Americans with Disabilities Act
Questions and Answers
Barriers to employment, transportation, public accommodations,
public services, and telecommunications have imposed staggering
economic and social costs on American society and have undermined
our well-intentioned efforts to educate, rehabilitate, and employ
individuals with disabilities. By breaking down these barriers,
the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will enable society to
benefit from the skills and talents of individuals with
disabilities, will allow us all to gain from their increased
purchasing power and ability to use it, and will lead to fuller,
more productive lives for all Americans.
The Americans with
Disabilities Act gives civil rights protections to individuals
with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the
basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It
guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in
public accommodations, employment, transportation, State and local
government services, and telecommunications.
Following are answers to some of the most often
asked questions about the ADA.
employers are covered by title I of the ADA, and when is the
title I employment provisions apply to private employers, State
and local governments, employment agencies, and labor unions.
Employers with 25 or more employees were covered as of July 26,
1992. Employers with 15 or more employees were covered two years
later, beginning July 26, 1994.
practices and activities are covered by the employment
The ADA prohibits
discrimination in all employment practices, including job
application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation,
training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of
employment. It applies to recruitment, advertising, tenure,
layoff, leave, fringe benefits, and all other employment-related
Who is protected from employment
Employment discrimination is
prohibited against "qualified individuals with disabilities." This
includes applicants for employment and employees. An individual is
considered to have a "disability" if s/he has a physical or mental
impairment that substantially limits one or more major life
activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as
having such an impairment. Persons discriminated against because
they have a known association or relationship with an individual
with a disability also are protected.
The first part of the
definition makes clear that the ADA applies to persons who have
impairments and that these must substantially limit major life
activities such as seeing, hearing, speaking, walking, breathing,
performing manual tasks, learning, caring for oneself, and
working. An individual with epilepsy, paralysis, HIV infection,
AIDS, a substantial hearing or visual impairment, mental
retardation, or a specific learning disability is covered, but an
individual with a minor, nonchronic condition of short duration,
such as a sprain, broken limb, or the flu, generally would not be
The second part of the definition protecting
individuals with a record of a disability would cover, for
example, a person who has recovered from cancer or mental illness.
The third part of the definition protects individuals who are
regarded as having a substantially limiting impairment, even
though they may not have such an impairment. For example, this
provision would protect a qualified individual with a severe
facial disfigurement from being denied employment because an
employer feared the "negative reactions" of customers or
Who is a "qualified individual with
A qualified individual with a
disability is a person who meets legitimate skill, experience,
education, or other requirements of an employment position that
s/he holds or seeks, and who can perform the essential functions
of the position with or without reasonable accommodation.
Requiring the ability to perform "essential" functions assures
that an individual with a disability will not be considered
unqualified simply because of inability to perform marginal or
incidental job functions. If the individual is qualified to
perform essential job functions except for limitations caused by a
disability, the employer must consider whether the individual
could perform these functions with a reasonable accommodation. If
a written job description has been prepared in advance of
advertising or interviewing applicants for a job, this will be
considered as evidence, although not conclusive evidence, of the
essential functions of the job.
Does an employer
have to give preference to a qualified applicant with a disability
over other applicants?
No. An employer is free to
select the most qualified applicant available and to make
decisions based on reasons unrelated to a disability. For example,
suppose two persons apply for a job as a typist and an essential
function of the job is to type 75 words per minute accurately. One
applicant, an individual with a disability, who is provided with a
reasonable accommodation for a typing test, types 50 words per
minute; the other applicant who has no disability accurately types
75 words per minute. The employer can hire the applicant with the
higher typing speed, if typing speed is needed for successful
performance of the job.
What limitations does
the ADA impose on medical examinations and inquiries about
An employer may not ask or require a job
applicant to take a medical examination before making a job offer.
It cannot make any pre-employment inquiry about a disability or
the nature or severity of a disability. An employer may, however,
ask questions about the ability to perform specific job functions
and may, with certain limitations, ask an individual with a
disability to describe or demonstrate how s/he would perform these
An employer may condition a job offer on the
satisfactory result of a post-offer medical examination or medical
inquiry if this is required of all entering employees in the same
job category. A post-offer examination or inquiry does not have to
be job-related and consistent with business necessity.
However, if an individual is not hired because a post-offer
medical examination or inquiry reveals a disability, the reason(s)
for not hiring must be job-related and consistent with business
necessity. The employer also must show that no reasonable
accommodation was available that would enable the individual to
perform the essential job functions, or that accommodation would
impose an undue hardship. A post-offer medical examination may
disqualify an individual if the employer can demonstrate that the
individual would pose a "direct threat" in the workplace (i.e., a
significant risk of substantial harm to the health or safety of
the individual or others) that cannot be eliminated or reduced
below the direct threat level through reasonable accommodation.
