For news and updates, please visit our AAB News section below.

Please note AAB Rules and Regulations posted on this website are now the most recent edition of 521 CMR.

The Architectural Access Board (AAB) is a regulatory agency within the Massachusetts Office of Public Safety. Its legislative mandate states that it shall develop and enforce regulations designed to make public buildings accessible to, functional for, and safe for use by persons with disabilities.

To carry out the board's mandate, the "Rules and Regulations", which appear in the code of Massachusetts Regulations as 521 CMR 1.00, have been developed and amended. These regulations are incorporated in the Massachusetts building code as a "specialized code", making them enforceable by all local and state building inspectors, as well as by the Board itself.

These regulations are designed to provide full and free use of buildings and facilities so that persons with disabilities may have the education, employment, living and recreational opportunities necessary to be as self-sufficient as possible and to assume full responsibilities as citizens.

The Board consists of nine members: the Secretary of Public Safety or his/her designee; the Secretary of Elder Affairs or his/her designee; the Director of the Office on Disability or his/her designee; and six members appointed by the Governor in consultation with the Secretary of Public Safety from lists submitted by the director of the Office on Disability. Six of the appointed members are selected after consultation with advocacy groups in behalf of persons with disabilities. The governor, secretary and director shall exercise their best efforts to ensure at least two members are registered architects. The chairperson shall be elected annually by the members.

The authority of the AAB is triggered by any construction, renovation, remodeling, or alteration of a public building or facility, or a change in use of building from private to public.

Public buildings are buildings constructed by the Commonwealth or any political subdivision thereof with public funds and open to public use, as well as privately financed buildings that are open to and used by the public.

The nine member Board meets every other Monday to hear 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. In order for the Board to grant a variance, compliance must be proven to be impracticable. Impracticability is defined as being either "technologically infeasible" or the "cost of compliance is excessive without any substantial benefit to persons with disability."

All hearings on complaints and variance requests are conducted in accordance with the Massachusetts Administrative Procedures Act, Chapter 30A, and are open to the public.

The Board also has the authority, after a further hearing, to impose fines of up to $1,000 per violation for each day of noncompliance that the Board finds was without justification.

Current members of the Board are:

Walter WhiteExecutive Office of Public Safety and Security Designee, Chairman
Diane McLeodMember, Vice Chair
Raymond GlazierExecutive Office of Elder Affairs Designee
David D'ArcangeloOffice on Disability Director
Jane HardinMember
Andrew BedarRegistered Architect
George DelegasRegistered Architect
Dawn GuarrielloRegistered Architect
Patricia MendezRegistered Architect

The AAB staff members are:

Thomas P. HopkinsDirector
Kate SuttonProgram Coordinator
William JoyceCompliance Officer
David SullivanAssistant to the Director / Board Liaison

 

If you have any questions about particular process, please send an e-mail to the appropriate AAB staff member by clicking one of the underlined names above.

AAB staff is prepared to assist in the filing of complaints, as well as in providing assistance in presentations before the Board. For more information click on link below to your interests. The office is open Monday through Friday from 8:45 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Massachusetts Architectural Access Board
One Ashburton Place, Room 1310
Boston, MA 02108
Phone: 617-727-0660
Fax: 617-727-0665

Thank you for visiting the Architectural Access Board.

Rules and Regulations

FAQs

 

AAB News

PROPOSED CHANGES TO 521 CMR

In order to comply with the general objectives of M.G.L c. 22 § 13A, and through an internal initiative by the Architectural Access Board (“AAB” or “Board”) to minimize conflicts with the associated codes and guidelines (I-Codes, Federal Fair Housing, 2010 Standards for Accessible Design, and other accessibility codes and guidelines), the proposed regulations have adopted language and formatting similar to the referenced documents. Continued...
 

