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Access Board issues guidance on International Symbol of Accessibility

March 28th, 2017  |  Deborah Hammonds

In response to questions that have been raised on the use of alternative symbols, the Access Board has released guidance on the International Symbol of Accessibility (ISA). For almost 50 years, the ISA has been recognized worldwide as a symbol identifying accessible elements and spaces. Some cities and states have adopted a different symbol and the guidance explains how use of a symbol other than the ISA impacts compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA).

Standards under the ADA require that the ISA label certain accessible elements, spaces, and vehicles, including parking spaces, entrances and restrooms. Similar requirements are contained in standards issued under the ABA for federally funded facilities.

“Consistency in the use of universal symbols is important, especially for persons with limited vision or cognitive disabilities,” Marsha Mazz, Director of the Access Board’s Office of Technical and Information Services, said in a March 27 statement. “In addition to the ADA and ABA Standards, many codes and regulations in the U.S. and abroad also require display of the ISA.”

While the ADA Standards do not recognize specific substitutes for the ISA, they do generally allow alternatives to prescribed requirements that provide substantially equivalent or greater accessibility and usability under a provision known as “equivalent facilitation.” However, in the event of a legal challenge, the entity pursuing an alternative has the burden of proof in demonstrating equivalent facilitation. Under the ABA Standards, use of a symbol other than the ISA requires issuance of a modification or waiver by the appropriate standard-setting agency.

The ISA bulletin is available on the Access Board’s website along with other issued guidance on the ADA Standards and the ABA Standards.

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