Frequently Asked Questions

Employers (Title I)

  • When an individual decides to request an accommodation, the individual or his/her representative must let the employer know that s/he needs an adjustment or change at work for a reason related to a medical condition. There is no need to mention the ADA or use the phrase “reasonable accommodation.”

    Requests for reasonable accommodation do not have to be in writing and can be requested in a face-to-face conversation or using any other method of communication. Employers may choose to write a memo or letter confirming the employee’s request or may ask the employee to fill out a form or submit the request in written form.  However, the employee may want to put the request in writing even if the employer does not require it. Sometimes it is useful to have a paper trail in case there is a dispute about whether or when the accommodation was requested.

    While an employer cannot ignore the initial request, this request does not necessarily mean that the employer is required to provide the change. A request for reasonable accommodation is the first step in an informal, interactive process between the employee and the employer. In some instances, before addressing the merits of the accommodation request, the employer needs to determine if the individual's medical condition meets the ADA definition of "disability," a prerequisite for the individual to be entitled to a reasonable accommodation.

  • 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 activities.

  • Not necessarily. Because Title I is about employment, a person must meet the definition of disability and must also be qualified for the job. There are two components to being qualified. First, you need to have the skill, experience, education, and other job-related requirements for the position. For example, it’s legal for an employer to require that a person applying for the job of a foreign language translator be able to translate a foreign language.

    The other component of being qualified, in terms of employment, is that you must be able to perform the essential functions of the job, with or without reasonable accommodation. In other words, getting a reasonable accommodation could make you qualified for the job. For example, a person who is deaf may be qualified to the perform the essential functions of a customer service representative once s/he receives the opportunity to use a video relay service and specialized computer software as a reasonable accommodation.

  • Yes. The ADA defines qualified to mean 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.

  • Essential functions are the basic job duties.

    ADA Regulations say that the following things should be taken into consideration when determining whether a job function is essential:

    • The employer’s judgment about which functions are essential;
    • Job descriptions that were written before a job was posted;
    • The amount of time spent performing the function;
    • The consequences of not requiring the person to perform the function;
    • The terms of a collective bargaining agreement; and
    • The work experience of others who have had, or currently hold, the same or similar position.
  • Reasonable 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.

  • No. An employer is not required to reallocate essential functions of a job as a reasonable accommodation.

  • An employee with a disability who has been granted medical leave under the ADA may return to the same job unless the employer demonstrates that holding the job open would cause undue hardship to the business or organization.  If an employer has the reasonable belief that an employee will be unable to continue performing essential job functions, or will pose a significant risk to the health or safety of him/herself or other employees due to a medical condition, the employer may make disability-related inquiries or require the employee to have a medical examination. Any inquiry or examination must be limited to what is needed to assess the employee's ability to work. The employer may not use the employee's leave as a justification for making unrelated inquiries or requiring an unrelated medical examination.

  • Yes, if the conduct rule is job-related and consistent with business necessity and other employees are held to the same standard. The ADA does not protect employees from the consequences of violating conduct requirements even where the conduct is caused by the disability.

  • 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 medical record.

     

  • Complaints concerning discrimination in employment, often referred to as Title I complaints, should be addressed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and/or the agency responsible for enforcing state laws against employment discrimination.  The EEOC process for filing a charge of employment discrimination may be found at: http://www.eeoc.gov/employees/howtofile.cfm.

State & Local Governments (Title II)

  • No. The elevator exemption can only be used by private businesses and nonprofits that qualify. While not every state and local government building has to be accessible, state, and local governments have to ensure program accessibility. 

  • The ADA does not require the installation of a detectable warning. However, if the project is funded by Department of Transportation (DOT), a detectable warning would be required. Check with DOT for further guidance and your state code for any additional requirement. 