BOARD INTERPRETATIONS

REQUIREMENT FOR ILLUMINATED INTERNATIONAL SYMBOL OF ACCESSIBILITY IN EMERGENCY EGRESS SIGNAGE

On February 17, 2016, the Board voted to clarify the requirement for the illuminated International Symbol of Accessibility.  The Board unanimously voted that all emergency egress signs that are required to be illuminated (per the International Building Code – 2009, Chapter 10, Section 1011 et seq. with Massachusetts amendments, per 780 CMR), and are part of an accessible means of emergency egress (as defined in 521 CMR, Section 5), shall be required to include the illuminated International Symbol of Accessibility. 

 

DEFINITION OF "TOWNHOUSE"

On January 27, 2014, the Board voted to clarify the definition of “townhouse” to be consistent with all State Building Codes, thereby incorporating the definition of “townhouse” from 780 CMR.  Therefore, "townhouses" shall be defined as "a single-family dwelling unit constructed in a group of three or more attached units in which each unit extends from foundation to roof and with a yard or public way on not less than two sides."

 

RAMPS OVER AMUSEMENT RIDE CABLES

View Interpretation Ramps pdf format of inf_aab_cable_crossover_ramps.pdf

View Interpretation Ramps doc format of inf_aab_cable_crossover_ramps.doc

View Interpretation Ramps rtf format of inf_aab_cable_crossover_ramps.rtf file size 2MB

 

NEWS PORTABLE TOILETS

View Portable Toilets pdf format of inf_aab_portable_toilets.pdf

View Portable Toilets doc format of inf_aab_portable_toilets.doc

View Portable Toilets txt format of inf_aab_portable_toilets.txt Text Format

 

SECTION 10.3, PARKING AT MULTIPLE DWELLING UNIT OCCUPANTS

The Architectural Access Board is aware of the difficulty in complying with the literal language of Section 10.3 when it is not known who the occupants of dwelling units will be prior to construction. Therefore, it is the Board's opinion that when designing and laying out parking lots reserved for tenants of multiple dwellings, when fifteen or more spaces are provided the number of accessible parking spaces provided shall be determined by Section 23.2.1 (Formula for Required Minimum Number of Accessible Spaces) of 521 CMR at the time of initial construction. When less than fifteen spaces are provided, a minimum of one accessible parking space must be capable of being provided. The AAB will be amending its regulations in the future, however, in the interim, compliance with Section 23.2.1 will satisfy Section 10.3 of 521 CMR in regards to the number of accessible parking spaces to be allotted for dwelling unit occupants.

This interpretation was unanimously accepted by the Board Members on April 8, 2006.

Notice Regarding 521 CMR 39.4: Location of Control, viz Location of Light Switches within the 18 inch Latch Pull-Side of the Door

 


Architectural Access Board Kiosk 

The Architectural Access Board now has an information kiosk within the office, which is available to review any cases that have been scanned. The system can be searched by the following fields: type of docket (complaint or variance), docket number, year, and the building name, address, and/or city/town. For a fee of $5.00, a disk can be made available to you to copy any information to.  Use of the kiosk will have to be scheduled, so please make sure to call or e-mail the AAB Staff  to schedule a time to come to the office to utilize the kiosk.  


View 521CMR


ELECTRONIC FORMS
You may file complaints with the AAB electronically.

Microsoft WORD versions of AAB complaint forms are available for download in the Complaint Process section on this page, and can be completed on your PC and returned by E-mail to the AAB.

Completed forms are to be returned to Thomas P. Hopkins, AAB Director.


PLAN REVIEW
Due to staffing limitations the AAB is no longer able to conduct plan reviews of buildings or parts of a building or facility.

AAB Monthly Meetings

Board Meetings - 2016

Board Meetings - 2017

 

Complaint Process

Any person who believes a building or facility is in violation of the Rules and Regulations of the Architectural Access Board may file a complaint. The following is a step by step explanation of how the process works.

Complaints must be filed on the Complaint Forms provided by this office. You may call to request copies of the following forms:

  • Parking Lot Complaint Form
  • Building Complaint Form
  • Sidewalk/Curb Cut Complaint Form
  • Telephone Complaint Form
  • Housing Complaint Form

First identify the building or facility you believe to be in violation by citing the NAME OF THE BUILDING and the EXACT ADDRESS.