Such a disqualification is job-related and consistent with
business necessity. A post-offer medical examination may not
disqualify an individual with a disability who is currently able
to perform essential job functions because of speculation that the
disability may cause a risk of future injury.
person starts work, a medical examination or inquiry of an
employee must be job-related and consistent with business
necessity. Employers may conduct employee medical examinations
where there is evidence of a job performance or safety problem,
examinations required by other Federal laws, examinations to
determine current fitness to perform a particular job, and
voluntary examinations that are part of employee health programs.
Information from all medical examinations and inquiries must
be kept apart from general personnel files as a separate,
confidential medical record, available only under limited
Tests for illegal use of drugs are not medical
examinations under the ADA and are not subject to the restrictions
of such examinations.
When can an employer ask
an applicant to "self-identify" as having a disability?
Federal contractors and subcontractors who are covered by the
affirmative action requirements of section 503 of the
Rehabilitation Act of 1973 may invite individuals with
disabilities to identify themselves on a job application form or
by other pre-employment inquiry, to satisfy the section 503
affirmative action requirements. Employers who request such
information must observe section 503 requirements regarding the
manner in which such information is requested and used, and the
procedures for maintaining such information as a separate,
confidential record, apart from regular personnel records.
A pre-employment inquiry about a disability is allowed if required
by another Federal law or regulation such as those applicable to
disabled veterans and veterans of the Vietnam era. Pre-employment
inquiries about disabilities may be necessary under such laws to
identify applicants or clients with disabilities in order to
provide them with required special services.
Does the ADA require employers to develop written job
No. The ADA does not require employers
to develop or maintain job descriptions. However, a written job
description that is prepared before advertising or interviewing
applicants for a job will be considered as evidence along with
other relevant factors. If an employer uses job descriptions, they
should be reviewed to make sure they accurately reflect the actual
functions of a job. A job description will be most helpful if it
focuses on the results or outcome of a job function, not solely on
the way it customarily is performed. A reasonable accommodation
may enable a person with a disability to accomplish a job function
in a manner that is different from the way an employee who is not
disabled may accomplish the same function.
is "reasonable accommodation"?
accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job or the
work environment that will enable a qualified applicant or
employee with a disability to participate in the application
process or to perform essential job functions. Reasonable
accommodation also includes adjustments to assure that a qualified
individual with a disability has rights and privileges in
employment equal to those of employees without disabilities.
What are some of the accommodations applicants and
employees may need?
Examples of reasonable
accommodation include making existing facilities used by employees
readily accessible to and usable by an individual with a
disability; restructuring a job; modifying work schedules;
acquiring or modifying equipment; providing qualified readers or
interpreters; or appropriately modifying examinations, training,
or other programs. Reasonable accommodation also may include
reassigning a current employee to a vacant position for which the
individual is qualified, if the person is unable to do the
original job because of a disability even with an accommodation.
However, there is no obligation to find a position for an
applicant who is not qualified for the position sought. Employers
are not required to lower quality or quantity standards as an
accommodation; nor are they obligated to provide personal use
items such as glasses or hearing aids.
The decision as to
the appropriate accommodation must be based on the particular
facts of each case. In selecting the particular type of reasonable
accommodation to provide, the principal test is that of effectiveness, i.e., whether the accommodation will provide an
opportunity for a person with a disability to achieve the same
level of performance and to enjoy benefits equal to those of an
average, similarly situated person without a disability. However,
the accommodation does not have to ensure equal results or provide
exactly the same benefits.
When is an employer
required to make a reasonable accommodation?
employer is only required to accommodate a "known" disability of a
qualified applicant or employee. The requirement generally will be
triggered by a request from an individual with a disability, who
frequently will be able to suggest an appropriate accommodation.
Accommodations must be made on an individual basis, because the
nature and extent of a disabling condition and the requirements of
a job will vary in each case. If the individual does not request
an accommodation, the employer is not obligated to provide one
except where an individual's known disability impairs his/her
ability to know of, or effectively communicate a need for, an
accommodation that is obvious to the employer. If a person with a
disability requests, but cannot suggest, an appropriate
accommodation, the employer and the individual should work
together to identify one. There are also many public and private
resources that can provide assistance without cost.
