Land Development Services

CONTACT INFORMATION: Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. and Friday, 9:15 a.m. - 4 p.m. Please note that visitors may not be added to in-person queues past 3:45 p.m.
703-222-0801 TTY 711
12055 Government Center Pkwy
Fairfax, VA 22035
Bill Hicks

Accessibility Fundamentals for Building and Site

People living with a disability have different needs to ensure a home is accessible to them. Most homes require at least some modification to achieve this.  Examples include installation of grab bars and upgrades to doorways and bathrooms inside the home (i.e., building-related accessible improvements). Site-related improvements may include replacing outdoor steps with ramps, adding walkways and trails and installing a parking area in the front yard. Building-related accessible improvements must be compliant with the Virginia Construction Code. Site improvements must be designed to be compliant with the county’s land development regulations.

The information below provides basic building and site-related fundamentals that must be considered in the design of an accessible improvement and does not include all of the provisions you may encounter.

Please Note: While the spirit and intent of the Americans With Disabilities Act and the building code are the same, the technical provisions are not. A new building or renovated space must be carefully designed to meet the requirements of both laws. In the same way, a proposed site improvement must be carefully designed to meet the requirements of both ADA and the county’s land development regulations. However, Fairfax County only enforces state law and county land development regulations, and therefore this page does not include any information regarding the ADA.


Building-Related Accessibility Fundamentals

The information below provides basic accessibility provisions of the Virginia Construction Code.

For more information, go to our FAQs, email us or call the Building Division at 703-222-0801, TTY 711.

Alterations to Existing Construction

Alterations and new components to a space or area in an existing building shall be fully accessible. The accessible route to the altered area must be upgraded to a limitation of 20 percent of the cost of the alterations (this includes mechanical, electrical and plumbing).

For example: A new office tenant is to fill a suite at an existing office building. The alterations in the suite include new offices, corridors and an open office area. Cost: $100,000. Therefore, an additional $20,000 or 20 percent of the project cost, must be spent to upgrade the accessible route.


  • Accessible entrance
  • Wheelchair accessible toilets
  • Accessible lavatories
  • Accessible drinking fountains
  • Door clearances
  • Levered door hardware
  • Signage
  • Accessible elevators



  • A door may swing into the wheelchair turning space.
  • Fixtures may not encroach into the clear floor space of other fixtures. However, fixture clear floor spaces and the wheelchair turning space may overlap.


Wheelchair Requirements

The clear floor space required to accommodate a wheelchair and its occupant is shown in Figure 1. For a wheelchair user to make a 180° degree turn, a circular floor space is required, see Figure 2. An alternate to the circular floor space is a T-shaped space; see ICC/ANSI A117.1 for more information.

Wheelchair Clear Floor Space
Figure 1: Wheelchair Clear Floor Space



Wheelchair Turning Space
Figure 2: Wheelchair Turning Space


An accessible route is a path which connects accessible spaces. It includes paths from accessible parking to the building entrance, restrooms, drinking fountains, corridors, hallways, ramps, elevators, etc. The clear width of an accessible route and the minimum width when passing by an obstruction is shown in Figure 3. Doors within an accessible route must meet the requirements shown in Figure 3. Doors within an accessible route must meet requirements shown in Figure 4 for pull side; see ICC/ANSI A117.1 for push side requirements.

Minimum Clear Width for Single Wheelchair
Figure 3: Minimum Clear Width for Single Wheelchair



Swinging Door Pull Side Approach
Figure 4: Swinging Door Pull Side Approach


At least one of each fixture type (i.e., lavatory, water closet) provided in all public toilet rooms shall be accessible. See Figures 5 - 9 for more information. All accessible toilet rooms shall be provided with unobstructed wheelchair turning space (Figure 2) and all accessible fixtures shall also have an unobstructed clear floor space. In multiple user toilet rooms, at least one toilet stall shall be wheelchair accessible. When six or more water closets are provided, at least one additional stall shall be ambulatory accessible. See ICC/ANSI A117.1 for more information.


Clear Floor space at Water Closets
Figure 5: Clear Floor Space at Water Closets
NOTE: Lavatories may not encroach into clear floor space.



Wheelchair Accessible Stall
Figure 6: Wheelchair Accessible Compartment



Side wall grab bar for water closet
Figure 7: Side Wall Grab Bars
NOTE: Bars shall resist 250 pounds (1100 N) force in any direction.


