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Commonwealth Court Blocks Building Code Accessibility Updates

Posted by James W. Creenan | Oct 28, 2022

Pennsylvania Capitol

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court removed a recent piece from the complicated patchwork of laws and industry standards that form the Commonwealth's construction codes under the Construction Code Act.  35 P.S. §§ 7210.101-7210.1103.  The Commonwealth Court granted an application by the Pennsylvania Builders Association to halt enforcement of the Department of Labor & Industry's regulations adopting ICC's 2021 amendments to accessibility provisions of the International Building Code, International Existing Building Code, and International Swimming Pool and Spa Code (collectively, 2021 Accessibility Regulations). 

The Commonwealth Court found the General Assembly's direction to the Department to adopt these standards without the opportunity for modification after public input constituted an impermissible delegation of rule-making authority.

Here is a link to the case:

479MD21_10-26-22.pdf (

So, what exactly was stricken?   

The multi-disciplinary International Code Council (ICC) continuously updates its codes and publishes new codifications every 3 years.  Generally, the Department of Labor & Industry adopts the update as the controlling version code under the CCA.  Municipal ordinances generally adopt the CCA as the local building code without modifications.  According to the ICC, the following accessibility provisions were included in the 2021 code:

"The intent of ICC A117.1-2017 is to allow a person with physical disability to independently get to, enter, and use a site, facility, building or element. The specifications in the standard makes sites, facilities, buildings and elements accessible to and usable by people with such disabilities as the inability to walk, difficulty walking, reliance on walking aids, blindness and visual impairment, deafness and hearing impairment, incoordination, reaching and manipulation disabilities, lack of stamina, difficulty in interpreting and reacting to sensory information, and extremes in physical size."

This updated edition of the standard continues the tradition of aligning provisions with ADAAG and Fair Housing Design Guidelines, but it also provides greater accessibility for the evolving disabled communities and new elements of a building design. The standard includes:

  • For new buildings and additions, enhanced dimensions for the clear floor space, turning space and the accessible route. This will affect the space provided at elements and will increase the maneuverability within such spaces for users of powered wheelchairs and scooters.
  • Provisions incorporating many of the latest criteria for public rights of way provisions for curb cuts, blended transitions, detectable warnings, diagonal parking and street parking (PROWAG).
  • New provision to improve safety for an accessible route traversing a parking lot.
  • New provisions to facilitate charging of powered wheelchairs where they will be parked for duration, such as in accessible hotel rooms and at some wheelchair seating in assembly spaces.
  • New provisions addressing accessibility at electric vehicle charging stations
  • New provisions for water bottle filling stations.
  • New provisions that address spaces for sign language interpreter stations and sign language video booths.
  • A new section addressing classroom acoustics that aims to improve acoustics in the rooms and to reduce the intrusion of noises from outside the classroom, thereby enhancing the learning environment.

This standard is intended for adoption by government agencies and by organizations setting model codes to achieve uniformity in the technical design criteria in building codes and other regulations.

About the Author

James W. Creenan


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