  • To determine if an animal is a service animal, you may ask two questions:

    • Is the dog a service animal required beacuse of a disability?
    • What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

    You may not ask these questions if the need for the service animal is obvious. Examples include when a dog is guiding an individual who is blind or is pulling a person's wheelchair. You also may not:

    • Ask about the nature or extent of an individual's disability 
    • Require proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal
    • Require the animal to wear an identifying vest or tag
    • Ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the task or work
  • 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 accessible sites.

  • 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 portions accessible.

  • If the start date for construction is on or after March 15, 2012, all newly constructed or altered State and local government facilities must comply with the 2010 Standards. Before the date, the 1991 Standards (without the elevator exemption), the UFAS, or the 2010 Standards may be used for such projects when the start of construction commences on or after September 15, 2010.

  • No. As of March 15, 2012, the applicable standards for alterations and additions are the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design.

    It is important to remember that the 1991 Standards are still relevant after March 15, 2012. Elements not altered after March 15, 2012 that comply with the requirements for those elements in the 1991 Standards, do not need to be modified, even if the new standards have different requirements for these elements. This provision is called "Safe Harbor". However, if your business chooses to alter elements that were in compliance with the 1991 Standards, the safe harbor no longer applies to the altered elements which must now comply with the 2010 ADA Standards. 

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

  • 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.

    Individuals have the right to file complaints against a state or local government (Title II 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

    To ensure that all necessary information is provided, an individual may use this ADA Title II complaint form:  http://www.ada.gov/t2cmpfrm.htm.

Businesses & Nonprofits (Title III)

  • 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.

Architecture & Design

  • Yes, the door can swing into the maneuvering space, but not into the space required at a fixture.

  • Not necessarily. The maneuvering clearances specified applies to doors that are not automatic or power-assisted. Where automatic doors and gates remain open in the power-off condition, maneuvering clearances shall not be required.

  • If that date is on or after March 15, 2012, then new construction and alterations must comply with the 2010 Standards.  If that date is on or after September 15, 2010, and before March 15, 2012, then new construction and alterations must comply with either the 1991 or the 2010 Standards.

    For businesses that are covered under title III, the compliance date for the 2010 ADA Standards for new construction and alterations is determined by:
     

    the date the last application for a building permit or permit extension is certified to be complete by a State, county, or local government;

    the date the last application for a building permit or permit extension is received by a State, county, or local government, where the government does not certify the completion of applications; or

    the start date of physical construction or alteration, if no permit is required. 

  • No. In general, "level" means having a slope no greater than 1:48 (2%) in any direction.

  • Yes. Table 224.3 specifies the number of accessible sleeping rooms with a roll-in shower that must be  provided. For example, a new 150-room hotel must have a total of seven accessible rooms, two of those rooms must have roll-in showers.

  • Yes. Entrances, doors, and doorways providing user passage into and within guestrooms must be accessible.  This is required for all guestrooms including those guestrooms not required to have mobility features.  Showers and sauna doors in guest rooms not required to provide mobility features do not have to be accessible.

  • Although parking is calculated on a per-lot basis, it can be located in a different location if equivalent or greater accessibility, in terms of distance to an accessible entrance, fees, and convenience is ensured. For example, while site constraints may prohibit the location of a large parking lot adjacent to an accessible entrance, the required number of accessible spaces might be installed at the entrance to provide more convenient access.

  • Means of egress shall comply with section 1003.2.13 of the International Building Code (2000 edition and 2001 Supplement) or section 1007 of the International Building Code (2003 edition) (incorporated by reference, see "Referenced Standards" in Chapter 1).

    EXCEPTIONS:

    Where means of egress are permitted by local building or life safety codes to share a common path of egress travel, accessible means of egress shall be permitted to share a common path of egress travel.

     

    Areas of refuge shall not be required in detention and correctional facilities.

  • Five percent of the portable toilets in a cluster are required to be accessible, each accessible toilet must satisfy to the requirements for toilet rooms. 

  • 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

    To ensure that all necessary information is provided, an individual may use this ADA Title II complaint form (http://www.ada.gov/t2cmpfrm.htm), which can be used for any Title II or III ADA complaint.  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.

