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Accessible PracticesAccess Plan

The next step after doing an access survey is to write a formal access plan. An access plan does two things: It describes the barriers to be addressed throughout an institution, and it outlines a process for removing those barriers.

The more complete your plan is, the more helpful it will be, so be sure that you take into account facilities, exhibits, education and performance spaces, programs, services, institutional policies, and methods of communicating with visitors.

A thoughtful and ordered access plan will help you avoid costly mistakes. It can also serve as documentation of your institution's good-faith effort toward complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Steps to Follow

  1. Investigate your obligations.
    Determine your legal requirements under national, state, and local accessibility laws. Be aware that under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the ADA your organization may be required to make a "transition plan" that describes how physical barriers to programs, activities, or services will be removed. Consult the Section 504 and the ADA Title II resources listed at the end of this page to learn what steps and information you may be required to include in the plan, as well as the scope of the barriers it must address.

    Also examine the contractual language of funders regarding accessibility and serving people with various disabilities.

    Organizations not obligated by law or contract to make a plan should consider making one as well. In these pages we call this an access plan.

  2. Make a list of barriers based on data gathered during your accessibility survey.

  3. Set priorities.
    With data from your survey in hand, meet with decision-makers and advisors to prioritize the removal of barriers. Sort barriers according to the time frame in which you plan to complete the needed changes:
    • barriers that can be corrected immediately
    • barriers that can be resolved in the short term (less than six months)
    • barriers that will require longer to resolve

    When the removal of barriers cannot be accomplished without much difficulty or expense, you may need to specify alternative methods for providing access in the short term.

  4. Use worksheets to record your access plan.
    We suggest that for each barrier to be addressed you use a worksheet similar to the one we developed for the Accessible Practices Workshops. We think this format asks good questions in an orderly fashion. For each barrier, it asks you to consult appropriate references, develop steps to reach solutions, estimate costs, identify who is responsible for implementation, and set beginning and completion dates.

    You can download a PDF version of a blank 81/2 x 14 inch worksheet from this web site. (You must have Adobe Reader to view a PDF; for assistance in viewing PDF files, visit Whether you use our worksheet or another, keep the same format throughout your access plan and complete a separate worksheet for each barrier to be addressed.

    The four items below should be noted somewhere on your form. On our worksheet, we record the information at the top of the page:
    • Barrier location (e.g., café, lobby, science theater), when applicable
    • ADA Accessibility Guideline that refers to a physical barrier (e.g., ADAAG 4.3), when applicable, or a notation that this sheet refers to barriers in programs, goods, or services
    • How soon the barrier can be resolved. We suggest one of three time frames: immediately, in six months, or in more than six months
    • Date worksheet was completed

    The following six columns make up most of the worksheet:
    • Barrier to be addressed. Barriers that limit access to your institution's programs, services, and facilities.
    • Steps to reach a solution. List the publications and people you consulted to develop your solutions. Then describe in detail how you plan to resolve the barrier.
    • Staff and others responsible. List people responsible for implementing the solution. Those named may be staff and/or board members.
    • Budgetary considerations. List real and potential sources of revenue for this project. Note anticipated expenses. Update amounts after you receive written outside estimates.
    • Start date. Record the month and year you expect to begin each step.
    • Expected completion date. Record the month and year you expect to complete each step.

  5. Review and update your plan periodically.
    Set specific dates for reviews and updates and meet them.

Examples of Completed Worksheets

Three examples of completed worksheets follow. Although the names and estimates are fictional, the information is based on real situations.

Example 1 relates to making an organization's newsletter accessible to readers who are blind or have low vision.
Example 2 relates to moving furniture that obstructs the pathways in one of the galleries.
Example 3 relates to relocating a mobile that hangs too low in the path of travel.

Links and Publications Related to Access Plans

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Technical Assistance
For clarification of federal, state, and local accessibility codes, call ADA Technical Assistance (1-800-949-4232). This service is managed by your regional Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center (DBTAC). There are 10 DBTACs in the United States.

ADA Title II Technical Assistance Manual (1993) and Yearly Supplements
This 30-page manual explains in lay terms what state and local governments must do to ensure that their services, programs, and activities are provided to the public in a nondiscriminatory manner. Many examples are provided for practical guidance. Requirements for transition plans are described under "II-8.0000 Administrative Requirements."

ADA Title III Technical Assistance Manual (1993) and Yearly Supplements
This 83-page manual explains in lay terms what businesses and nonprofit agencies must do to ensure access to their goods, services, and facilities. Many examples are provided for practical guidance.

The Arts and 504: A Handbook for Accessible Arts Programming. Barrier Free Environments. Washington, D.C.: National Endowment for the Arts, 1992.
This handbook, now out of print, describes how Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act applies to arts institutions, including science museums. It provides guidance on making programs, facilities, and services compliant with the law.

Design for Accessibility: An Arts Administrators Guide. Washington, D.C.: National Endowment for the Arts, 1994.
This step-by-step 700-page guide of checklists, resources, and examples is designed to assist cultural institutions in making programs and facilities welcoming and accessible to diverse public audiences. Tab 9 contains information on developing an access plan and examples of completed plans. To order, contact the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, 202/347-6352.

Everyone's Welcome: the Americans with Disabilities Act and Museums. Washington, D.C.: American Association of Museums, 1999.
AAM's manual helps museum professionals to better understand and meet the requirements of the ADA. Chapter 1 outlines some basics of the act, including which institutions are affected by Title II and what a transition plan should include. This book is available, with supplemental materials, through the American Association of Museums.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Section 104.22 of this document, "Existing facilities," describes requirements for transition plans.

This web site is not intended to offer legal, architectural, engineering, or similar professional advice. Refer specific questions to an attorney or an ADA authority.

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