Accessibility Fact Sheet

Inside one of the nation"s most revered historic landmarks, San Francisco has created the most accessible public space in the nation.

Until not long ago, there was a sign on the corner of Polk and Grove that pointed to the side entrance to the basement and said, "DELIVERIES AND HANDICAPPEDS." That was the state of accessibility. That was our version of Jim Crow. Even when a ramp was installed in 1985, it went to the back door on Van Ness.

A person in a wheelchair has never been able to enter City Hall by the front door... until today, Tuesday, January 5th 1999 at noon!

The residents of San Francisco voted for three things when they approved the bond measures for City Hall:

1. Seismic safety
2. Modernization
3. Accessibility.

Citizens of San Francisco are now the proud owners of the most accessible national landmark in the nation. The work completed with City, State and Federal funds has preserved the historic importance and feel of this landmark, while opening it up to use and access by all of our citizens for the first time.

There has often been a struggle between historic preservation and accessibility. San Francisco has proven that with imagination and determination, the conflict can be resolved to benefit both in a win win for all of our citizens.

City Hall has been modified to preserve historic features and add full accessibility:
  • The front door to City Hall -- the ceremonial entrance -- is accessible to people with disabilities for the first time!
  • All entries on all four sides are now accessible.
  • There are now assistive listening systems for the deaf in all assembly areas.
  • Innovative "Talking Signs" provide directions throughout the building to blind visitors.
  • There is now an accessible path of travel to every public space in the entire building.
  • The beautiful "Hall of Records" Mezzanine is now accessible via an elevator.
  • The second floor gallery is now accessible via a ramp. This overlook to public events had always been "off limits to people with serious mobility limitations.
  • There are accessible public restrooms on every floor. Over thirty restrooms throughout the building are now accessible.
  • The dias in every hearing room and the press room is for the first time accessible to everyone.
  • Speaking lecterns are accessible.
  • All heavy doors to public areas now have inconspicuous power assist.
  • Details of handrails and stairways are now accessible.
  • New service counters on the first floor are accessible.
  • Historic service counters include new accessible sections.
  • Elevators finally have fully accessible controls and signaling.
  • Employee furniture systems are all now fully accessible.
  • Historic leather clad doorways too heavy for people in wheelchairs and others to maneuver now have power assist technology.
  • Narrow historic doorways that could not be modified have fold back hinges to increase the maneuvering room to the 32 inches found on new doors.
  • Accessible "areas of refuge" are now provided in the case of fire for people with disabilities.
  • All public telephones now comply with accessible technology requirements.
  • There are public telephone devices for the deaf (TDD"s) on every floor.
  • In short, inside one of the nation"s most revered historic landmarks, San Francisco has created the most accessible public space in the nation.
  • Architect Arthur Brown would be proud of how his building"s life has been extended and expanded. These modifications are entirely within his spirit of community inclusion in public spaces. We"re sure that were he alive today, he would approve of the modifications that have extended the usefulness of his treasure to all the residents and visitors of San Francisco.

This was not an easy accomplishment. Many battles along the way made this success possible. The final result, though, is one that everyone can be proud of.

With the re-dedication of this beloved building, City government is sending a signal of inclusion to people with disabilities.

San Francisco Mayor's Disability Council
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