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Access Board ABA Case Results in Improved Access to Historic Federal Building in Chattanooga

February 28, 2019
Source: U.S. Access Board

The General Services Administration (GSA) has improved access to the Joel W. Solomon Federal Building and United States Court House in Chattanooga, Tennessee in response to a complaint filed with the Board under the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA). Completed in 1933, the historic building is a notable example of the Art Moderne style typical of government buildings of the era and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It has several distinctive architectural features, including two main entrances at end pavilions that are approached by wide granite staircases. The only accessible way into the building was through a steep ramp at a loading dock that served a locked, unsupervised entrance. Visitors at this entrance had to wait until an employee passed to open the door for them.

In response to the complaint, GSA’s Public Buildings Service, in consultation with GSA’s Historic Buildings Program, undertook a project to improve access to the building. The work, which was recently completed, features a new compliant ramp at one of the main entrances. In addition, the entrance doorway and vestibule were enlarged and an automatic door opener installed. The result is a good example of how accessibility improvements can be integrated into a historic structure’s existing architecture.

The ABA applies to facilities designed, built, or altered with federal money or leased by federal agencies and requires compliance with accessibility standards. While facilities that predate the law are generally not covered, the ABA does apply to any alterations and leasing actions made after it took effect. For further information on filing a complaint under the ABA, visit the Board’s website.

[Note: Photos shown in latest Access Board newsletter posted on their website.]

[Photo caption:] The new ramp blends with the building’s historic façade.

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