A Primer Of The Architectural Barriers Act Of 1968


The awareness of discrimination against people with disabilities started to spread as early as Lyndon Johnson presidency. It was during his term that the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 was passed. The Act is now defined in Title 42, Section 4151 of the United States Code. The primary focus is on making buildings more accessible to people with disabilities. It primarily covers structure which have been made by funds from United States Federal Government.

What is a 'Building'?
According to this legislation, the structure that can be considered a building is defined in section 4151. It includes most of the buildings, including the military installations built from the money that came from the government of United States. This also includes buildings which the government takes on lease after the implementation of this act. The law also requires that buildings 'altered' by government funds comply to this regulation.

Secretarial Role
Sections 4152 to 4154a define the responsibilities of various US Secretaries with regard to this law. It includes Administrator of General Services, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Secretary of Defense and the responsibilities with regard to the structures of United States Postal Services. USPS is required to act in consultation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Effectiveness
Section 4155 of the United States Code lays down the dates based on which the law is applicable in part or in its entirety to a structure. This includes dates of construction, design or any major changes to the building. The effective date, as laid down in the legislation is August 12, 1968 and this is also the date post which if a building is leased by US Government, it will have to be standards compliant.

Waivers
Considering the very scope of this Act, the United States Congress deemed it necessary to include certain waivers and allow for modification of architectural and other standards. These are provided for in section 4156 of the United States Code and section 6 of the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968.

According to this section, the Administrator of General Services, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Secretary of Defense and United States Postal Service are allowed to make certain exceptions based on a per case basis with a view to ensure the structural integrity of the building or on any such reason. Provisions have also been made for ongoing inspection system to ensure compliance with these standards.

Congressional Oversight
The section 4157 of United States Code and Section 7a of the said legislation make a provision for reports about compliance with the Act being laid before the Congress of United States. An amendment has been brought in Section 7b which provides for The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board as an overseeing authority to ensure standards compliance.

For a law dating back to 1968, this is still a very relevant regulation for the physically challenged people.