What are the limitations on the obligation to make a
The individual with a
disability requiring the accommodation must be otherwise
qualified, and the disability must be known to the employer. In
addition, an employer is not required to make an accommodation if
it would impose an "undue hardship" on the operation of the
employer's business. "Undue hardship" is defined as an "action
requiring significant difficulty or expense" when considered in
light of a number of factors. These factors include the nature and
cost of the accommodation in relation to the size, resources,
nature, and structure of the employer's operation. Undue hardship
is determined on a case-by-case basis. Where the facility making
the accommodation is part of a larger entity, the structure and
overall resources of the larger organization would be considered,
as well as the financial and administrative relationship of the
facility to the larger organization. In general, a larger employer
with greater resources would be expected to make accommodations
requiring greater effort or expense than would be required of a
smaller employer with fewer resources.
If a particular
accommodation would be an undue hardship, the employer must try to
identify another accommodation that will not pose such a hardship.
Also, if the cost of an accommodation would impose an undue
hardship on the employer, the individual with a disability should
be given the option of paying that portion of the cost which would
constitute an undue hardship or providing the accommodation.
Must an employer modify existing facilities to make
The employer's obligation under
title I is to provide access for an individual applicant to
participate in the job application process, and for an individual
employee with a disability to perform the essential functions of
his/her job, including access to a building, to the work site, to
needed equipment, and to all facilities used by employees. For
example, if an employee lounge is located in a place inaccessible
to an employee using a wheelchair, the lounge might be modified or
relocated, or comparable facilities might be provided in a
location that would enable the individual to take a break with
co-workers. The employer must provide such access unless it would
cause an undue hardship.
Under title I, an employer is not
required to make its existing facilities accessible until a
particular applicant or employee with a particular disability
needs an accommodation, and then the modifications should meet
that individual's work needs. However, employers should consider
initiating changes that will provide general accessibility,
particularly for job applicants, since it is likely that people
with disabilities will be applying for jobs. The employer does not
have to make changes to provide access in places or facilities
that will not be used by that individual for employment-related
activities or benefits.
Can an employer be
required to reallocate an essential function of a job to another
employee as a reasonable accommodation?
employer is not required to reallocate essential functions of a
job as a reasonable accommodation.
employer be required to modify, adjust, or make other reasonable
accommodations in the way a test is given to a qualified applicant
or employee with a disability?
may be needed to assure that tests or examinations measure the
actual ability of an individual to perform job functions rather
than reflect limitations caused by the disability. Tests should be
given to people who have sensory, speaking, or manual impairments
in a format that does not require the use of the impaired skill,
unless it is a job-related skill that the test is designed to
Can an employer maintain existing
production/performance standards for an employee with a
An employer can hold employees with
disabilities to the same standards of production/performance as
other similarly situated employees without disabilities for
performing essential job functions, with or without reasonable
accommodation. An employer also can hold employees with
disabilities to the same standards of production/performance as
other employees regarding marginal functions unless the disability
affects the person's ability to perform those marginal functions.
If the ability to perform marginal functions is affected by the
disability, the employer must provide some type of reasonable
accommodation such as job restructuring but may not exclude an
individual with a disability who is satisfactorily performing a
jobs essential functions.
Can an employer
establish specific attendance and leave policies?
employer can establish attendance and leave policies that are
uniformly applied to all employees, regardless of disability, but
may not refuse leave needed by an employee with a disability if
other employees get such leave. An employer also may be required
to make adjustments in leave policy as a reasonable accommodation.
The employer is not obligated to provide additional paid leave,
but accommodations may include leave flexibility and unpaid leave.
A uniformly applied leave policy does not violate the ADA
because it has a more severe effect on an individual because of
his/her disability. However, if an individual with a disability
requests a modification of such a policy as a reasonable
accommodation, an employer may be required to provide it, unless
it would impose an undue hardship.
employer consider health and safety when deciding whether to hire
an applicant or retain an employee with a disability?
Yes. The ADA permits employers to establish qualification
standards that will exclude individuals who pose a direct threat
-- i.e., a significant risk of substantial harm -- to the health
or safety of the individual or of others, if that risk cannot be
eliminated or reduced below the level of a direct threat by
reasonable accommodation. However, an employer may not simply
assume that a threat exists; the employer must establish through
objective, medically supportable methods that there is significant
risk that substantial harm could occur in the workplace. By
requiring employers to make individualized judgments based on
reliable medical or other objective evidence rather than on
generalizations, ignorance, fear, patronizing attitudes, or
stereotypes, the ADA recognizes the need to balance the interests
of people with disabilities against the legitimate interests of
employers in maintaining a safe workplace.
applicants or employees who are currently illegally using drugs
covered by the ADA?
No. Individuals who currently
engage in the illegal use of drugs are specifically excluded from
the definition of a "qualified individual with a disability"
protected by the ADA when the employer takes action on the basis
of their drug use.