Fill out the complaint form in full. (It is important to note that the more information you provide, the faster your complaint will be processed).

To determine what regulations would apply use the following formula

Building Permit Date:Applicable Regulations:
*December 1, 1968 to June 10, 1975December 1, 1968 REGULATIONS
June 10, 1975 to March 3, 1977June 10, 1975 REGULATIONS
March 3, 1977 to April 1, 1982March 3, 1977 REGULATIONS
April 1, 1982 to July 10, 1987April 1, 1982 REGULATIONS
July 10, 1987 to September 1, 1996July 10, 1987 AMENDMENTS
September 1, 1996 - March 6, 1998September 1, 1996 REGULATIONS
March 6, 1998 - February 1, 2002March 6, 1998 AMENDMENTS
February 1, 2002 - January 27, 2006February 1, 2002 REGULATIONS
January 27, 2006 - PresentJanuary 27, 2006 REGULATIONS


* Only applies to city, state and town owned buildings

What happens once my complaint is received at the AAB?
Once the office receives the completed complaint form, it is entered into the complaint tracking system and given a docket number. A notice of reported violation is sent to the person responsible for performing the work. The notice is sent certified mail, return receipt requested. A copy of the notice is sent to the complainant, local building inspector, independent living center and the local disability commission. Once the owner responds, a copy of the response is automatically sent to the complainant.

What happens if the owner states he/she will comply?
If the owner voluntarily agrees to comply with the regulations, the Board will issue a stipulated order setting forth dates for compliance. The Board will also require the owner to submit information, such as photographs, within five (5) days of the completion date, to verify that compliance has been achieved. If compliance has been achieved, the case is closed.

What if the owner does not respond to the notice of reported violation?
If the owner fails to respond, the Board will send a second letter. If the owner fails to respond to the second letter, a complaint hearing will be scheduled for the owner to appear.

What if the owner does not agree that a violation exists?
If the owner responds by stating that he does not believe a violation exists, a site inspection may be made by this office to determine whether or not the violations, as cited, exist and a hearing will be held if no resolution can be reached.

Must I appear at the hearing?
Yes, you should be prepared to appear at the hearing to explain your position. You may also send a representative to appear in your behalf. You may contact the office for assistance in preparing for the hearing.

What happens if the owner fails to comply with the Board's order?
If the Board issues an order to comply and the owner fails to comply with said order, a hearing will be scheduled to determine whether or not the owner's non-compliance was without justification and whether or not the Board will impose fines. The Board cannot impose fines unless a hearing is held to determine that noncompliance is without justification.

Can the owner request a variance?
Yes, the owner has the right to request a variance from any section of the regulations they feel cannot complied with. The burden of proof is on the owner to prove that to comply with the regulations would be impracticable. Impracticability is defined as being technologically infeasible or the cost of compliance would be excessive without any substantial benefit to disabled persons.

What happens when the owner requests a variance?
Once the Board receives the application for variance, a copy is sent to the complainant. A hearing will usually be scheduled for the complainant and owner to appear. The variance process then begins. (See the Variance Process section on this page, Fact Sheet #3).

Should I attend the variance hearing?
Yes, if possible, the complainant should attend the hearing, or send someone to represent him/her. If it is not possible to attend the variance hearing, it is strongly recommended that a letter be sent to the Board indicating your position on the request for variance. The Board holds the hearing on the application and decides whether to grant or deny the request for variance. The burden of proof is upon the owner of the facility to prove that he/she cannot comply with Board's regulations.

Do I have a right to appeal?
Yes, any person aggrieved by the Board's decision may appeal the decision to Superior Court within thirty (30) days of receipt of the decision.

 

Variance Process

The following is a step-by-step guide to the process of requesting a variance.

Applications for variance are available in the Variance Process section on this page, or at the AAB office. You may call or write to request an application form.
 