Typical Grab Bars
Figure 8: Typical Grab Bars



Typical Single User Toilet Room
Figure 9: Typical Single User Toilet Room


When a space undergoes a change of use or change of occupancy, it must be upgraded to meet the requirements of new construction, unless technically infeasible. In addition, the existing building must also be upgraded to meet all the items listed below:

  1. At least on accessible entrance
  2. At least one accessible route from an accessible entrance to the primary function areas (this includes elevators)
  3. Signage
  4. Accessible parking
  5. At least one accessible passenger loading zone (when one is provided)
  6. At least one accessible route connecting parking, loading zone and entrance



When providing an accessible element would involve the removal or alteration of a structural member that is an essential part of the structural frame.


Site-Related Accessibility Fundamentals

The information below provides key land use and environmental regulations that must be considered when making improvements to make your home and lot more accessible.

For more information, go to our FAQsemail us or call the  Engineer of the Day at 703-222-0801, TTY 711.

  • Article 6 (Parking and Loading) of the Zoning Ordinance (ZO) limits paving and impervious coverage of front yards. Refer to the Residential Paving and Yard Coverage flyer for information regarding coverage limitations as well as exceptions for accessibility improvements and lots with narrow front yards.
  • A redesignation plan to provide an accessible parking space does not need to be certified by an engineer or land surveyor and any such plan that reduces the number of parking spaces below the minimum requirements of Article 6 may be approved.
  • Article 8 (Review Procedures) exempts walkways, paving, changes to decks for example from submission of a minor site plan or other site plan as long as the activity does not exceed 2,500 square feet of disturbed land area or 500 square feet of gross floor in accordance with 8100.7D(17).  Section 8100.7C(1)C allows developers to submit a minor site plan in lieu of a site plan for additions and alterations to provide an accessibility improvement.

  • RPAs are regulated waterbodies and associated corridors of environmentally sensitive land that lie alongside or near the shorelines of streams, rivers and other waterways which drain into the Potomac River and eventually into the Chesapeake Bay. In their natural condition, RPAs protect water quality, filter pollutants from stormwater runoff, reduce the volume of stormwater runoff, prevent erosion and perform other important biological and ecological functions. Development, uses and activities within RPAs, must comply with the County’s Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance, which does provide for a limited number of specific exemptions regarding the construction of accessibility features such as access paths. The county has prepared guidance maps showing estimated locations of the RPAs.
  • Any development, land disturbing activity or other use within an RPA generally requires prior approval from the county. The Site Development & Inspections Division of plan reviewers and inspectors ensure that the development of residential and commercial projects meets applicable county, state and federal regulations.
  • The specific type of RPA request and procedure for obtaining the approval depends on the nature and extent of the proposed encroachment. 
  • Refer to FAQs: Resource Protection Areas.

  • Go to the Fairfax County Floodplain Viewer to locate floodplains in Fairfax County. The Floodplain Viewer centralizes all floodplain data and related information into one application.
  •  If the proposed project is located within 15 feet of a floodplain boundary, or for decks within the floodplain boundary, a Floodplain Use Determination (FPUD) is required separate from the RPA request.
  • All proposed uses and development must be reviewed by a Land Development Services reviewer to determine whether the work encroaches within a floodplain and if it complies with the floodplain regulations found Zoning Ordinance.

  • The PFM governs the design of new construction and includes requirements and guidance on sidewalks, trails, streets, utilities, stormwater management, tree conservation, soils and erosion and sediment control.    
  • A modification or waiver of the PFM can be considered by the director of Land Development Services (LDS); however, the director has no authority to modify any state or federal mandate.
  • Accessible parking spaces and related access aisles and accessible routes must comply with the provisions of the USBC/Virginia Construction Code  and the PFM.

Additional Resources

  • Land Development Services reviews site, subdivision and building plans, and issues all applicable site and building permits. 
  • If you are unsure whether you need a permit or not, visit our When a Permit is Required page for more information.
  • PLUS is the central platform to create and submit applications online, pay fees, track application status a receive electronic notifications. Customers can create and submit their zoning, building, permitting or other land development plans online through PLUS.
  • JADE is a comprehensive mapping application designed to provide the public with map layers, reports, aerial imagery, and analytical tools to explore county data and business processes. This brief video introduces the basics of GIS in Fairfax County.
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