Access for Individuals with Disabilities

RELATED TOPICS: Countermeasures and Safety Effectiveness, Design and Engineering Guidance, Equity

Transportation networks must be accessible to and usable by people of all ages and abilities. This includes pedestrians using wheelchairs, pedestrians with vision loss, individuals with cognitive disabilities, and older adults with limited mobility and/or limited vision or hearing. Agencies cannot discriminate against those with a disability when building, altering, or reconstructing public facilities. Public facilities include sidewalks, buildings, and street crossings. While all design guidance and recommended solutions for pedestrian travel apply to those with disabilities, details become important to ensure access is provided. The United States Access Board provides guidelines for making streets and sidewalks in the public rights-of-way accessible, considering aspects ranging from the slope of sidewalks, ramps, and crosswalks to the timing of traffic signals and inclusion of Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS). FHWA requirements under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 include oversight of State and local entities and recipients of Federal funds that are responsible for roadways and pedestrian facilities to ensure that they do not discriminate on the basis of disability in any highway transportation program, activity, service or benefit they provide to the public.

For pedestrians with disabilities, details matter, and poor design can be a barrier to travel. Design and infrastructure should serve mobility needs of all pedestrians. Crossing Solutions at Roundabouts and Channelized Turn Lanes: A Guidebook offers a range of geometric and traffic operational considerations to enable safe wayfinding and independence for blind pedestrians at the roundabouts and Channelized Turn Lanes. Some of the guidance can be applied to other intersection types as well, such as Diverging Diamond Interchanges or other alternative intersection types. Chapter 5 of the Guidebook on Pedestrian Crossings of Public Transit Rail Services gives guidance to consider specifically at pedestrian-rail crossings.


The United States Access Board provides guidelines and standards for accessibility in the public rights-of-way and on shared use paths.

Subcommittee of the Public Rights of Way Accessibility Committee provides guidance on alterations in the public right of way.

The Accessible Pedestrian Signals: A Guide to Best Practices provides comprehensive information and guidance on installation of APS, how pedestrians use them, and other recommended features.

Accessible Shared Streets: Notable Practices and Considerations for Accommodating Pedestrians with Vision Disabilities describes shared streets, relevant United States guidance, and a toolbox of strategies and case studies to improve accessibility of pedestrians with low or no vision.

Easterseals Project Action provides training and technical assistance on accessible transportation issues.

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Accessible Pedestrian Signals Prioritization Tool provides a scoring system to enable prioritization of APS installations.

Questions and Answers About ADA/Section 504 help FHWA and its State and local transportation department partners better understand roles and responsibilities to provide accessible transportation facilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504).

City of Pleasant Hill, Iowa, ADA Transition Plan addresses ADA policies and rules to help the City transition to compliance.

Winthrop Shared Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts accommodates pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists.

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