Is testing for the illegal
use of drugs permissible under the ADA?
Yes. A test
for the illegal use of drugs is not considered a medical
examination under the ADA; therefore, employers may conduct such
testing of applicants or employees and make employment decisions
based on the results. The ADA does not encourage, prohibit, or
authorize drug tests.
If the results of a drug test reveal
the presence of a lawfully prescribed drug or other medical
information, such information must be treated as a confidential
Are alcoholics covered by the
Yes. While a current illegal user of drugs is
not protected by the ADA if an employer acts on the basis of such
use, a person who currently uses alcohol is not automatically
denied protection. An alcoholic is a person with a disability and
is protected by the ADA if s/he is qualified to perform the
essential functions of the job. An employer may be required to
provide an accommodation to an alcoholic. However, an employer can
discipline, discharge or deny employment to an alcoholic whose use
of alcohol adversely affects job performance or conduct. An
employer also may prohibit the use of alcohol in the workplace and
can require that employees not be under the influence of alcohol.
Does the ADA override Federal and State health and
The ADA does not override health and
safety requirements established under other Federal laws even if a
standard adversely affects the employment of an individual with a
disability. If a standard is required by another Federal law, an
employer must comply with it and does not have to show that the
standard is job related and consistent with business necessity.
For example, employers must conform to health and safety
requirements of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health
Administration. However, an employer still has the obligation
under the ADA to consider whether there is a reasonable
accommodation, consistent with the standards of other Federal
laws, that will prevent exclusion of qualified individuals with
disabilities who can perform jobs without violating the standards
of those laws. If an employer can comply with both the ADA and
another Federal law, then the employer must do so.
does not override State or local laws designed to protect public
health and safety, except where such laws conflict with the ADA
requirements. If there is a State or local law that would exclude
an individual with a disability from a particular job or
profession because of a health or safety risk, the employer still
must assess whether a particular individual would pose a "direct
threat" to health or safety under the ADA standard. If such a
"direct threat" exists, the employer must consider whether it
could be eliminated or reduced below the level of a "direct
threat" by reasonable accommodation. An employer cannot rely on a
State or local law that conflicts with ADA requirements as a
defense to a charge of discrimination.
the ADA affect workers' compensation programs?
injured workers who meet the ADA's definition of an "individual
with a disability" will be considered disabled under the ADA,
regardless of whether they satisfy criteria for receiving benefits
under workers' compensation or other disability laws. A worker
also must be "qualified" (with or without reasonable
accommodation) to be protected by the ADA. Work-related injuries
do not always cause physical or mental impairments severe enough
to "substantially limit" a major life activity. Also, many
on-the-job injuries cause temporary impairments which heal within
a short period of time with little or no long-term or permanent
impact. Therefore, many injured workers who qualify for benefits
under workers' compensation or other disability benefits laws may
not be protected by the ADA. An employer must consider
work-related injuries on a case-by-case basis to know if a worker
is protected by the ADA.
An employer may not inquire into
an applicant's workers' compensation history before making a
conditional offer of employment. After making a conditional job
offer, an employer may inquire about a person's workers
compensation history in a medical inquiry or examination that is
required of all applicants in the same job category. However, even
after a conditional offer has been made, an employer cannot
require a potential employee to have a medical examination because
a response to a medical inquiry (as opposed to results from a
medical examination) shows a previous on-the-job injury unless all
applicants in the same job category are required to have an
examination. Also, an employer may not base an employment decision
on the speculation that an applicant may cause increased workers'
compensation costs in the future. However, an employer may refuse
to hire, or may discharge an individual who is not currently able
to perform a job without posing a significant risk of substantial
harm to the health or safety of the individual or others, if the
risk cannot be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation.
An employer may refuse to hire or may fire a person who
knowingly provides a false answer to a lawful post-offer inquiry
about his/her condition or worker's compensation history.
An employer also may submit medical information and records
concerning employees and applicants (obtained after a conditional
job offer) to state workers' compensation offices and "second
injury" funds without violating ADA confidentiality requirements.
What is discrimination based on "relationship or
association" under the ADA?
The ADA prohibits
discrimination based on relationship or association in order to
protect individuals from actions based on unfounded assumptions
that their relationship to a person with a disability would affect
their job performance, and from actions caused by bias or
misinformation concerning certain disabilities. For example, this
provision would protect a person whose spouse has a disability
from being denied employment because of an employer's unfounded
assumption that the applicant would use excessive leave to care
for the spouse. It also would protect an individual who does
volunteer work for people with AIDS from a discriminatory
employment action motivated by that relationship or association.
