Applying the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design to New Construction, Renovations, and Existing Facilities: A Guide for Businesses

Three people looking over blueprints of new construction.

What are the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design?
  • The 2010 Standards set minimum requirements – both scoping and technical – for newly designed and constructed or altered State and local government facilities, public accommodations, and commercial facilities to be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice adopted revised regulations for Titles II and III of the American with Disabilities Act in the Federal Register on September 15, 2010.  The enforceable accessibility standards adopted into these regulations are called the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design. (2010 Standards)
  • These standards were developed by the U.S. Access Board.
New Construction
Three people looking over a blue print.

All new construction covered by Title II and Title III of the ADA should meet the minimum requirements set forth in the 2010 ADA Standards.  Title III of the ADA covers businesses and commercial facilities.

Renovations and Remodels
Woman installing plumbing and electrical conduits during renovation.

Alterations that affect the usability of an area, such as changing or reconfiguring room layouts, are required to comply with the 2010 ADA Standards, to the greatest extent possible.

Alterations are any changes that affect usability, such as rearranging walls or structural parts of an area. Renovations and remodels are considered alterations. Changes such as painting walls, laying carpet, repairs, and routine maintenance are not considered alterations.

Alterations: 20% Disproportionality Rule

When an alteration is made to a "primary function area" of a facility, the business is also required to spend up to 20% of the cost of the alteration to make an accessible path of travel from the altered area to the entrance.

Note: A primary function area is any area where a major activity takes place. It includes both the customer services areas and work areas in places of public accommodation. It includes all offices and work areas in commercial facilities. It does not include areas such as mechanical rooms, supply storage rooms, employee lounges or locker rooms, janitorial closets, entrances, corridors, or restrooms.

Alterations: 20% Disproportionality Rule

Example: ABC Retail spends $50,000 on renovations to its main sales floor. An additional $10,000 must be spent, if needed, toward making the path of travel from the renovated area to the entrance accessible.

Note: The path of travel is a continuous route connecting the altered area to the entrance. It can include sidewalks, parking access aisles, lobbies, corridors, rooms, and elevators. It also includes  restrooms and drinking fountains that serve the altered area.

Renovation: 20% Disproportionality Rule
Assorted construction tools: work gloves, plumb level, hard hat.


If all existing features are ADA compliant, then the business does not need to spend additional funds toward improving accessibility.

Existing Facilities
Row of small businesses with awnings.

Businesses housed in existing facilities are only required to remove accessibility barriers that are "readily achievable", meaning relatively inexpensive and easy to accomplish. 

Learn more about "Readily Achievable" requirements.

Safe Harbor

If an existing facility has features such as an accessible entrance or bathroom that meets the previous 1991 ADA Standards, the facility does not have to upgrade to the 2010 ADA Standards unless there is a renovation, remodel, or addition. This is referred to as a “safe harbor”.

This Content was Developed by the Great Plains ADA Center.

The Great Plains ADA Center provides information, training, and materials on the Americans with Disabilities Act to the Great Plains Region: Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska.

The Great Plains ADA Center is part of the ADA National Network

[email protected]

Call 1-800-949-4232 to reach your regional ADA Center.