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Appendix - ADA Checklist for Existing Conference and Meeting Facilities

The Americans with Disabilities Act Checklist for Readily Achievable Barrier Removal (Version 2.1)

Revised August 1995, Adaptive Environments Center, Inc. for the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. For technical assistance, call 1 (800) 949-4ADA (-4232)  (voice/TDD).


Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires public accommodations to provide goods and services to people with disabilities on an equal basis with the rest of the general public. The goal is to afford every individual the opportunity to benefit from our country’s businesses and services, and to afford our businesses and services the opportunity to benefit from the patronage of all Americans.

The regulations require that architectural and communication barriers that are structural must be removed in public areas of existing facilities when their removal is readily achievable - in other words, easily accomplished and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense. Public accommodations that must meet the barrier removal requirement include a broad range of establishments (both for-profit and nonprofit) - such as hotels, restaurants, theaters, museums, retail stores, private schools, banks, doctors’ offices, and other places that serve the public. People who own, lease, lease out, or operate places of public accommodation in existing buildings are responsible for complying with the barrier removal requirement.

The removal of barriers can often be achieved by making simple changes to the physical environment. However, the regulations do not define exactly how much effort and expense are required for a facility to meet its obligation. This judgment must be made on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration such factors as the size, type, and overall financial resources of the facility, and the nature and cost of the access improvements needed. These factors are described in more detail in the ADA regulations issued by the Department of Justice.

The process of determining what changes are readily achievable is not a one-time effort; access should be re-evaluated annually. Barrier removal that might be difficult to carry out now may be readily achievable later. Tax incentives are available to help absorb costs over several years. Purpose of This

Purpose of This Checklist

This checklist will help you identify accessibility problems and solutions in existing facilities in order to meet your obligations under the ADA.

The goal of the survey process is to plan how to make an existing facility more usable for people with disabilities. The Department of Justice (DOJ) recommends the development of an Implementation Plan, specifying what improvements you will make to remove barriers and when each solution will be carried out: “…Such a plan…could serve as evidence of a good faith effort to comply….”

Technical Requirements

This checklist details some of the requirements found in the ADA Standards for Accessible Design (Standards). The ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG), when adopted by DOJ, became the Standards. The Standards are part of the Department of Justice Title III Regulations, 28 CFR Part 36 (Nondiscrimination on the basis of disability… Final Rule). Section 36.304 of this regulation, which covers barrier removal, should be reviewed before this survey is conducted.

However, keep in mind that full compliance with the Standards is required only for new construction and alterations. The requirements are presented here as a guide to help you determine what may be readily achievable barrier removal for existing facilities. The Standards should be followed for all barrier removal unless doing so is not readily achievable. If complying with the Standards is not readily achievable, you may undertake a modification that does not fully comply, as long as it poses no health or safety risk.

In addition to the technical specifications, each item has a scoping provision, which can be found under Section 4.1 in the Standards. This section clarifies when access is required and what the exceptions may be.

Each state has its own regulations regarding accessibility. To ensure compliance with all codes, know your state and local codes and use the more stringent technical requirement for every modification you make; that is, the requirement that provides greater access for individuals with disabilities. The barrier removal requirement for existing facilities is new under the ADA and supersedes less stringent local or state codes.

What This Checklist is Not

This checklist does not cover all of the requirements of the Standards; therefore, it is not for facilities undergoing new construction or alterations. In addition, it does not attempt to illustrate all possible barriers or propose all possible barrier removal solutions. The Standards should be consulted for guidance in situations not covered here.

The Title III regulation covers more than barrier removal, but this checklist does not cover Title III’s requirements for nondiscriminatory policies and practices and for the provision of auxiliary communication aids and services. The communication features covered are those that are structural in nature.


This checklist is based on the four priorities recommended by the Title III regulations for planning readily achievable barrier removal projects:

  • Priority 1: Accessible approach and entrance
  • Priority 2: Access to goods and services
  • Priority 3: Access to rest rooms
  • Priority 4: Any other measures necessary

Note that the references to ADAAG throughout the checklist refer to the Standards for Accessible Design.

How to Use This Checklist

Get Organized:

Establish a time frame for completing the survey. Determine how many copies of the checklist you will need to survey the whole facility. Decide who will conduct the survey. It is strongly recommended that you invite two or three additional people, including people with various disabilities and accessibility expertise, to assist in identifying barriers, developing solutions for removing these barriers, and setting priorities for implementing improvements.

Obtain Floor Plans:

It is very helpful to have the building floor plans with you while you survey. If plans are not available, use graph paper to sketch the layout of all interior and exterior spaces used by your organization. Make notes on the sketch or plan while you are surveying.

Conduct the Survey:

Bring copies of this checklist, a clipboard, a pencil or pen, and a flexible steel person numbers key items on the floor plan to match with the field notes, taken by a second person, while the third takes measurements. Be sure to record all dimensions! As a reminder, questions that require a dimension to be measured and recorded are marked with the ruler symbol. Think about each space from the perspective of people with physical, hearing, visual, and cognitive disabilities, noting areas that need improvement.

Summarize Barriers and Solutions:

List barriers found and ideas for their removal. Consider the solutions listed beside each question, and add your own ideas. Consult with building contractors and equipment suppliers to estimate the costs for making the proposed modifications.

Make Decisions and Set Priorities:

Review the summary with decision makers and advisors. Decide which solutions will best eliminate barriers at a reasonable cost. Prioritize the items you decide upon and make a timeline for carrying them out. Where the removal of barriers is not readily achievable, you must consider whether there are alternative methods for providing access that are readily achievable.

Maintain Documentation:

Keep your survey, notes, summary, record of work completed, and plans for alternative methods on file.

Make Changes:

Implement changes as planned. Always refer directly to the Standards and your state and local codes for complete technical requirements before making any access improvement. References to the applicable sections of the Standards are listed at the beginning of each group of questions. If you need help understanding the federal, state, or local requirements, contact your Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center.

Follow Up:

Review your Implementation Plan each year to re-evaluate whether more improvements have become readily achievable.

People with disabilities should be able to arrive on the site, approach the building, and enter as freely as everyone else. At least one route of travel should be safe and accessible for everyone, including people with disabilities.

*To obtain a copy of the Title III regulations and the Standards or other technical information, call the U.S. Dept. of Justice ADA Information Line at 1 (800) 514-0301 Voice, (202) 514-0381 TDD, or (800) 514-0383 TDD. For questions about ADAAG, contact the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board at 1 (800) USA-ABLE / 1 (800) 872-2253.

Appendix - ADA Checklist for Existing Conference and Meeting Facilities [PDF]