Application Requirements:

You must complete the application in full (incomplete applications will not be accepted) and submit all necessary supporting documentation. When completing the application for variance, you should be aware of the following:

The most recent AAB Regulations were published on January 27, 2006, effective July 27, 2006. Previous regulations were issued on February 1, 2002 (effective August 1, 2002); September 1, 1996; April 1, 1982; March 3, 1977; and June 10, 1975 with amendments in January of 1985; July 10, 1987; September of 1990; January of 1992; and March 6, 1998.

You must request a variance for every area of your facility which does not comply with, or is not expected to comply with, the Board's regulations. Any violation of the Board's regulations, for which a variance is not granted, may be subject to fines of up to $1,000 per day, per violation.

You must also submit written estimates of the costs of compliance with the variance(s) requested. If there is not enough space on the application to answer all questions completely, you may attach additional sheets as necessary.

The Board requires architectural drawings (in 11" x 17" format) and photographs of the facility as part of the application for variance.

Remember, the burden of proof is on the applicant to prove his/her case. Statutorily, the Board can only grant variances if compliance with the regulations is proven to be technologically infeasible or the cost of compliance is excessive without any substantial benefit to persons with disabilities.

 

Forms:

All applicants filing for variances from 521 CMR will be required to deliver the application and all supplemental information on both paper and compact disc to not only the AAB Office, but also to the Local Building Inspector (or State Inspector if applicable), the Local Commission on Disability (if applicable; check city/town website), and the Local Independent Living Center* (check Commonwealth of Massachusetts Statewide Independent Living Council) that represent the city/town where the property in question is located. A list of the addresses for these entities is also available by calling the AAB Office. 

 The variance application includes a "Service Notice" which requires that signatures be provided, and the form notarized, verifying that the variance application has been received by the required parties. An application will not be accepted by this office without completed forms and documentation.


* - There are two Independent Living Centers that should be served for any projects in Boston.
 

Procedure:

Once the Board receives the completed application, along with a $50.00 check made payable to " The Commonwealth of Massachusetts", it is entered in the Variance Tracking System. If the application is not complete, i.e. the filing fee, CD, or "Service Notice" is missing, the case will not be accepted, resulting in a delay in processing.

The application is held for a minimum of two weeks to allow input from the Local/State Building Inspector, the Local Commission on Disability, and the Local Independent Living Center.

The Board meets every other Monday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The cases that have been received will be discussed as incoming cases. The petitioners are not allowed to discuss their cases before the Board unless a hearing is scheduled. The Board discusses the incoming cases before or between hearings. All Board meetings are open to the public.

Preliminary decisions are made based upon the information submitted. The Board will either: 1.) Grant the variance as requested with specific conditions; 2.) Deny the variance; or 3.) Schedule a hearing for the petitioner to present his/her case.

You may call the office on the Tuesday following a meeting to find out whether or not the Board heard your application and the decision of the Board. Written documentation sent by the Board usually takes about two weeks from the date of the decision.

If the Board grants or denies the variance without a hearing and you, or an aggrieved party, is not satisfied with that decision, you have the right to request an adjudicatory hearing before the Board. An "Adjudicatory Hearing Request Form" will be attached to the decision and is also available on the AAB Website. This form must be filed within thirty (30) days receipt of the decision of the Board.

If you are scheduled for a hearing on your application, you will receive a "Notice of Hearing" setting forth the day and time that your hearing will be held. It is important to note that when the Board schedules a hearing for you to appear, the Board has reserved a specific period of time for you. If the day and time are not convenient, please notify the Office as soon as possible, as the Board schedules hearings approximately 6 weeks in advance.

 

Hearing Process

The following is a step-by-step guide to the variance hearing process. The most important thing to remember is that you must be prepared to prove your case.


A Hearing Request Form is available in the Hearing Process section on this page


All hearings are conducted in accordance with the procedures set forth in Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 30A (available in hard copy at the State House Book Store), and are open to the public.

You have been scheduled to appear at a specific time and are allotted approximately 30 minutes to prove your case, unless the Board deems more time is necessary. You should be aware that it is the Board's standard procedure to send copies of your application for variance, as well as the notice of hearing and the final decision, to the Local Building Inspector, Local Disability Commission, and the Independent Living Center for the area in which the building is located.

