2010 ADA Standards vs PROWAG

There are a few key differences between the 2010 ADA standards and the Public Right of Way Accessibility Guidelines (PROWAG).

Individual sites can be leveled and ramped to provide for accessibility, however doing so within the public right of way is not universally feasible, that is it is just not possible to flatten the world and not practical to ramp all slopes to the specifications of the 2010 Standards.

What are the Standards and Guidelines?

The 2010 ADA Standards are the 2nd iteration of uniform accessibility Standards for new design/construction and alterations for entities covered by Titles II and III of the ADA. Standards with a capital “S” because they are adopted and enforceable by the Department of Justice. These are not building codes. These are physical access requirements to ensure the civil right to access the goods and services of public buildings and sites for most people with disabilities. A site is a centralized defined area controlled by a covered entity including all spaces and elements within that perimeter, examples can be a building + parking lot or a city park.

Public Right of Way Accessibility Guidelines (PROWAG) are guidelines for physical access for elements located within the public right of way. The public right of way is the roads, sidewalks, and shared-use paths controlled by a public entity. These are currently non-enforceable guidelines at this point.

Why use PROWAG instead of the Standards?

The US Access Board developed both the 2010 ADA Standards and PROWAG. The following statement from the US Access Board outlines the notion that the ADA Standards were never intended to readily apply to the public right of way:

“Sidewalks, street crossings, and other elements in the public right-of-way can pose challenges to accessibility. The Board’s ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines focus mainly on facilities on sites. While they address certain features common to public sidewalks, such as curb ramps, further guidance is necessary to address conditions and constraints unique to public rights-of-way.

The Board is developing new guidelines for public rights-of-way that will address various issues, including access for blind pedestrians at street crossings, wheelchair access to on-street parking, and various constraints posed by space limitations, roadway design practices, slope, and terrain. The new guidelines will cover pedestrian access to sidewalks and streets, including crosswalks, curb ramps, street furnishings, pedestrian signals, parking, and other components of public rights-of-way. The Board’s aim in developing these guidelines is to ensure that access for persons with disabilities is provided wherever a pedestrian way is newly built or altered and that the same degree of convenience, connection, and safety afforded the public generally is available to pedestrians with disabilities. Once these guidelines are adopted by the Department of Justice, they will become enforceable standards under title II of the ADA.”

What are the examples of the differences between PROWAG and the Standards?

Key differences exist between the 2010 ADA Standards and the proposed PROWAG. Some of the differences may be viewed as more stringent, but for the most part, PROWAG provides for technical requirements which are much more readily achievable within a right of way sets.

Below is a non-exhaustive comparison between 2010 Standards and PROWAG (for simplicity sake, consider an Accessible Route and Pedestrian Access Route to be roughly similar equivalent):

  • A Pedestrian Access Route (PAR) has a continuous width requirement of 4 feet minimum in the right of way and no exceptions for a temporary reduction of width. Compare to an Accessible Route (AR) on a site that is required to be 3 feet wide at a minimum and does have allowances for temporary reductions in width, down to 32 inches for up to 2 feet in length (separated by at least 48 inches before another width reduction). Both PARs and ARs will also require a 60 x 60-inch passing space at least every 200ft where the clear width is less than 5 feet.
  • A Pedestrian Access Route allows for a sidewalk to be the same grade as a roadway it follows, without the requirements for ramps. This means PARs will not require handrails and edge protection where a walkway exceeds 5% under a steep gradient of the attached roadway. An Accessible Route will always require ramps where the gradient is between 5-8.33% and also require handrails and edge protection where the rise is greater than 6 inches. Rise is also limited to 30” before a compliant landing is required.
  • Curb ramps within the meaning of the public right of way are permitted to utilize a 15ft cutoff for ramp length. This means these curb ramps can have a gradient greater the 8.33% if they reach the 15ft length. This is done to not “chase grade” indefinitely where located on a right of way with a steep slope. A curb ramp within the meaning of the 2010 Standards has no such cutoff and grades must not exceed 8.33%.
  • Detectable Warnings are required at street and rail crossings and unprotected transit stops on a Pedestrian Access Route (within the right of way or DoT facility), while they are not required at traffic crossing on an Accessible Route (on a site), but are also required on unprotected transit stops.
  • In situations where vehicular traffic is not required to slow or stop at all times when bisected by a pedestrian crossing (i.e. without Yield or Stop Control), the cross-slope of the Pedestrian Access Route at the crossing is allowed to be as steep as 5% in grade. The reasoning for this is the PAR cross-slope is the vehicular traffic running slope, and because where a section of road flattens abruptly in the path of vehicular traffic that does not slow may cause the vehicles to bottom-out while traveling at speed. Where pedestrian access routes are contained within midblock pedestrian street crossings, the cross-slope of the pedestrian access route is permitted to equal the street or highway grade. Where a stop sign or yield sign/signal exists, that traffic must always stop or slow, the PAR should have a 2% maximum cross slope. Where a vehicle is always expected to slow or stop, the cross-slope requirements become more stringent. The cross slope of any Accessible Route on a site is limited to 2% maximum.
  • Accessible On-Street Parking requirements are covered in PROWAG, however, they are not addressed within the 2010 Standards.

What does the FHWA have to say about PROWAG?

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is an agency within the Department of Transportation and has administrative authority to ensure that recipients of Federal-aid and State and local entities that are responsible for roadways and pedestrian facilities do not discriminate based on disability in any highway transportation program, activity, service or benefit they provide to the general public; and to ensure that people with disabilities have equitable opportunities to use the public rights-of-way system.

The following citations are the important takeaways from a Federal Highway Administration memorandum (2005) regarding using PROWAG as a best practice in the absence of enforceable Standards:

“The purpose of this notice is to inform you that the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) published revised draft accessibility guidelines for public rights-of-way…”

“…They cover pedestrian access to sidewalks and streets, including crosswalks, curb ramps, street furnishings, pedestrian signals, parking, and other components of public rights-of-way.”

“The Guidelines are the currently recommended best practices and can be considered the state of the practice that could be followed for areas not fully addressed by the present standards. Further, the Guidelines are consistent with the ADA's requirement that all new facilities (and altered facilities to the maximum extent feasible) be designed and constructed to be accessible to and useable by people with disabilities.”

The FHWA is legally obligated to implement compliance procedures relating to transportation and the FHWA Office of Civil Rights oversees compliance. The FHWA meets in regulatory responsibility by ensuring that recipients of Federal-aid and State and local entities that are responsible for roadways and pedestrian facilities…

  1. have a transition plan setting forth the steps necessary to make its existing facilities accessible to persons with disabilities, typically referred to as updates,
  2. that new construction or alteration of the public right-of-way be made accessible to persons with disabilities as per the ADA and Section 504,
  3. investigating external complaints of discrimination, and
  4. providing training on ADA and Section 504 compliance.

Examples of Alterations vs Normal Maintenance in the Right-Of-Way

Alterations and Maintenance in the Public Right-of-Way as determined by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration


  • Addition of New Layer of Asphalt
  • Mill & Fill/Mill & Overlay
  • Cape Seals
  • New Construction
  • Hot In-Place Recycling
  • Open-graded Surface Course
  • Microsurfacing/Thin-Lift Overlay
  • Rehabilitation & Reconstruction


  • Chip Seals
  • Joint repairs
  • Crack Filling and Sealing
  • Pavement Patching
  • Diamond Grinding Treatments
  • Scrub Sealing
  • Dowel Bar Retrofit
  • Slurry Seals
  • Fog Seals
  • Spot High-Friction
  • Joint Crack Seals
  • Surface Sealing