This page contains document links to Construction Criteria Base

Assessment Tools for Accessibility

by Peter A. Stratton and Mark Jackson
Steven Winter Associates, Inc.

Last updated: 07-31-2013


This Resource Page describes tools that help make it easier for designers, developers, and contractors to assess, survey, or audit facilities for accessibility for people with disabilities. While several of the tools are intended for new construction or alteration projects, they can also be used to survey existing buildings to identify those features or elements in need of modifications. Keep in mind that once a building is constructed and compliance is called into question, a physical survey of the building and site will be required to identify non compliance with applicable federal laws, including the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) of 1968, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended (ADA), or the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (FHA).


A. Checklists

Checklists used as a guide for conducting surveys of existing facilities to determine compliance with applicable accessible design and construction requirements can be useful. However, many commercially available checklists do not include accurate and updated information and can be misleading. Using checklists available from trusted sources, such as the US Access Board or the US Department of Justice is the best way to inform the survey process. Visit or for surveys which can be used on a variety of facility types.

B. Survey Instruments

Digital Level (Digital Inclinometer)

The most efficient tool used to measure the slope of a ground or floor surface is the digital level, also known as a digital inclinometer. A 24-inch long digital level is recommended because it is close to the width of a standard wheelchair. The digital level can be set to measure percent slope, degrees, or pitch (inches of rise per foot of run). Measuring percent slope is all that is needed to determine whether the running or cross slope of a surface is compliant with the maximum percent slope permitted. To maintain consistency and accuracy, it is important to ensure that the level readout is always set to percent slope. Be sure to calibrate the level according to manufacturer's instructions; Once calibrated, place it on the ground or floor surface—it automatically displays the percent slope.

Door Pressure Gauge

The force required to open doors must be minimal so that they can be easily operated by those who might have limited upper body strength (such as the elderly), challenges with manual dexterity, or any other issue that might make opening heavy doors a challenge. Today, using a door pressure gauge is an efficient tool to assess compliance with requirements for opening force. To assess door pressure, open the door minimally; then, put the tip of the gauge against the door and use it to push the door open. . The readout on the gauge will indicate the force required to open the door. The door pressure gauge can determine if the force required to open a door is greater than that permitted.

Relevant Codes, Standards, and Guidelines

Codes and Standards



Additional Resources


Building / Space Types

Applicable to most building types and space types, especially Courthouses and Courtrooms

Design Objectives

Accessible Branch, Aesthetics, Functional / Operational, Historic Preservation—Provide Accessibility for Historic Buildings, Productive—Design for the Changing Workplace, Productive—Provide Comfortable Environments, Secure / Safe—Ensure Occupant Safety and Health, Sustainable—Optimize Operational and Maintenance Practices

Products and Systems

Building Envelope Design Guide: Exterior Doors
Federal Green Construction Guide for Specifiers:

Project Management

Building Commissioning

Federal Agencies

The major resource for guidance on accessible design is the U.S. Access Board (Access Board). The Access Board is an independent federal agency devoted to accessibility for people with disabilities. Key responsibilities of the Board include developing and maintaining accessibility requirements for the built environment, transit vehicles, telecommunications equipment, and electronic and information technology; providing technical assistance and training on these guidelines; and enforcing accessibility standards for federally funded facilities. For additional resources, see the Access Board's Links Page.