How are the employment provisions enforced?
The employment provisions of the ADA are enforced under the
same procedures now applicable to race, color, sex, national
origin, and religious discrimination under title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964, as amended, and the Civil Rights Act of 1991.
Complaints regarding actions that occurred on or after July 26,
1992, may be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission or designated State human rights agencies. Available
remedies will include hiring, reinstatement, promotion, back pay,
front pay, restored benefits, reasonable accommodation, attorneys'
fees, expert witness fees, and court costs. Compensatory and
punitive damages also may be available in cases of intentional
discrimination or where an employer fails to make a good faith
effort to provide a reasonable accommodation.
What financial assistance is available to employers to help them
make reasonable accommodations and comply with the ADA?
A special tax credit is available to help smaller employers
make accommodations required by the ADA. An eligible small
business may take a tax credit of up to $5,000 per year for
accommodations made to comply with the ADA. The credit is
available for one-half the cost of "eligible access expenditures"
that are more than $250 but less than $10,250.
A full tax
deduction, up to $15,000 per year, also is available to any
business for expenses of removing qualified architectural or
transportation barriers. Expenses covered include costs of
removing barriers created by steps, narrow doors, inaccessible
parking spaces, restroom facilities, and transportation vehicles.
Additional information discussing the tax credits and deductions
is contained in the Department of Justice's ADA Tax Incentive
Packet for Businesses available from the ADA Information Line, see
page 29. Information about the tax credit and tax deduction can
also be obtained from a local IRS office, or by contacting the
Office of Chief Counsel, Internal Revenue Service.
What are an employer's recordkeeping requirements under the
employment provisions of the ADA?
An employer must
maintain records such as application forms submitted by applicants
and other records related to hiring, requests for reasonable
accommodation, promotion, demotion, transfer, lay-off or
termination, rates of pay or other terms of compensation, and
selection for training or apprenticeship for one year after making
the record or taking the action described (whichever occurs
later). If a charge of discrimination is filed or an action is
brought by EEOC, an employer must save all personnel records
related to the charge until final disposition of the charge.
Does the ADA require that an employer post a notice
explaining its requirements?
The ADA requires that
employers post a notice describing the provisions of the ADA. It
must be made accessible, as needed, to individuals with
disabilities. A poster is available from EEOC summarizing the
requirements of the ADA and other Federal legal requirements for
nondiscrimination for which EEOC has enforcement responsibility.
EEOC also provides guidance on making this information available
in accessible formats for people with disabilities.
What resources does the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission have available to help employers and people with
disabilities understand and comply with the employment
requirements of the ADA?
The Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission has developed several resources to help
employers and people with disabilities understand and comply with
the employment provisions of the ADA.
State and Local Governments
Does the ADA apply to State and local governments?
Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination against
qualified individuals with disabilities in all programs,
activities, and services of public entities. It applies to all
State and local governments, their departments and agencies, and
any other instrumentalities or special purpose districts of State
or local governments. It clarifies the requirements of section 504
of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 for public transportation
systems that receive Federal financial assistance, and extends
coverage to all public entities that provide public
transportation, whether or not they receive Federal financial
assistance. It establishes detailed standards for the operation of
public transit systems, including commuter and intercity rail
When do the requirements for State and
local governments become effective?
In general, they
became effective on January 26, 1992.
title II affect participation in a State or local government's
programs, activities, and services?
A state or local
government must eliminate any eligibility criteria for
participation in programs, activities, and services that screen
out or tend to screen out persons with disabilities, unless it can
establish that the requirements are necessary for the provision of
the service, program, or activity. The State or local government
may, however, adopt legitimate safety requirements necessary for
safe operation if they are based on real risks, not on stereotypes
or generalizations about individuals with disabilities. Finally, a
public entity must reasonably modify its policies, practices, or
procedures to avoid discrimination. If the public entity can
demonstrate that a particular modification would fundamentally
alter the nature of its service, program, or activity, it is not
required to make that modification.
II cover a public entity's employment policies and practices?
Yes. Title II prohibits all public entities, regardless
of the size of their work force, from discriminating in employment
against qualified individuals with disabilities. In addition to
title II's employment coverage, title I of the ADA and section 504
of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibit employment
discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities by
certain public entities
What changes must a
public entity make to its existing facilities to make them
A public entity must ensure that
individuals with disabilities are not excluded from services,
programs, and activities because existing buildings are
inaccessible. A State or local government's programs, when viewed
in their entirety, must be readily accessible to and usable by
individuals with disabilities. This standard, known as "program
accessibility," applies to facilities of a public entity that
existed on January 26, 1992. Public entities do not necessarily
have to make each of their existing facilities accessible. They
may provide program accessibility by a number of methods including
alteration of existing facilities, acquisition or construction of
additional facilities, relocation of a service or program to an
accessible facility, or provision of services at alternate
When must structural changes
be made to attain program accessibility?
changes needed for program accessibility must be made as
expeditiously as possible, but no later than January 26, 1995.
