U.S. Legislation, Standards, and Guidance Applicable to APS

Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century

The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) stated that pedestrian safety considerations should be included in new transportation plans and projects.


The MUTCD includes two sections on Accessible Pedestrian Signals, Part 4E.06, Accessible Pedestrian Signals, and Part 4E.09, Accessible Pedestrian Signal Detectors. In addition, 4D.03, Provisions for Pedestrians, addresses the need for accessible pedestrian signals in the following standards and guidance:


The design and operation of traffic control signals shall take into consideration the needs of pedestrian as well as vehicular traffic.

If engineering judgment indicates the need for provisions for a given pedestrian movement, signal faces conveniently visible to pedestrians shall be provided by pedestrian signal heads or a signal face for an adjacent vehicular movement.


Safety considerations should include the installation, where appropriate, of accessible pedestrian signals (see Sections 4E.06 and 4E.09) that provide information in nonvisual format (such as audible tones, verbal messages, and/or vibrating surfaces)."

(MUTCD, 2003)

MUTCD Sections on APS

Section 4E.06 includes standards for APS use, guidance on installation of APS, and standards and guidance on WALK indications and features of APS.

Section 4E.09 provides standards and guidelines that address features and locations of accessible pedestrian signal detectors (pushbuttons), pushbutton locator tones and volume of signals.

MUTCD Revisions

The Federal Highway Administration publishes the MUTCD, with revisions made on a regular basis. Major input to the MUTCD is provided by the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (NCUTCD), which meets twice a year to consider revisions.

Changes to the MUTCD are published in the Federal Register as a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking; followed by a comment period, and other standard Federal rulemaking procedures. The next major revision of the MUTCD is expected to be completed in 2009. The NCUTCD has recommended major revisions to the MUTCD sections on APS for the 2009 edition. A Notice of Proposed Amendments is planned for publication in Fall 2007.

The MUTCD is available at http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov

The 2003 MUTCD sections on APS, and proposed revisions approved by the NCUTCD are included in Appendix A.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

The requirement for nondiscrimination on the basis of disability dates from well before TEA-21 or the Americans with Disabilities Act. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs and activities receiving or benefiting from federal financial assistance.

"No qualified handicapped person shall…be denied the benefits of…any program or activity that receives or benefits from Federal financial assistance administered by the DOT." (Rehabilitation Act, 1973)

The Act specifically required the installation of curb ramps on federally funded projects.

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a landmark law that protects the civil rights of persons with disabilities. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, State and local government services, transportation, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and telecommunications. The ADA has five parts:

The ADA applies to all programs and facilities of state and local government, regardless of funding source.

Guidelines for implementation of each part of the ADA were developed by agencies charged with that responsibility.

ADAAG and Public Rights-of-Way

Implementing regulations of Title II of the ADA require state and local government programs and properties to be accessible to persons with disabilities.

ADA Standards Development Process

The development of accessibility standards is a long process with numerous opportunities for public input and comment. The development of public rights-of-way standards is under way, but probably will not be completed for several more years.

Draft PROWAG sections on APS

Section R208 requires APS where pedestrian signals are installed

Section R306 provides specifications regarding WALK interval indications, location of devices, volume, pushbutton locator tones, pushbutton operation, size and contrast, signs and tactile arrows, and optional features.

Further description and details can be found in Chapter 6.

Responsibility under ADA Implementing Regulations

ADA implementing regulations require programs of state and local governments to be accessible. Barden v. Sacramento, a 2004 court decision, defined sidewalks and street crossings as a program and facility of the state and local government, which must be accessible under Title II of the ADA.

There are several specific sections of the ADA implementing regulations that require accessibility:

The bottom line is that ADA requires newly constructed facilities to be accessible even if there are no specific guidelines covering that type of facility. ADA compliance is a civil rights issue.

Draft PROWAG as best practices

In a memo published January 26, 2006, the Federal Highway Administration states: "The Draft Guidelines are not standards until adopted by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Transportation. The present standards to be followed are the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) standards. However, the Draft Guidelines are the currently recommended best practices, and can be considered the state of the practice that could be followed for areas not fully addressed by the present ADAAG standards. Further, the Draft Guidelines are consistent with the ADA's requirement that all new facilities (and altered facilities to the maximum extent feasible) be designed and constructed to be accessible to and useable by people with disabilities." (Isler memo, 2006)

Note: The "Draft Guidelines" to which the FHWA memo refers are referred to as "Draft PROWAG" throughout this Guide.

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