Report finds widespread accessibility violations at the Capitol

Angled Horizontal Shot of Full Capitol
U.S. Capitol Building

A new report from the Congressional Office of Compliance concludes that the vast majority of the curbs and sidewalks surrounding the U.S. Capitol and its adjacent legislative buildings fall short of Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility standards.

“Most curb ramps were not in compliance with the ADA, and most of the identified barriers posed a safety risk to people with disabilities, such as ramps or sidewalks that could cause wheelchairs to flip backwards or fall sideways,” the report stated.

In its inspection of the curbs and sidewalks surrounding the Cannon, Longworth and Rayburn House offices, it found that 93 percent of the curbs and 71 percent of the sidewalks were out of compliance.

Additionally, a survey of six bathrooms in each of the House and Senate offices found that that none of the facilities fully complied with ADA standards.

“They clearly identified quite a number of serious barriers that could really inhibit the ability of people with disabilities … to interact with representatives,” Curt Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network, told Politico. “The Congress is the one that passed this statute, so they should be the gold standard.

“We said from 1990 forward, everything that’s new has to be accessible. And reading that even recent construction didn’t really get it right is very, very distressing to the community.”

Congress created the Office of Compliance in 1995 to ensure that the Legislative Branch could not exempt itself from federal workplace and safety standards. In the report, the office stressed that its limited budget restricted it from conducting a more complete ADA investigation.

This year’s report is the first time that the Office specifically analyzed the offices for ADA compliance .

“In addition to being statutorily required, removing barriers to access to Legislative Branch facilities allows employees and Members with disabilities to perform their duties and responsibilities and permits constituents visiting Congress to exercise their constitutional rights to petition their representatives, to attend and testify at public hearings, and to receive equal access to the tax-support public services offered by the Legislative Branch offices,” the report stated.