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Frequently Asked Questions on Incorporating Accessibility in Transportation Projects

This FAQ does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation and does not create any requirements other than those stipulated in statute and regulation. The contents of this FAQ do not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the public in any way. This FAQ is intended only to provide clarity to the public regarding existing requirements under the law or agency policies. While this FAQ contains nonbinding technical information, you must comply with the applicable statutes and regulations.

Vea las preguntas frecuentes en español.

Woman seated in a wheelchair while waiting at a bus stop.The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) is providing unprecedented funding to update infrastructure across the nation to invest in safety and climate resilience, create jobs, and deliver a more equitable future, including for individuals with sensory, cognitive, and physical disabilities. 

More than 55 million Americans—18% of our population—have disabilities, and they, like all Americans, participate in a variety of programs, services, and activities provided by their State and local governments. This includes many people who became disabled while serving in the military. And by the year 2030, approximately 71.5 million baby boomers will be over age 65 and will need services and supports that meet their age-related needs (source:

Recipients of Federal funding should be familiar with the legal requirements set by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 as amended (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), as well as the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations implementing the ADA and Section 504. 

In preparing a grant application and designing transportation projects, consider how accessibility benefits can be incorporated and whether accessibility is considered in the application review process. Many DOT grant programs, such as the Advanced Transportation Technologies and Innovative Mobility Deployment program (ATTIMD) and Multimodal Project Discretionary Grant program (MPDG), include considerations in their selection criteria that encourage applicants to propose projects that include accessibility improvements for individuals with disabilities. More broadly, DOT discretionary grant programs that include equity-focused merit criteria also incorporate benefits to people with disabilities. For more information on ADA requirements see ADA Update: A Primer for State and Local Governments

These Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) will help grant applicants put forth a strong discretionary grant application and ensure that projects are usable by all members of the community. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are USDOT's accessibility policy priorities?

DOT has identified a set of Disability Policy Priorities which reflect the Department’s commitment to build a transportation system that works for all. These priorities, shown in the box to the right, highlight topics and initiatives that DOT is committed to investing in.

Does my project have accessibility requirements?

Yes. The ADA and Section 504 apply to all transportation projects that are Federally funded. In addition to knowing what regulatory accessibility requirements may apply to your project, it’s important to read carefully the specific Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the program to which you are applying to understand how accessibility may be considered in the application review process. For instance, in some recent NOFOs, accessibility is included in the merit criteria addressing equity. Even if you have previously applied for DOT grants, be sure to check the NOFO for the current year to see if there have been any changes that you’ll want to address. 

Additionally, there may be accessibility requirements for public engagement. Under the ADA and Section 504, Federally assisted programs and activities (and all public entities in the case of the ADA) must provide opportunities for engagement to people with disabilities in developing and improving public services that are comparable to opportunities for engagement provided to persons who do not have a disability. Locations where public involvement takes place must be ADA compliant and accessible to people with disabilities, including restrooms. See 28 CFR §§ 35.130(b)(2), 35.150, and 35.151; 49 CFR §§ 27.7, 27.19(a), and 27.71(e). The ADA also requires adequate information concerning transportation services to be available to people with vision or hearing disabilities. 

The requirements set forth in the ADA represent the minimum of what is legally acceptable. Modifications such as lessening the slope of a ramp or providing a larger wheelchair space than what is required may provide a better user experience for all users, not only those with disabilities. While every project is different, there may be opportunities to increase the accessibility and overall utility by going beyond the requirements set forth in the ADA and addressing legacy inaccessible infrastructure and services. Infrastructure can include the built environment, such as sidewalks and curbs, or facilities, such as bus depots and train stations. For instance, you may want to highlight how your project addresses one or more barriers to access identified in your state’s ADA Transition Plan.

Are there specific accessibility requirements or is there guidance for my project?

Depending on the type of project and its intended users, there may be specific existing standards that apply in addition to what’s currently covered by the ADA and Section 504. The U.S. Access Board, the Federal agency that is responsible for developing accessibility guidelines, has recently adopted the following guidelines that may apply to your project:

Applicants are encouraged to follow all existing standards, even if they haven’t yet been formally adopted by DOT. Applicants should also consult the program-specific NOFO for any additional instructions regarding accessibility requirements applicable to the project.

What are ADA Transition Plans and how might they relate to my project? 

Hand touching handrail with Braille.The 1991 ADA regulation requires all public entities, regardless of size, to evaluate all of their services, policies, and practices, and to modify any that do not meet ADA requirements. In addition, public entities with 50 or more employees – including State Departments of Transportation, Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), Local Governments and Transit Agencies and the extensive transportation systems they manage – are required to develop an ADA Transition Plan (source: These Transition Plans are living documents that must identify physical obstacles that limit the accessibility of facilities to individuals with disabilities, describe the methods to be used to make the facilities accessible, provide a schedule for making the access modifications, and identify the public officials responsible for the Plan’s implementation. Transition Plans must be kept up-to-date until all of the barriers are addressed. More information on Transition Plans can be found here. Public entities are also required to provide an opportunity for interested individuals to participate in the self-evaluation and transition planning processes by submitting comments. 

