American with Disabilities Act (ADA)
There are two distinctly separate sets of accessibility laws with which state-owned facilities must comply when doing repairs and in maintaining and operating facilities.
I. American with Disabilities Act (ADA)
All state, county and municipally owned and leased building must satisfy the requirement of equal access under Title II of the ADA. (Note: Title II has very different requirements than Title III, which applies to privately owned buildings used by the public.) Public agencies occupying privately owned buildings may have programmatic requirements.
The ADA is a civil rights law and is enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice, NOT by building inspectors.
In 1992, the ADA required state and municipal entities to conduct a Self Evaluation and Transition Plan for the programs, services and activities in their facilities. If these were not accessible to and usable by people with disabilities because of physical barriers, the barriers needed to be removed or a program/operational accommodation put in place to assure equal benefit. Additionally, any policy or procedure that treats people with disabilities differently had to be examined.
Removing physical barriers includes adding elements like accessible toilet rooms. When this work is done it must be done in compliance with the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) AND 521 CMR, the Accessibility regulations of the state of Massachusetts, applying the more stringent of the two.
Department of Justice Information Center
ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities (ADAAG)
Dept. of Justice ADA Regulations and Technical Assistance Materials
Common ADA Errors and Omissions in New Construction and Alterations
II. 521 CMR, the Rules and Regulations of the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board (AAB)
The regulations of the AAB are part of the Massachusetts Building Code, although they are published in a separate document. Local and state building inspectors are required to enforce these regulations but they may not grant waivers or leniency. All interpretations and variances must be requested from and issued by the Architectural Access Board.
The MA Office on Disability (MOD) is the state's advocacy agency that serves people with disabilities of all age. Its primary mission is to ensure access!
All state agencies are required under Title II of the ADA to have an ADA Coordinator, a grievance procedure, and signage indicating who is responsible for making accommodations for persons with disabilities. See ADA Best Practices Tool Kit for more information.