This year marks the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, widely known as the ADA. A landmark civil rights law, the ADA has made the built environment far more accessible for individuals with mobility, visual, and hearing disabilities. Today architects routinely incorporate accessibility into their projects, resulting in buildings that all people—families with strollers, the elderly, and the disabled—benefit from every day. 
 
Providing access to historic sites and buildings is one area where the ADA’s positive impact has been widely felt. Prior to the passage of the ADA, accessibility in federal buildings was mandated by the the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. In 1980, the NPS published Access to Historic Buildings for the Disabled to promote increased accessibility at historic sites through sensitive change, and Accommodation of Disabled Visitors at Historic Sites in the National Park System was published in 1983 to focus on the buildings within the national parks. 
 
With the passage of the ADA, many owners of historic buildings in the early 1990s were concerned that the ADA would require unsympathetic alteration of significant features and spaces to meet the new accessibility requirements. The National Park Service’s Technical Preservation Services Branch again assumed a leadership role to educate the public about the new law, explain its special provisions for historic buildings, and demonstrate creative solutions for universal access. The NPS partnered with Historic Windsor, Inc. to develop and sponsor training workshops and a resource guide about making historic sites accessible. In 1993, the NPS published Preservation Brief 32: Making Historic Properties Accessible, which highlighted strategies for making sensitive accessibility modifications. 
 
Recognizing that historic preservation is fundamentally about managing change sensitively, as designers our task is to balance the need to accommodate accessibility for historic buildings and landscapes with the preservation of those features that convey the property’s historic significance. We have come a long way in 25 years. The ADA has taught us that with creativity and thoughtful design, history can be made accessible to all.