Businesses & Non-Profits

Businesses and non-profits are obligated to remove barriers to access for individuals with disabilities when it is 'readily achievable' to do so. Readily achievable means 'without much difficulty or expense'.

Under the ADA, businesses and non-profits are referred to as 'public accommodations'.  Public accommodations include but are not limited to such places as: restaurants, bars, movie theatres, concert halls, stadiums, convention centers, lecture halls, bakeries, grocery stores, clothing stores, hardware stores, shopping centers. In addition, public accommodations include laundromats, dry-cleaners, banks, barber shops, beauty shops, travel services, shoe repair services, funeral parlors, gas stations, offices of an accountants or lawyers, pharmacies, insurance offices, professional office of health care providers, hospitals, public transportation stations, museums, libraries, galleries,parks, zoos, amusement parks, or other place of recreation, nurseries, elementary, secondary, undergraduate, or postgraduate private schools, or other places of education.

Real people ask real questions below.

Question: 

I own a business that our customers can connect to via our website. Does the website have to be accessible? A third party vendor manages some of the services offered on our website. Are we responsible for making sure those services are accessible?

Answer: 

Yes, you are responsible for ensuring that your website is accessible, which includes both content developed in house as well as content managed by a third party vendor.  The Department of Justice has held that websites need to be accessible and usable by people with disabilities by complying with WCAG 2.0.

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Businesses & Non-Profits Frequently Asked Questions

  • At least two accessible means of entry shall be provided for swimming pools. Accessible means of entry shall be swimming pool lifts complying with 1009.2; sloped entries complying with 1009.3; transfer walls complying with 1009.4; transfer systems complying with 1009.5; and pool stairs complying with 1009.6. At least one accessible means of entry provided shall comply with 1009.2 or 1009.3. 

    Exceptions:

    Where a swimming pool has less than 300 linear feet (91 m) of swimming pool wall, no more than one accessible means of entry shall be required provided that the accessible means of entry is a swimming pool lift complying with 1009.2 or sloped entry complying with 1009.3.

    Wave action pools, leisure rivers, sand bottom pools, and other pools where user access is limited to one area shall not be required to provide more than one accessible means of entry provided that the accessible means of entry is a swimming pool lift complying with 1009.2, a sloped entry complying with 1009.3, or a transfer system complying with 1009.5. 

    Catch pools shall not be required to provide an accessible means of entry provided that the catch pool edge is on an accessible route. 

  • There are two types of accessible guest rooms, one type having "mobility features" and the other "communication features". The minimum number of accessible guest rooms in newly constructed facilites is provided in Table 224.2 (mobility features) and 224.4 (communication features) of the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design. Note that for rooms with mobility featires, roll-in showers will be required where the total number of guest rooms provided exceeds 50. 

    In alterations and additions, the minimum required number of accessible guest rooms required is based on the total number of guest rooms being altered or added instead of the total number of guest rooms provided in a facility. Note, that where guest rooms are altered, or not added, the technical requirements stated in the 2010 ADA Standards apply only to those guest rooms being altered or added until the total number of accessible guest room in the entire hotel complies with the minimum number required for new construction as stated in the tables referred to above. 

    Accessible guest rooms must be dispersed among the various classes of guest rooms, and provide choices of types of guest rooms, number of beds, and other amenities comparable to the choices provided to other guests. Typically, each alteration of a facility is limited to a particular portion of the facility. As accessible guest rooms are added as a result of subsequent alterations, the requred degree of dispersion is more likely to be achieved if all of the accessible guest rooms are not provided in the same portion of the facility. 

  • The ADA does not have a provision to "grandfather" a facility but it does have a provision called "safe harbor" in the revised ADA regulations for businesses and state and local governments. A "safe harbor" means that you do not have to make modiciations to elements in an existing building that comply with the 1991 Standards, even if the new 2010 Standards have different requirements for them. This provision is applied on an element-by-element basis. However, if you choose to alter elements that were in compliance with the 1991 Standards, the safe harbor no longer applies so the altered elements must comply with the 2010 ADA Standards. 

    A "safe harbor" does not apply to elements that were NOT addressed in the original 1991 Standards but ARE addressed in the 2010 ADA Standards. These elements include recreation facilities such as swimming pools , play areas, exercise machines, miniature golf facilities, and bowling alleys. On or after March 15, 2012, public accommodations must remove architectural barriers to these elements listed aboved are subject to the new requirements in the 2010 Standards when it is readily achievable to do so. 

  • In a situation where the requirements of both a state or local building code and the 2010 ADA Standards need to be simultaneously considered, the code or Standard that results in greater accessibility takes precedence. This interpretation is based on the concept of "equivalent facilitation" from section 103 of the 2010 ADA Standards which states that alternative standards for the use of designs, products, or technologies can be used as long as they result in substantially equivalent or greater accessibility and usability. Thus, a state or local code can be used if it contains a requirement that provides a different but greater level of accessibility than the 2010 ADA Standards. 

    If the use of a state or local code instead of the 2010 ADA Standard is challenged, the covered entity is responsible for defending the use of this code. The ADA accessibility requirements do not supplant or replace State or local laws that impose higher accessibility standards. The governing principal to follow when federal, state, or local codes differ is that the more stringent requirement applies. 

  • It means "easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense."

  • The installation of an elevator in altered facility that is less than three stories or has less than 3,000 square feet per story is not required, (except, with respect to any facility that houses a shopping center, a shopping mall, the professional office of a health care provider, a terminal, depot, or other station used for specified public transportation, or an airport passenger terminal).

    For the purposes of this section, professional office of a health care provider means a location where a person or entity regulated by a State to provide professional services related to the physical or mental health of an individual makes such services available to the public. The facility that houses a professional office of a health care provider only includes floor levels housing by at least one health care provider, or any floor level designed or intended for use by at least one health care provider. 

    For the purposes of this section, shopping center or shopping mall means-

    A building housing five or more sales or rental establishments; or 

    A series of buildings on a common site, connected by a common pedestrian access route above or below the ground floor, that is either under common ownership or common control or developed either as one project or as a series of related projects, housing five or more sales or rental establishments.

    For purposes of this section, places of public accommodation of the types listed in paragraph (5) of the definition of place of public accommodation in § 36.104 are considered sales or rental establishments. The facility housing a "shopping center or shopping mall" only includes floor levels housing at least one sales or rental establishment, or any floor level designed or intended for use by at least one sales or rental establishment.

  • 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.

  • Effective March 15, 2012, the applicable standards for new construction and alterations for a place of public accommodation under Title III are the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design.  

  • All alterations that could affect the usability of a facility must be made in an accessible manner to the maximum extent feasible. 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 passenger terminal.

  • As 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.

  • Individuals have the right to file complaints against a business (Title III entities) with the Department of Justice.  Complaints may be sent by e-mail or mail. Email: ada.complaint@usdoj.gov

    U.S. Department of Justice
    Civil Rights Division
    Disability Rights Section - NYAV
    950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
    Washington, D.C. 20530

    The most important part of filing a Title III complaint whether you write a letter or use the complaint form is ensuring that you provide the Department of Justice with the following information:

    Your full name, address, email, the telephone numbers where we can reach you during the day and evening, and the name of the party discriminated against (if known);

    The name and address of the business, organization, institution, or person that you believe has discriminated;

    A brief description of the acts of discrimination, the dates they occurred, and the names of individuals involved;

    Other information that you believe necessary to support your complaint, including copies of relevant documents (not originals); and

    Additional advice and instructions for filing a Title III complaint can be found at: http://www.ada.gov/t3compfm.htm.

    Private individuals may also 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 or 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.