Making Public Buildings Accessible to the Handicapped:

More Can Be Done

FPCD-80-51: Published: Jun 6, 1980. Publicly Released: Jun 6, 1980.

Additional Materials:


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board was established as an independent entity to provide leadership and to make sure that Federal agencies comply with legislation which requires that public buildings are made accessible to handicapped persons. The Board has not been able to carry out its responsibilities effectively, in large part, because it has been unable to operate independently, overlapping functions have been assigned to it and to other agencies, and leadership and authority roles have not been clearly assigned.

The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) has exercised extensive control over the Board's operating budget and resources. The Board is required to appoint public members. However, because no one was appointed until December 1979, the Board was unable to conduct much of its official business during 1979. Some actions have been taken since 1975 to establish a set of acceptable building standards. However, much more must be done, and the Board must provide strong leadership by working with the agencies to make sure that its guidelines are followed. The Federal agencies are required to establish systems for incorporating access standards into building design and construction. The systems need further refinement. The agencies have generally included reviews of investigations of building accessibility into other audit and inspection activities. This approach may meet the legislative requirement if the agencies establish or improve building activity recordkeeping systems. The lack of records has made it difficult for the Board to carry out its investigations.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: To clearly define the role of the Board, Congress should amend the Barriers Act to: establish the Board as the principal authority to provide leadership and insure compliance; require the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Defense (DOD), the General Services Administration (GSA), and the Postal Service to consult with the Board and obtain concurrence that agencies' standards conform to its guidelines and requirements; require the Board, rather than GSA, to report annually to Congress on all waivers of standards; and require the Board, rather than GSA, to report on all Federal activities pertaining to standards issued, revised, amended, or repealed under the Act.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Director, Office of Management and Budget, should recognize the Board as an independent agency with a separate budget presentation, similar to other Federal independent agencies. To assure that the Barriers Act is used consistently throughout the Nation, the Board should: issue the minimum guidelines and requirements and direct that they are incorporated in all agency standards and that the Act requirements are properly and consistently interpreted; work with the Postal Service to resolve the present difference in dealing with lease options and assure that buildings are made barrier free; and work with Federal agencies to refine or develop their compliance systems and provide the necessary information to carry out investigative functions to insure that all building activities will be accessible to the handicapped. The Secretary of Defense should direct DOD policies on buildings' accessibility are adequately implemented and pay particular attention to assuring that nonappropriated fund activities comply with the Act. The Secretaries of Labor and the Interior should establish or refine systems to insure that all building activities funded with Federal funds are accessible to the handicapped. The Postmaster General should establish a system of continuing surveys and investigations to insure that accessibility standards are incorporated in postal facilities. The Administrator of GSA and the Board should resolve the confusion caused by Federal property management regulations concerning building activity recordkeeping. The Board should issue regulations requiring agencies to maintain records of building activities for use by the standard-setting agencies and the Board. The Secretaries of Defense and HUD, the Postmaster General, and the Administrator of GSA should improve their building activity recordkeeping systems to identify buildings subject to, and in compliance with, the Act.

    Agency Affected:


Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Mar 22, 2018

Mar 14, 2018

Mar 13, 2018

Mar 8, 2018

Mar 7, 2018

Feb 28, 2018

Feb 27, 2018

Feb 23, 2018

Looking for more? Browse all our products here