News  Proposed Update to 521 CMR

  • Architectural Access Board

The Architectural Access Board (AAB) is proud to announce a new proposed revision to 521 CMR.  This revision, the first full rewrite since 1996 is the result of a decade long process in which AAB staff worked with the Board and its Subcommittee on Regulations, and staff from multiple sister agencies in order to review the text and propose amendments to meet the general objectives prescribed in M.G.L. c. 22 § 13A.  The proposed regulation is the culmination of ten years of collaboration and debate in the an effort to provide the citizens and businesses of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with a high-quality state building code that is fully compliant with the AAB’s charge.  This process has also taken into account submittals from the general public over the last ten years, along with any consistent and commonly requested variances.  Furthermore, this re-write of the code strives to achieve substantial equivalency with the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design, which will create a safe harbor with respect to lawsuits brought under the ADA by creating one code book that ensures compliance with both state and federal requirements. More specific aspects of the proposed regulations in order to align with existing codes and guidelines are as follows:

  • All new drawings for all existing and some new sections of the code book
  • Rearrangement of sections of the code book to create more uniformity within the codebook and with other building codes used throughout the Commonwealth
  • Jurisdiction clarification; addition of jurisdiction for temporary overnight shelters; expansion of exceptions (Section 3)
  • Addition of more language regarding variance process (Section 4), which is already in place on existing variance forms
  • Clarification for some existing definitions and addition of some new definitions; mainly for new sections of the codebook; e.g. amusement attractions, play component, golf car passage, etc. (Section 5)
  • Addition of specific knee and toe clearances within the new “Building Block” section; this section creates a cluster of all base requirements for general clearances and reach ranges (Section 6 & 7)
  • Change to existing reach ranges (Section 6)
  • Addition of more specific regulations regarding surface flatness and the use of pavers, paving stones and bricks (Section 7)
  • Clarification about scope of work at existing sidewalks (Section 9)
  • Addition of requirement for automatic door or power-assisted door, per request of MS Society (Section 10)
  • Addition of slope tolerances for ramps with a short rise (Section 12)
  • Additional language regarding edge protection requirements for ramps (Section 12)
  • Creation of “detectable warnings” section in accordance with existing requirements (Section 13)
  • Additional language for alternate elevator and wheelchair lift cab configurations (Section 14)
  • Reduction in number for requirement of van accessible parking spaces (Section 15)
  • Clarification of required accessible parking at medical facilities (Section 15)
  • Change to requirements to handrail extensions at the bottom of a stair flight (Section 16)
  • Language added for drinking fountains for standing persons (Section 17)
  • Addition of “family toilet room/unisex toilet room” requirement (Section 18)
  • Additional requirements for toilet compartment partitions (Section 18)
  • Clarifying and additional language for grab bars (Section 18)
  • Elimination of “stall-type” urinals, per request of Plumbing Board (Section 18)
  • Clarification and additional language for shower stalls, and shower and tub seats (Section 19)
  • Additional language regarding Braille and visual character requirements for signage (Section 21)
  • Additional language for public telephones (Section 22)
  • Additional language for ATMs and fare vending machines (Section 23)
  • New section for requirements for two-way communication systems (Section 25)
  • Addition of language and requirements for places of assembly (Section 26)
  • Deletion of “Houses of Worship”, “Commercial Buildings”, and “Recreation Facilities” due to incorporation of sections into “Places of Assembly” and the other applicable sections for commercial spaces, whether restaurants, retail establishments, or the additional section of the code encompassing all types of recreation facilities.
  • Additional language and requirements for public and common use kitchens (Section 28)
  • Language added regarding outdoor and bar seating at restaurants (Section 29)
  • Additional language and clarification for transportation facilities (Section 30)
  • Language regarding solid partitions in detention facilities added (Section 31)
  • Language and clarification added for retail establishments (Section 32)
  • Additional language and clarification added, including but not limited to bed heights (direct response to request),vanities, balconies, and requirements for roll-in showers (Section 33)
  • New section for “benches” (Section 39)
  • Exceptions added for “Controls/Operable Parts” (Section 41)
  • Change of Group 1, Group 2A, and Group 2B dwelling units to be respectively changed to “Type B”, “Type A” and “Accessible Dwellings”
  • Change of sink depth requirements for multiple dwellings, based on significant variance requests (Section 43 and Section 45)
  • Entire new section for recreation facilities, expanding upon the previous Section 19 (Section 48-61)

The AAB will be holding six hearings across the Commonwealth in : Amherst, Boston, Fall River, Hyannis, Salem, and Worcester.  We will also be accepting written comments via mail or email until July 1, 2018.  Comments can be emailed to Executive Director William Joyce at  Copies of the proposed new edition can be found below.

Proposed New Edition of 521 CMR (Redline Version)

Proposed New Edition of 521 CMR (Clean Version)



  • Architectural Access Board 

    The Architectural Access Board (AAB) develops and enforce regulations designed to make public buildings accessible to, functional for, and safe for use by persons with disabilities.
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