This three-year time period is not a grace period; all alterations
must be accomplished as expeditiously as possible. A public entity
that employs 50 or more persons must have developed a transition
plan by July 26, 1992, setting forth the steps necessary to
complete such changes.
What is a
A self-evaluation is a public
entity's assessment of its current policies and practices. The
self-evaluation identifies and corrects those policies and
practices that are inconsistent with title II's requirements. All
public entities must complete a self-evaluation by January 26,
1993. A public entity that employs 50 or more employees must
retain its self-evaluation for three years. Other public entities
are not required to retain their self-evaluations, but are
encouraged to do so because these documents evidence a public
entity's good faith efforts to comply with title II's
What does title II require for new
construction and alterations?
The ADA requires that
all new buildings constructed by a State or local government be
accessible. In addition, when a State or local government
undertakes alterations to a building, it must make the altered
How will a State or local
government know that a new building is accessible?
State or local government will be in compliance with the ADA for
new construction and alterations if it follows either of two
accessibility standards. It can choose either the Uniform Federal
Accessibility Standards or the Americans with Disabilities Act
Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities, which is
the standard that must be used for public accommodations and
commercial facilities under title III of the ADA. If the State or
local government chooses the ADA Accessibility Guidelines, it is
not entitled to the elevator exemption (which permits certain
private buildings under three stories or under 3,000 square feet
per floor to be constructed without an elevator).
What requirements apply to a public entity's emergency
telephone services, such as 911?
State and local
agencies that provide emergency telephone services must provide
"direct access" to individuals who rely on a TDD or computer modem
for telephone communication. Telephone access through a third
party or through a relay service does not satisfy the requirement
for direct access. Where a public entity provides 911 telephone
service, it may not substitute a separate seven-digit telephone
line as the sole means for access to 911 services by nonvoice
users. A public entity may, however, provide a separate
seven-digit line for the exclusive use of nonvoice callers in
addition to providing direct access for such calls to its 911
Does title II require that telephone
emergency service systems be compatible with all formats used for
No. At present, telephone
emergency services must only be compatible with the Baudot format.
Until it can be technically proven that communications in another
format can operate in a reliable and compatible manner in a given
telephone emergency environment, a public entity would not be
required to provide direct access to computer modems using formats
other than Baudot.
How will the ADA's
requirements for State and local governments be enforced?
Private individuals may bring lawsuits to enforce their
rights under title II and may receive the same remedies as those
provided under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973,
including reasonable attorney's fees. Individuals may also file
complaints with eight designated Federal agencies, including the
Department of Justice and the Department of Transportation.
What are public
A public accommodation is a private
entity that owns, operates, leases, or leases to, a place of
public accommodation. Places of public accommodation include a
wide range of entities, such as restaurants, hotels, theaters,
doctors' offices, pharmacies, retail stores, museums, libraries,
parks, private schools, and day care centers. Private clubs and
religious organizations are exempt from the ADA's title III
requirements for public accommodations.
ADA have any effect on the eligibility criteria used by public
accommodations to determine who may receive services?
Yes. If a criterion screens out or tends to screen out
individuals with disabilities, it may only be used if necessary
for the provision of the services. For instance, it would be a
violation for a retail store to have a rule excluding all deaf
persons from entering the premises, or for a movie theater to
exclude all individuals with cerebral palsy. More subtle forms of
discrimination are also prohibited. For example, requiring
presentation of a driver's license as the sole acceptable means of
identification for purposes of paying by check could constitute
discrimination against individuals with vision impairments. This
would be true if such individuals are ineligible to receive
licenses and the use of an alternative means of identification is
Does the ADA allow public
accommodations to take safety factors into consideration in
providing services to individuals with disabilities?
The ADA expressly provides that a public accommodation may exclude
an individual, if that individual poses a direct threat to the
health or safety of others that cannot be mitigated by appropriate
modifications in the public accommodation's policies or
procedures, or by the provision of auxiliary aids. A public
accommodation will be permitted to establish objective safety
criteria for the operation of its business; however, any safety
standard must be based on objective requirements rather than
stereotypes or generalizations about the ability of persons with
disabilities to participate in an activity.
there any limits on the kinds of modifications in policies,
practices, and procedures required by the ADA?
