The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice recognizes that barriers in the built environment pose a serious impediment to the full integration of people with disabilities into society. Federal law has attempted to address the lack of accessibility in certain residential buildings through the design and construction requirements of the Fair Housing Act and in commercial and public properties through the design and construction requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. These properties also may be subject to other federal accessibility requirements such as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Many states have enacted laws mandating accessibility for people with disabilities in housing, public sector and business properties.
Most states or localities in this country have adopted building codes to govern construction within their jurisdictions. These building codes are enforced by local or state code officials. The Civil Rights Division believes that incorporation of the design and construction requirements of the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act into building codes represents an opportunity to enhance compliance with these federal laws.
Some model codes and some state and local codes include provisions that may afford an even greater degree of accessibility in some respects than does federal law. We support such measures and efforts to improve accessibility in the built environment so that more persons with disabilities can fully participate in the mainstream of American life.