Administrative Read Reference

Public Libraries and the Law

Illinois Environmental Barriers Act and Accessibility Code

Governmental units in Illinois, including libraries, must comply with the Environmental Barriers Act of Illinois. Generally, the Act [410 ILCS 25/] relates to any public facility, meaning "any building, structure or improved area" (owned, leased, or financed in whole or in part by a governmental unit) including public telephones, drinking fountains, and restrooms. "Improved areas" include parking areas, sidewalks, ramps, and landscaped areas.

"Environmental barriers" are features of the built environment that restrict access to or use of the built environment by a person with a "physical, mental, or communication disability or condition". The State, through its Capital Development Board, has adopted and published its Accessibility Code ("Standards") which dictates the minimum design, construction, and alteration requirements. These standards apply to any new facility or portion thereof constructed after September 25, 1985. They also apply to alterations of existing public facilities as discussed below.

If an alteration costs more than 15% but less than 50% of the reproduction cost of the facility, the standards must be met in the part being altered and in the means of ingress and egress intended for general public use. If the alteration costs more than 50% of the reproduction cost of the facility, the entire facility must meet the standards. If the alteration is less than 15%, compliance with the standards is not mandatory unless the cost of the alteration is $100,000 or more, and then the portion altered must comply. In the case of alterations, the percentage calculation is the total actual combined costs of alterations made within any 30-month period.

In no case should any alteration create an environmental barrier. There are severe penalties under the Act for any architects or engineers signing compliance certificates where the Act is violated or for the person issuing building permits. Moreover, any owner could be guilty of a business offense and fined up to $1,000.

Finally, with respect to governmental units leasing or renting facilities or parts thereof that do not comply with the standards, "all reasonable efforts to terminate such lease, rental, or use by January 1, 1990" was to be made.