When you appear at the hearing, you will be sworn in by the Chairperson and be asked to present your case.

When making your presentation, you should address the areas for which you are requesting a variance. If you are submitting evidence such as letters, etc., please bring ten (10) copies so that each member has a copy. Written material of two (2) or more pages should be sent one (1) week prior to the hearing, in order to get the information out to the Board prior to the scheduled hearing.  Additional material of more substance submitted the day of a hearing may require a continuation, so that the Board may completely review the additional information.

Who should appear at the hearing?
It is important for the architect to appear at the hearing as well as the owner. However, if the architect has the authority to act in behalf of the owner, the owner need not be present. The architect should bring a letter from the owner indicating that he/she has their authority to act on their behalf. Anyone directly affected by this variance should appear in the event that the Board has questions.

Do I need legal counsel at the hearing?
No. 90% of the Board's hearings are conducted without parties being represented legal counsel. However, if you wish to be represented by legal counsel, you may do so.

What type of presentation should be used?
All visual material should be readable from at least ten (10) feet away. It is helpful to mount drawings and photographs on presentation boards.

It is extremely important when presenting, that plans are very clear. Color coding plans, i.e., showing areas that are accessible in one (1) color and inaccessible areas in another color are extremely helpful. Also, provide the Board with 8 1/2" x 11" sheets of the presentation, so that they may be entered in as an exhibit if the material is new. Photographs depicting existing conditions in specific areas of the building for which variances are being requested are extremely helpful.

What information is necessary?
The estimated cost of the construction for the project and written cost estimates of what it would cost to comply with the Board's regulations.

You should also be prepared to show plans indicating possible alternative solutions to how compliance could be achieved, and associated costs with each solution.

When will I find out the decision on my variance?
If all material is presented, the Board will make a decision at the end of the hearing or take the case under advisement and make a decision later in the day or at its next meeting. It usually takes about four (4) weeks to receive the written decision.

Is there an appeal process if I am aggrieved by the Board's decision?
Yes, however, the appeal process is through the Superior Court. An appeal must be filed in Superior Court within 30 days of receipt of the decision.

The Board also may reopen the hearing only if you have new information or new evidence which was not reasonably available to you at the time of the hearing.

Remember, the burden of proof is on the applicant to prove his/her case. Statutorily, the Board can only grant variances if compliance with the regulations is technologically infeasible or the cost of compliance is excessive without any substantial benefit to persons with disabilities.

 

Advisory Opinion

Any person may request an advisory opinion from the Board. The request must be made in writing and must state exactly what building or facility the opinion is for.

An advisory opinion is only used to determine a question of jurisdiction over a particular building or facility, or a question of compliance with the regulations. It is not to be used to avoid The Variance Process or to find out whether or not a variance would or would not be granted.

How do I know when I should request an advisory opinion?
You should request an advisory opinion if you are not certain whether or not your facility is required to comply with our regulations, or to what extent the facility is required to comply.

What is the process?

  1. First, the request must be made in writing addressed to the chairperson of the Board, and be specific (i.e. street address, town, 521 CMR section request)
  2. After reviewing the request, the Board will issue an opinion in writing, which will be sent to requestor and local parties concerned.

Advisory Opinions may be relied upon by the person requesting them as well as by an official of a city, town, or region.

 

Design Awards

The Architectural Access Board awards commendations for the design and construction of facilities which provide access to persons with disabilities.


 

View the 2013 Award Winners.

View the 2011 Award Winners .

View the 2009 Award Winners .

View the 2006 Award Winners.

View the 2005 Award Winners.

View the 2003 Award Winners.

View the 2002 Award Winners.

View the 2001 Award Winners.

View the 2000 Award Winners.

View the 1999 Award Winners.

View the 1997 Award Winners.

