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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Getting Around: Physical Accessibility of Spaces: Building Modifications

This guide provides information and resources about design and technology for mobile accessibility.

Why is Building Accessibility Important?

Group of symbolized people some standing, some using a wheelchairBuildings that are accessible are important because it allows for more equal, and hopefully equitable, access for people with various abilities. Accessibility can often be more easily achieved with new construction, as it can be taken into account from the first designs. However, existing buildings, especially older buildings, are often not accessible people with varied abilities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits "discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and governmental activities." Included in the act was standards for accessible building design. The ADA published new ADA Standards for Accessible Design in 2010.

Although it is now required by law for new buildings to be accessible to people of varied abilities, the bare minimum of accessibility required is often not enough for all people to have equitable access.

Accessible Design

Image of signage for accessibilitySigns

Signage is an easy and affordable way to make your building a bit more accessible to those with disabilities. If your building has accessible entrances or bathroom stalls, make signage giving directions. Signage can make accessibility more obvious and can increase privacy by preventing those with disabilities from having to self-disclose to staff.



Ramps are an important aspect in making entrances and floor levels accessible. Ramps can be built in to the building infrastructure or can be placed over stairs. They can also be cut into sidewalk curbs for wheelchair and stroller accessible (only two examples).

Interior Design

Lighting can be important for those who are visually impaired. Try to make sure your building is evenly lighted, avoiding too bright or too dark. Try to avoid glossy surfaces, which can create glares.

For walls and floors, use contrasting colors so they are easy to differentiate.

Finding Accessible Products

Accessibility Maps

Many communities will have accessibility maps. These maps show information about accessible buildings. Below is the U of I ADA Accessibility Map: