1988. In terms of technical requirements, the Fair Housing Act utilizes a series of safe harbors for compliance with the Fair Housing Act’s design and construction requirements. Developers and planners choose which guideline to follow from a list of these safe harbors.

If the project is subsidized with local, state or federal funding, scoping and coverage needs to be completed under Title II of The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as amended.  Title III of the ADA must also be considered, regardless of funding source, if the housing project includes an area of “public accommodation.” The most common example of a public accommodation in a housing project is a sales or rental office. The technical requirements of the ADA that are triggered by Title II or Title III are impacted by the date the housing was constructed or rehabilitated. Buildings that are constructed or rehabilitated prior to March, 2012 must follow either the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards or the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) of 1991. Buildings that are constructed or rehabilitated after March, 2012 must use the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design.

If the project is subsidized with federal funds, both the developer and planner need to consider whether the technical requirements of The Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 (ABA), as amended, (42 U.S.C. 4151) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 apply to the project. The technical requirements for the ABA and Section 504 are found in the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards.

Regulatory resources

The ADA extends civil rights similar to those previously available on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin, to people with disabilities. Title II of the ADA protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination on the basis of disability in services, programs, and activities provided by public entities.  Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in places of public accommodations. Both the Department of Justice and HUD enforce the ADA. The ADA has created scoping and technical requirements for new construction or rehabilitation of projects that fall under Title II and Title III.  Architects, developers and planner working with buildings that are constructed or rehabilitated prior to March, 2012 have the option to follow either the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards or the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) of 1991. Buildings that are constructed or rehabilitated after March, 2012 must use the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design.

The Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 (ABA), as amended.

ABA covers any building that is constructed or altered by or on behalf of the federal government that is leased by the federal government or which is financed in whole or in part by a grant or a loan made by the federal government.  A new residential building owned by a housing authority is an example of the type of housing that would be covered by the ABA. Under the ABA, buildings that are constructed or rehabilitated must follow the scoping and technical requirements established in the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards.

Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (known as Fair Housing Act), as amended in 1988.

The Fair Housing Act also includes scoping and technical requirements for newly constructed, multi-family dwellings, containing four or more units that were first occupied after March 13, 1991.  On April 30, 2013, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) released a Joint Statement that provides guidance regarding the persons, entities, and types of housing and related facilities that are subject to the accessible design and construction requirements of the Act.  Previously, HUD and DOJ issued joint memos on May 17, 2004 and March 5, 2008 clarifying reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications under the Fair Housing Act.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended.

In terms of building accessibility, Section 504 covers new construction and rehabilitation in housing, public buildings and public accommodation buildings that directly receive federal funding.  The Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards provide the scoping and technical requirements for new construction and rehabilitation under Section 504.

Massachusetts Architectural Access Board (MAAB)

The MAAB develops and enforces regulations designed to make buildings accessible to, functional for, and safe for use by persons with disabilities.  The regulations promulgated and enforced by the MAAB to establish scoping and technical requirements for accessibility in residential and public accommodation buildings cover the new construction and rehabilitation of buildings in Massachusetts.    The Board reviews requests for variances by building owners and others responsible for complying with the regulations and to hear complaints about buildings that are believed to be in violation of the AAB regulations.