 

 

FORMS AND APPLICATIONS

Complaint

Building Complaint Form

Building Complaint Form - Text (TXT) Version txt format of form_aab_building.txt

Building Complaint Form - Adobe Acrobat (PDF) Version pdf format of form_aab_building.pdf

Building Complaint Form - Microsoft Word (DOC) Version doc format of form_aab_building.doc
NOTE: Complaints may be submitted via e-mail to the Board Staff, whose e-mail addresses can be found on the AAB homepage
Please note that all complaint forms must be signed.

Housing Complaint Form

Housing Complaint Form - Text (TXT) Version txt format of form_aab_housing.txt

Housing Complaint Form - Adobe Acrobat (PDF) Version pdf format of form_aab_housing.pdf

Housing Complaint Form - Microsoft Word (DOC) Version doc format of form_aab_housing.doc

NOTE: Complaints may be submitted via e-mail to the Board Staff, whose e-mail addresses can be found on the AAB homepage
Please note that all complaint forms must be signed.

Parking Lot Complaint Form

Parking Lot Complaint Form - Text (TXT) Version txt format of form_aab_parking.txt

Parking Lot Complaint Form - Adobe Acrobat (PDF) Version pdf format of form_aab_parking.pdf

Parking Lot Complaint Form - Microsoft Word (DOC) Version doc format of form_aab_parking.doc

NOTE: Complaints may be submitted via e-mail to the Board Staff, whose e-mail addresses can be found on the AAB homepage
Please note that all complaint forms must be signed.

Sidewalk/Curb Cut Complaint Form

Sidewalk Complaint Form - Text (TXT) Version txt format of form_aab_sidewalk.txt

Sidewalk Complaint Form - Adobe Acrobat (PDF) Version pdf format of form_aab_sidewalk.pdf

Sidewalk Complaint Form - Microsoft Word (DOC) Version doc format of form_aab_sidewalk.doc

 

Curb Cut Complaint Form - Text (TXT) Version txt format of form_aab_curbcut.txt

Curb Cut Complaint Form - Adobe Acrobat (PDF) Version pdf format of form_aab_curbcut.pdf

Curb Cut Complaint Form - Microsoft Word (DOC) Version doc format of form_aab_curbcut.doc

 

NOTE: Complaints may be submitted via e-mail to the Board Staff, whose e-mail addresses can be found on the AAB homepage.

Please note that all complaint forms must be signed.

Telephone Complaint Form

Telephone Complaint Form - Text (TXT) Version txt format of form_aab_phone.txt

Telephone Complaint Form - Adobe Acrobat (PDF) Version pdf format of form_aab_phone.pdf

Telephone Complaint Form - Microsoft Word (DOC) Version doc format of form_aab_phone.doc

NOTE: Complaints may be submitted via e-mail to the Board Staff, whose e-mail addresses can be found on the AAB homepage.

Please note that all complaint forms must be signed.

Variance / Hearing

Adjudicatory Hearing Request

Download Text (TXT) Version txt format of form_aab_hearing_request.txt
 
Download Adobe Acrobat (PDF) Version pdf format of form_aab_hearing_request.pdf
 
Download Microsoft Word (DOC) Version doc format of form_aab_hearing_request.doc
 
Please note that the form can be sent back to the AAB Office via e-mail to Thomas Hopkins, Executive Director, regular mail, or fax.  All hearings are scheduled on a first-come-first-serve basis.

 

Variance Form

General Variance Form

Variance Form - Text (TXT) Version txt format of form_aab_variance.txt

Variance Form - Adobe Acrobat (PDF) Version pdf format of form_aab_variance.pdf

Variance Form - Microsoft Word (DOC) Version doc format of form_aab_variance.doc



Curb Cut / Sidewalk Variance Form

Curb Cut / Sidewalk Variance Form - Text (TXT) Version txt format of form_aab_variance_sidewalk.txt

Curb Cut / Sidewalk Variance Form - Adobe Acrobat (PDF) Version pdf format of form_aab_variance_sidewalk.pdf

Curb Cut / Sidewalk Variance Form - Microsoft Word (DOC) Version doc format of form_aab_variance_sidewalk.doc



For more information, please visit the Variance Process section on this page.