It is the policy of the U.S. Department of State to provide barrier-free accessible diplomatic facilities in accordance with federal law. New and existing buildings and facilities shall be designed and constructed to be accessible in accordance with the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) Standards, The Access Board, July 23, 2004, as amended by GSA 2006.

The Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) of 1968 prescribes that standards be issued for the design, construction and alteration of federal buildings to provide accessibility to areas used by the public or where physically disabled persons will be employed or reside.

The ABA Standards that were subsequently enacted contain the design, construction and alteration standards necessary for minimum compliance with the ABA for exterior sites and buildings.


Barrier-free accessibility means that necessary features exist in buildings and facilities for persons with mobility, hearing and visual disabilities, allowing for the fullest use of these buildings and facilities.  The requirement is to ensure that all new buildings are accessible and to remove barriers in existing facilities wherever possible, to the extent required by law.  Accessibility is required in all portions of buildings, either U.S. Government owned or leased, that are used as office, living and recreational spaces.

The application of barrier-free accessibility will vary depending on the building or facility‚Äôs use and whether it is newly built, altered or leased, because provisions differ for each circumstance. To that end, barrier-free accessibility requirements must be analyzed and assessed on an individual basis.  Refer to the Requirements below and use the Scoping & Exceptions information to help guide your understanding of requirements for any specific project.

The ABA Standards apply to:

  • All office space at any post, located on or off the main campus
  • All office portions of mixed-use buildings and facilities
  • All areas frequented by the public
  • All common use areas frequented by the employees
  • All areas where disabled persons may be employed
  • All residential portions of mixed-use buildings and facilities
  • All representational housing
  • A defined percentage of all non-representational dwelling units (1 unit or 5% of all units, whichever is greater)
  • All public access areas of a Marine Security Guard Residence (MSGR)

When local standards contain any individual measures that differ from OBO requirements, the Architect of Record must make a comparison and choose the more stringent measure in consultation with OBO.


New Buildings

All areas of newly designed and newly constructed buildings and facilities must comply with the Standards.

Newly constructed additions to existing buildings or facilities, including leased buildings or facilities, must comply with the requirements for new construction.

Existing Buildings

The U.S. Department of State routinely executes a wide variety of projects to alter its buildings in order to accommodate changing functional and security needs.

Alterations to existing buildings or facilities, including leased buildings or facilities, shall comply with the ABA Standards to the extent feasible.  When strict application of the ABA Standards is technically infeasible (as defined in the Standards), then alternative methods must be employed to provide equivalent facilitation.  If an alteration project affects a primary function area, then an accessible route must be provided from the appropriate entrance to the primary function area, even if the route is otherwise outside the scope of work.

Historic Buildings

Alterations to qualified historic buildings and facilities must comply with the ABA Standards.  Such alterations and modifications must be referred to the Office of Design and Engineering (OBO/PDCS/DE) and the Office of Residential Design and Cultural Heritage (OBO/OPS/CH) for review.

These offices will determine a course of action that mitigates destruction or degradation of historic or cultural value. The proposed modifications will consider host-nation preservation requirements, terms and conditions of any lease, and functional needs. Where OBO/PDCS/DE and OBO/OPS/CH determine that strict compliance would threaten or destroy the historical significance of a building, the exceptions for alterations to qualified historic buildings must be permitted, which allow alternative means.