The ADA does not require modifications that would fundamentally
alter the nature of the services provided by the public
accommodation. For example, it would not be discriminatory for a
physician specialist who treats only burn patients to refer a deaf
individual to another physician for treatment of a broken limb or
respiratory ailment. To require a physician to accept patients
outside of his or her specialty would fundamentally alter the
nature of the medical practice.
What kinds of
auxiliary aids and services are required by the ADA to ensure
effective communication with individuals with hearing or vision
Appropriate auxiliary aids and services
may include services and devices such as qualified interpreters,
assistive listening devices, notetakers, and written materials for
individuals with hearing impairments; and qualified readers, taped
texts, and Brailed or large print materials for individuals with
Are there any limitations on
the ADA's auxiliary aids requirements?
Yes. The ADA
does not require the provision of any auxiliary aid that would
result in an undue burden or in a fundamental alteration in the
nature of the goods or services provided by a public
accommodation. However, the public accommodation is not relieved
from the duty to furnish an alternative auxiliary aid, if
available, that would not result in a fundamental alteration or
undue burden. Both of these limitations are derived from existing
regulations and caselaw under section 504 of the Rehabilitation
Act and are to be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Will restaurants be required to have brailed menus?
No, not if waiters or other employees are made available to
read the menu to a blind customer.
clothing store be required to have brailed price tags?
No, not if sales personnel could provide price information
orally upon request.
Will a bookstore be
required to maintain a sign language interpreter on its staff in
order to communicate with deaf customers?
No, not if
employees communicate by pen and notepad when necessary.
Are there any limitations on the ADA's barrier removal
requirements for existing facilities?
removal need be accomplished only when it is "readily achievable"
to do so.
What does the term "readily
It means "easily accomplishable
and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense."
What are examples of the types of modifications
that would be readily achievable in most cases?
Examples include the simple ramping of a few steps, the
installation of grab bars where only routine reinforcement of the
wall is required, the lowering of telephones, and similar modest
Will businesses need to rearrange
furniture and display racks?
Possibly. For example,
restaurants may need to rearrange tables and department stores may
need to adjust their layout of racks and shelves in order to
permit access to wheelchair users.
businesses need to install elevators?
not required to retrofit their facilities to install elevators
unless such installation is readily achievable, which is unlikely
in most cases.
When barrier removal is not
readily achievable, what kinds of alternative steps are required
by the ADA?
Alternatives may include such measures
as in-store assistance for removing articles from inaccessible
shelves, home delivery of groceries, or coming to the door to
receive or return dry cleaning.
steps be taken without regard to cost?
readily achievable alternative steps must be undertaken.
How is "readily achievable" determined in a multisite
In determining whether an action to make a
public accommodation accessible would be "readily achievable," the
overall size of the parent corporation or entity is only one
factor to be considered. The ADA also permits consideration of the
financial resources of the particular facility or facilities
involved and the administrative or fiscal relationship of the
facility or facilities to the parent entity.
has responsibility for ADA compliance in leased places of public
accommodation, the landlord or the tenant?
places the legal obligation to remove barriers or provide
auxiliary aids and services on both the landlord and the tenant.
The landlord and the tenant may decide by lease who will actually
make the changes and provide the aids and services, but both
remain legally responsible.
What does the ADA
require in new construction?
The ADA requires that
all new construction of places of public accommodation, as well as
of "commercial facilities" such as office buildings, be
accessible. Elevators are generally not required in facilities
under three stories or with fewer than 3,000 square feet per
floor, unless the building is a shopping center or mall; the
professional office of a health care provider; a terminal, depot,
or other public transit station; or an airport passenger terminal.
Is it expensive to make all newly constructed
places of public accommodation and commercial facilities
The cost of incorporating accessibility
features in new construction is less than one percent of
construction costs. This is a small price in relation to the
economic benefits to be derived from full accessibility in the
future, such as increased employment and consumer spending and
decreased welfare dependency.
Must every feature
of a new facility be accessible?
No, only a
specified number of elements such as parking spaces and drinking
fountains must be made accessible in order for a facility to be
"readily accessible." Certain nonoccupiable spaces such as
elevator pits, elevator penthouses, and piping or equipment
catwalks need not be accessible.
