Labor and Employment

ADA Public Accommodations Title III FAQ

Q: Are restaurants be required to have brailled menus?

  • A:No, not if waiters or other employees are made available to read the menu to a blind customer.

Q: Are there any limitations on the ADA's auxiliary aids requirements?

  • A:Yes. The ADA doesn't require using any auxiliary aid that would result in an undue burden or fundamentally change 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 case law under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and are determined on a case-by-case basis.

Q: Are there any limitations on the ADA's barrier removal requirements for existing facilities?

  • A:Yes. Barriers must be removed only when it is "readily achievable" to do so. "Readily achievable" means "easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense."

    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 adjustments.

Q: Are there any limits on the kinds of modifications in policies, practices, and procedures required by the ADA?

  • A:Yes. The ADA doesn't 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.

Q: Do businesses need to install elevators?

  • A:Businesses aren't required to retrofit their facilities to install elevators unless it's readily achievable, which is unlikely in most cases.

Q: Do businesses need to rearrange furniture and display racks?

  • A: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.

Q: Does the ADA allow public accommodations to take safety factors into consideration in providing services to individuals with disabilities?

  • A:The ADA provides that a public accommodation may exclude an individual, if that individual poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others that can't be lessened with appropriate modifications in the public accommodation's policies or procedures, or by using auxiliary aids.

    A public accommodation is allowed to establish objective safety criteria for the operation of its business. But 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.

Q: Does the ADA have any effect on the eligibility criteria used by public accommodations to determine who may receive services?

  • A: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 feasible.

Q: 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?

  • A:The ADA public accommodations provisions permit an individual to allege discrimination based on a reasonable belief that discrimination is about to occur. For example, a person who uses a wheelchair can challenge the planned construction of a new place of public accommodation, such as a shopping mall, that wouldn't be accessible to individuals who use wheelchairs. Knowing of such challenges prior to the construction of an inaccessible facility allows the builder to make necessary changes to the building at the planning stage, when such changes would be relatively inexpensive.

Q: How are the public accommodations provisions enforced?

  • A:Private individuals may bring lawsuits in which they can obtain court orders to stop discrimination.

    You may also file complaints with the Attorney General, who is authorized to bring lawsuits in cases of general public importance or where a pattern or practice of discrimination is alleged. In these cases, the Attorney General may seek monetary damages and civil penalties. Civil penalties may not exceed $50,000 for a first violation or $100,000 for any subsequent violation.

Q: What are public accommodations?

  • A: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.

Q: What does the ADA require in new construction?

  • A: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
    • Professional office of a health care provider
    • Terminal
    • Depot or other public transit station
    • An airport passenger terminal

Q: What kinds of auxiliary aids and services are required by the ADA to ensure effective communication with individuals with hearing or vision impairments?

  • A: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
    • Qualified readers, taped texts, and Brailled or large print materials for individuals with vision impairments

Q: When barrier removal isn't possible, what kinds of alternative steps are required by the ADA?

  • A: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.

Q: Who has responsibility for ADA compliance in leased places of public accommodation, the landlord or the tenant?

  • A:The ADA 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.

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