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For those who were familiar with the ADA, business associations and the media were the most frequent sources of information about the law. Only 8 percent reported receiving information directly from federal agencies. 12

Barrier-Removal Efforts
Beneficial But Not Always
Well Informed

Twenty-nine percent of the businesses and government facilities we observed had removed barriers in the 18 months before the effective date of the law. (The Gallup poll found a similar degree of activity: 33 percent of the businesses they surveyed reported removing an architectural barrier.) Of those establishments we visited where the owner or manager reported recently removing a barrier, only 38 percent, or 11 percent of all businesses and government facilities visited, said they had done so because of the ADA.

Table 3 shows that grocery stores had most frequently removed architectural barriers before the implementation of the ADA, compared to clothing stores, in which no barriers had been removed.

12This may understate the involvement of federal agencies in providing information about the ADA. The owners and managers we spoke with may have been unaware that the information sources they used had received federal funding to provide information or had developed their materials from information provided by federal agencies. Federally funded resources for information about ADA are listed in appendix IV.

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The most frequently reported barrier-removal efforts were improvements to or installation of an accessible pathway, improved bathroom accessibility, and an increase in the number of accessible parking spaces or improvement to the signs on those spaces. In addition, two-thirds of those who removed architectural barriers reported no related burdens, compared to three-quarters who cited specific benefits, most often an increase in business or improved accessibility.

We found, however, past and planned barrier-removal efforts were not always well informed.

• Most (63 percent) of the barriers removed after the ADA was passed but

before it went into effect did not result in features consistent with the
ADAAG. For example, an owner reported widening doorways, yet we
observed that the doorways were still too narrow.13
Only one-quarter of owners and managers reported any specific plans for
future barrier removal at their facility, yet no establishment was free of all
barriers at the time of our visit.
One-quarter of the planned changes were not necessary, since we judged
those features to be already consistent with the ADAAG.

Conclusions

Together, these findings about the situation immediately before the effective date of the law suggest the need for continuing educational outreach and technical assistance for businesses and government agencies covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act. First, we found important barriers remaining. Second, we found many owners and managers were

1sThe facility thus lacked full accessibility according to the guidelines. Note, however, that lack of information on the standards is not the only possible interpretation. The facility may have done as much as necessary to comply with the law if the nature of the facility made it virtually impossible to comply fully with accessibility standards.

not fully aware of the existence of the ADA or their obligations under the law. They should have been making efforts to conform to the law by the time of our data collection efforts. Finally, we found that many of the barrier-removal efforts completed or being planned did not appear to be accompanied by adequate guidance.

Agency Comments

Responsible officials of the Department of Justice, the ATBCB, and organizations we had consulted in doing our work provided comments on a draft of this report. These officials generally agreed with our findings, and we have incorporated their comments where appropriate.

As we agreed with your office, unless you publicly announce the contents of this report earlier, we plan no further distribution of it until 30 days from its date of issue. We will then send copies to interested parties and to others upon request.

We are continuing our work in response to your request and will report again at the completion of our evaluation. If you have any questions or would like additional information, please call me at (202) 512-2900 or Robert L. York, Director of Program Evaluation in Human Services Areas at (202) 512-5885. Major contributors to this report are listed in appendix V.

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Table 1: Important Remaining Barriers by Priority Category

Table 2: Owners and Managers Who Said They Were Familiar

With the ADA

Table 3: Establishments That Removed an Architectural Barrier

Before Implementation of the ADA
Table I.1: Characteristics of Establishments Observed
Table 1.2: Number of Responses Across Membership

Organizations
Table 1.3: Characteristics of Persons with Disabilities Surveyed

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20

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Abbreviations

ADA

ADAAG

ANSI

Americans With Disabilities Act
ADA Accessibility Guidelines
American National Standards Institute
Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
Uniform Facilities Accessibility Standards

ATBCB

UFAS

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