What are the
ADA requirements for altering facilities?
alterations that could affect the usability of a facility must be
made in an accessible manner to the maximum extent feasible. For
example, if during renovations a doorway is being relocated, the
new doorway must be wide enough to meet the new construction
standard for accessibility. When alterations are made to a primary
function area, such as the lobby of a bank or the dining area of a
cafeteria, an accessible path of travel to the altered area must
also be provided. The bathrooms, telephones, and drinking
fountains serving that area must also be made accessible. These
additional accessibility alterations are only required to the
extent that the added accessibility costs do not exceed 20% of the
cost of the original alteration. Elevators are generally not
required in facilities under three stories or with fewer than
3,000 square feet per floor, unless the building is a shopping
center or mall; the professional office of a health care provider;
a terminal, depot, or other public transit station; or an airport
Does the ADA permit an
individual with a disability to sue a business when that
individual believes that discrimination is about to occur, or must
the individual wait for the discrimination to occur?
The ADA public accommodations provisions permit an individual to
allege discrimination based on a reasonable belief that
discrimination is about to occur. This provision, for example,
allows a person who uses a wheelchair to challenge the planned
construction of a new place of public accommodation, such as a
shopping mall, that would not be accessible to individuals who use
wheelchairs. The resolution of such challenges prior to the
construction of an inaccessible facility would enable any
necessary remedial measures to be incorporated in the building at
the planning stage, when such changes would be relatively
How does the ADA affect existing
State and local building codes?
remain in effect. The ADA allows the Attorney General to certify
that a State law, local building code, or similar ordinance that
establishes accessibility requirements meets or exceeds the
minimum accessibility requirements for public accommodations and
commercial facilities. Any State or local government may apply for
certification of its code or ordinance. The Attorney General can
certify a code or ordinance only after prior notice and a public
hearing at which interested people, including individuals with
disabilities, are provided an opportunity to testify against the
What is the effect of
certification of a State or local code or ordinance?
Certification can be advantageous if an entity has constructed or
altered a facility according to a certified code or ordinance. If
someone later brings an enforcement proceeding against the entity,
the certification is considered "rebuttable evidence" that the
State law or local ordinance meets or exceeds the minimum
requirements of the ADA. In other words, the entity can argue that
the construction or alteration met the requirements of the ADA
because it was done in compliance with the State or local code
that had been certified.
When are the public
accommodations provisions effective?
they became effective on January 26, 1992.
will the public accommodations provisions be enforced?
Private individuals may bring lawsuits in which they can
obtain court orders to stop discrimination. Individuals may also
file complaints with the Attorney General, who is authorized to
bring lawsuits in cases of general public importance or where a
pattern of practice of discrimination is alleged. In these cases,
the Attorney General may seek monetary damages and civil
penalties. Civil penalties may not exceed $55,000 for a first
violation or $110,000 for any subsequent violation.
Is the Federal government covered
by the ADA?
The ADA does not cover the executive
branch of the Federal government. The executive branch continues
to be covered by title V of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which
prohibits discrimination in services and employment on the basis
of handicap and which is a model for the requirements of the ADA.
The ADA, however, does cover Congress and other entities in the
legislative branch of the Federal government.
Does the ADA cover private apartments and private homes?
The ADA does not cover strictly residential private apartments
and homes. If, however, a place of public accommodation, such as a
doctor's office or day care center, is located in a private
residence, those portions of the residence used for that purpose
are subject to the ADA's requirements.
ADA cover air transportation?
Discrimination by air
carriers in areas other than employment is not covered by the ADA
but rather by the Air Carrier Access Act (49 U.S.C. 1374 (c)).
What are the ADA's requirements for public transit
The Department of
Transportation has issued regulations mandating accessible public
transit vehicles and facilities. The regulations include
requirements that all new fixed-route, public transit buses be
accessible and that supplementary paratransit services be provided
for those individuals with disabilities who cannot use fixed-route
How will the ADA
make telecommunications accessible?
The ADA requires
the establishment of telephone relay services for individuals who
use telecommunications devices for deaf persons (TDD's) or similar
devices. The Federal Communications Commission has issued
regulations specifying standards for the operation of these
Are businesses entitled to any tax
benefit to help pay for the cost of compliance?
amended in 1990, the Internal Revenue Code allows a deduction of
up to $15,000 per year for expenses associated with the removal of
qualified architectural and transportation barriers. The 1990
amendment also permits eligible small businesses to receive a tax
credit for certain costs of compliance with the ADA. An eligible
small business is one whose gross receipts do not exceed
$1,000,000 or whose workforce does not consist of more than 30
full-time workers. Qualifying businesses may claim a credit of up
to 50 percent of eligible access expenditures that exceed $250 but
do not exceed $10,250. Examples of eligible access expenditures
include the necessary and reasonable costs of removing
architectural, physical, communications, and transportation
barriers; providing readers, interpreters, and other auxiliary
aids; and acquiring or modifying equipment or devices.
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