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ICC/ANSI A117.1: A look backward and forward

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ICC/ANSI 117.1 may not have the catchiest acronym or flow trippingly off the tongue, but it/'s practically the Cal Ripken, Jr. of accessibility standards — its strength lies in its longevity and well-earned respect, as it was the first national standard for accessibility in both new and existing buildings. Originally published as ANSI A117.1, Standard on Accessible and Usable Building and Facilities in 1961 by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), its development was partially sponsored by the President’s Committee on Employment of the Physically Handicapped with the purpose of making sites and buildings independently accessible by people with physical disabilities. The standard is purely technical and purely voluntary — that is to say, it sets forth technical provisions on design, constructions and installation, but does not dictate when or where accessibility standards are to be applied.

ICC/ANSI 117.1 may not have the catchiest acronym or flow trippingly off the tongue, but it/'s practically the Cal Ripken, Jr. of accessibility standards — its strength lies in its longevity and well-earned respect, as it was the first national standard for accessibility in both new and existing buildings. Originally published as ANSI A117.1, Standard on Accessible and Usable Building and Facilities in 1961 by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), its development was partially sponsored by the President’s Committee on Employment of the Physically Handicapped with the purpose of making sites and buildings independently accessible by people with physical disabilities. The standard is purely technical and purely voluntary — that is to say, it sets forth technical provisions on design, constructions and installation, but does not dictate when or where accessibility standards are to be applied.

Enter state and local legislative bodies, which have adopted ANSI A117.1 as part of their building code, thereby extending its influence by delineating use and applicability as law. The ANSI standard remained unchanged through 1980, when a new version was published. A later edition was issued in 1986, and in 1987 the Council of American Building Officials (CABO) assumed administrative responsibility for ANSI A117.1. CABO established a public participatory development model for use in further iterations of the standard, which allowed for an open, written appeals and consideration process.

1991 proved to be a watershed year for CABO/ANSI A117.1 with the publication of the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities (ADAAG), which followed on the heels on the passage of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. CABO/ANSI A117.1 was used as the basis for many of the requirements in the ADAAG. Under Title III, which addresses public accommodations and commercial facilities. Three years later, the International Code Council (ICC) was formed and assumed the role of secretariat for the standard. A new edition was issued in 1998 under its new appellation, ICC/ANSI A117.1.

ICC/ANSI A117.1 is on a five-year development cycle, with the last edition released in 2003. The U.S. Department of Justice is currently working on new ADA guidelines that will integrate the International Building Code and ICC/ANSI A117.1 for consistency, making for easier compliance with building codes for accessibility.

by Wayne Engebretson

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