When Section 504 is mentioned many people in the industry will automatically associate it with the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS). It is very common for the terms of UFAS and Section 504 to be misconstrued as being synonymous or equal to one another. To the point where I have heard representatives for finance programs tell developers & architects that UFAS is the only code option for Section 504.
UFAS is not the only option. There is an alternative design standard for Section 504 compliance that is typically overlooked, the 2010 ADA Standards (2010 ADAS).
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal law, designed to protect individuals from discrimination based on disability. Housing with federal funding is required to comply with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. To comply, housing must be made accessible. Section 504 is not the design standard for meeting the accessibility requirements.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regulations for Section 504 can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations under Title 24, Part 8, Subpart C Program Accessibility § 8.32 Accessibility Standards (24 CFR Part 8). It is in this code that UFAS is listed as an acceptable design standard for Section 504 compliance.
In 2014, HUD issued a “deeming notice”, a rule change that allowed for an alternative accessibility code for Section 504. This notice was published in the Federal Register, which is the official journal of the federal government containing new rules, changes to existing rules, and public notices. HUD’s notice can be found in Federal Register Volume 79, No. 100, Friday, May 23, 2014, under Docket No. FR-5784-N-01.
This notice permits recipients of federal assistance to use the 2010 ADA Standards as an accessibility standard for compliance with Section 504 and the regulations of 24 CFR Part 8. The notice does not remove the option for using UFAS, it can continue to be used if chosen. However, if it is decided to use UFAS, the project must comply with the 2010 ADAS and UFAS, depending on which code section from either code is stricter in its requirement. MAPS strongly recommends using the 2010 ADAS for Section 504 compliance as it is a modernized code that takes into account accessibility items that have been updated and improved upon in the years since UFAS was issued in 1984.
When using the 2010 ADA Standards for Section 504 compliance, keep in mind that HUD has made exceptions to particular sections of the code in instances where they feel the 2010 ADAS provides less accessibility than what has been required in UFAS. Because of this certain sections of code from the 2010 ADAS can not be applied to a Section 504 project. There are a total of 11 exceptions where the 2010 ADAS can not be used, ranging from structural impracticality to employee work areas. The complete list of exceptions can be found in HUD’s “deeming notice.”
Contact MAPS if you have a question about your accessibility codes. MAPS can help review projects where Section 504 is applicable.
If more information regarding Section 504 is desired, please use the following link to access the Department of Housing and Urban Development webpage on Section 504, Frequently Asked Questions.
Part 2 of this blog, explaining the HUD exceptions when using the 2010 ADA will be coming soon.