ADA Transition Plans are required from all State Departments of Transportation to cover all facilities under their control. This includes public rights-of-way in addition to buildings owned by the public agencies such as district offices, welcome centers, transit or rest stops, airport terminals, and other types of buildings associated with transportation activities (source: FHWA). Public rights-of-way typically include sidewalks, pedestrian paths, curb ramps, street crossings, driveway crossings, crosswalks, median crossings, public transit stops, and pedestrian activated signal systems. The accessibility of pedestrian facilities in the public rights-of-way affects many citizens in their daily activities, but it is only one aspect of providing equal access to state government programs, services, and activities.

While the 2010 ADA regulation does not specifically require public entities to conduct a new self-evaluation or develop a new transition plan, public entities are encouraged to do so. The development or updating of a Transition Plan is now an ongoing activity or a goal at many transportation departments and agencies.

Are there any procurement- or funding-related topics I should consider?

Small businesses owned by a person with a disability may qualify to participate in DOT’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program. By having a plan for working with DBEs, your project may be able to benefit people with disabilities beyond providing accessible physical infrastructure. By having a plan for working with DBEs, your project may be able to benefit people with disabilities beyond providing accessible physical infrastructure.

Older man sitting on bus looking out the window.You may also want to consider whether there are other Federal funds that can be leveraged to help fund the project. For projects that improve accessibility, it may be useful to consider utilizing Federal fund “braiding,” i.e. combining funds, from other members of the Federal Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility to improve transportation services for individuals with disabilities. FHWA’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Funding Opportunities can also be used to identify funding sources and community needs.

Where can I find more information on public involvement accessibility requirements?

Several laws and regulations require DOT funding recipients to develop and implement public involvement strategies and plans, including through Federal transportation planning and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review processes. Section 504 generally requires that virtual and in-person public meetings, websites, and virtual and printed materials be accessible, including to persons with disabilities with limited English proficiency. DOT recently published a guide, Promising Practices for Meaningful Public Involvement in Transportation Decision-Making, which discusses requirements, techniques, and considerations for ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard in the transportation planning process, including for individuals with sensory, cognitive, and physical disabilities. Further information on requirements can be found in Appendix A of this guide.

What are some common accessibility features or use cases that I can address in my project?

Ensuring a project is accessible goes beyond installing ramps. Since the disability community is diverse, it’s important to understand the general needs of people with sensory (e.g., Deaf/Hard of Hearing, Blind/visually impaired), cognitive (e.g., Autism, traumatic brain injury, dyslexia), and physical Group of people communicating with sign langugedisabilities in order to ensure that your project accommodates people with a range of disabilities. Often, features that were initially designed to accommodate people with disabilities improve the overall experience for all users. This is known as a universal design. 

Applicants are encouraged to work directly with disability advocacy groups or people with disabilities to get direct feedback on their project. A robust stakeholder engagement plan can help ensure that your project accommodates a wide range of needs. Including features such as low-force operable parts (handles, buttons, etc.) and ensuring there are redundant modes of communication (e.g., via audio and visually) are good starting points. Applicants are also encouraged to look at which ADA Transition Plans their project may impact and try to address gaps identified there. 

DOT’s Inclusive Design Challenge identified key focus areas for improving the accessibility of automated vehicles. The Challenge Statement and resources collected from the related RFI may be useful for projects addressing related topics. These resources may be especially useful for projects addressing emerging technologies or modes such as micromobility.

Accessibility-focused programs, such as FTA’s Innovative Coordinated Access and Mobility (ICAM) Pilot Program, may highlight important needs for people with disabilities in the review criteria. This program in particular references the Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility’s Program Inventory, which can be used to identify priority use cases for projects.

FHWA’s Crosswalk Marking Selection Guide provides guidance on crosswalk markings, which can be useful for pedestrians with low vision.

Additional Information and Resources

More Information from DOT on ADA and Other Civil Rights Topics

DOT operating administrations have previously published detailed guidance on how ADA applies to the different types of rail, transit, road and other projects they typically oversee:

If you need more specific information or have other questions on civil rights, DOT and modal civil rights contact information can be found here.

Additional Resources

Relevant Regulations

  • Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability on Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Assistance (Section 504) – 49 CFR Part 27 
  • Transportation Services for Individuals with Disabilities (ADA) – 49 CFR Part 37
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Accessibility Specifications for Transportation Vehicles – 49 CFR Part 38
  • Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in State and Local Government Services – 28 CFR Part 35