ANSI A117.1 vs. ADA Guidelines for Accessible Design

Wheelchair ramp leading up to garage that follows both ANSI A117.1 and ADA guidelines for accessible design.

For compliance with both federal law and moral responsibility, there is a need to make buildings accessible. To meet this need, building designers, architects, and other professionals come across two particular standards, often referred to as “ANSI” or “ADA.” These are both brought up frequently to ANSI Customer Service.

In short, these refer to the American National Standard ICC A117.1-2017 (also known as ANSI A117.1) and the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design. This blog post exists to clarify these two concepts and direct readers to the information they need.

What Is ANSI?

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is a private, non-profit organization that administers and coordinates the U.S. voluntary standards and conformity assessment system. ANSI is the official U.S. representative to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and, via the U.S. National Committee, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).

While ANSI accredits standard developing organizations (SDOs) and sets the ANSI Essential Requirements for the development of consensus for approval, revision, reaffirmation, and withdrawal of American National Standards (ANSs), the Institute does not develop standards.

What Is ANSI A117.1?

When building professionals mention “ANSI” in relation to accessibility guidelines, they are referring to ICC A117.1-2017: Accessible And Usable Buildings And Facilities. This American National Standard, also referred to as ANSI A117.1, is consistent with both ADA regulations and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Fair Housing Accessibility Guidelines, and, as a publication by the International Code Council (ICC), it is compatible with the International Building Code.

Intended for adoption by government agencies and those involved in setting model codes, this standard offers comprehensive criteria for making sites, facilities, buildings, and related elements accessible to and usable by people with disabilities.

ICC A117.1-2017: Accessible And Usable Buildings And Facilities is available on the ANSI Webstore. It also has an errata document, ICC A117.1-2017 Errata.

You can read more about the changes made to this standard and its errata in these past posts:

ANSI A117.1-2017: Accessible and Usable Buildings

Errata to ICC A117.1-2017

What Is ADA?

The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in everyday activities. First enacted in 1990, the ADA touches areas including employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications, and access to state and local government’ programs and services. In 2010, the Department of Justice published revised regulations for Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 in the Federal Register, resulting in these regulations adopting revised, enforceable standards called the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design. These include the 2010 standards for state and local governments (Title II regulations at 28 CFR 35.151 and the 2004 ADAAG at 36 CFR part 1191, appendices B and D) and the 2010 Standards for public accommodations and commercial facilities (Title III regulations at 28 CFR part 36, subpart D, and the 2004 ADAAG at 36 CFR part 1191, appendices B and D). The 2010 standards set minimum requirements for:

  • Newly constructed buildings and facilities
  • Alterations—such as, renovations and other changes that affect usability—made to buildings and facilities
  • Making architectural changes in existing state and local government buildings to provide “program access”
  • Removing “architectural barriers” that are easily accomplishable without much difficulty or expense in existing buildings of businesses

What Are Architectural Barriers?

According to the ADA website:

“Architectural barriers are physical elements of a building that prevent movement or access for people with disabilities. For example, if the only way to get to the entrance of a business is by using stairs, those stairs are a barrier for wheelchair users.”

Read the ADA Standards for Accessible Design

The 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design and Guidance on the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design are available for download on the ADA website.

For information and aid on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), please see more about The Americans With Disabilities Act at

Need Help with Something on the ANSI Webstore?

The ANSI customer service team is equipped and prepared to answer your questions. For any assistance with the ANSI Webstore, please check out the FAQ page to see if your question regarding standards, download and usage, payment, or website registration has been previously answered for an easy solution. For any other specific questions, you can email at any time or call 212-642-4980, or live chat with a customer service representative from 8:30AM-6PM Eastern Time Monday-Friday.

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