Individuals & Advocates

  • Actually, what you might have heard called the “new ADA” is really called The ADA Amendments Act – or the ADAAA. After the ADA was originally passed in 1990, cases started being filed and ending up in courts. Some were appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Rulings by the Supreme Court, as well as lower courts, began to narrow the definition of disability. Whether a person had a disability in order to sue became the focus of most disputes under the ADA. Congress never intended for it to be that way. The focus of the ADA was supposed to be on access and accommodation, not on whether the person really had a disability. Congress had not foreseen the ways in which the courts would narrowly interpret, and ultimately change, the definition.

    So the ADAAA was passed in 2008 and essentially overturned those Supreme Court cases that narrowed the definition of disability. Congress made clear that the definition must be “construed in favor of broad coverage of individuals” with disabilities. So rather than this being a “new ADA,” it really is just going back to the way Congress meant the ADA to be when it was first written and passed in 1990.

  • It is important to remember that in the context of the ADA, “disability” is a legal term rather than a medical one. Because it has a legal definition, the ADA’s definition of disability is different from how disability is defined under some other laws.

    The ADA defines a person with a disability as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity. This includes people who have a record of such an impairment, even if they do not currently have a disability. It also includes individuals who do not have a disability but are regarded as having a disability. The ADA also makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person based on that person’s association with a person with a disability.

  • Major life activities are those functions that are important to most people’s daily lives. Examples of major life activities are breathing, walking, talking, hearing, seeing, sleeping, caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, and working. Major life activities also include major bodily functions such as immune system functions, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.

  • Yes, the ADA definition of disability includes mental, as well as physical, impairments.

  • An impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.

  • Beginning on March 15, 2011, only dogs are recognized as service animals under Titles II and III of the ADA. A service animal is a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks directly related to the person’s disability.  A service animal is NOT a pet.

    Examples include:

    • guiding a person who is blind
    • alerting a person who is deaf when a sound occurs
    • pulling a wheelchair
    • alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure
    • alerting individuals to the presence of allergens
    • providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability
    • helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors
    • providing a safety check or a room search for a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

    An animal that provides only emotional support, crime prevention, comfort or companionship is NOT considered to be a service animal because it is not trained to perform specific tasks associated with a person’s disability.

     

  • Yes. A service animal is not a pet. The ADA requires a business to modify their "no pets" policy to allow the use of a service animal by a person with a disability. This does not mean the business must abandon their "no pets" policy altogether but simply that they must make an exception to their general rule for service animals.

  • The service animal must be permitted to accompany the individual with a disability to all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go. An individual with a service animal may not be segregated from other customers.  If a service animal’s presence compromises safety or is disruptive to the purpose of the business, they can be excluded from a specific facility such as a surgery or intensive care unit in a hospital in which a sterile field is required.

  • Yes, you can be asked about your service animal.  To determine if an animal is a service animal, you may be asked two questions:  

    Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?

    What work or task has the dog been trained to perform? 

    You may not be asked these questions if the need for the service animal is obvious. Examples include when a dog is guiding an individual who is blind or is pulling a person’s wheelchair. You also may not be:

    asked about the nature or extent of an individual’s disability 

    required proof that the animal has been certified, trained or licensed as a service animal

    required the animal to wear an identifying vest or tag

    asked that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the task or work

     

    Under the ADA, it is the training that distinguishes a service animal from other animals.  Some service animals are professionally trained; others are trained by their owners.  However, the task that the service animal is trained to do must be directly related to the owner’s disability.

    Service animals in-training are not specifically addressed in the ADA.  However, some state laws may afford service animals in-training the same protections as service animals that have completed their training.

  • An OPDMD is any mobility device powered by batteries, fuel, or other engines that is used by individuals with mobility disabilities for the purpose of locomotion, whether or not it was designed primarily for use by individuals with mobility disabilities. OPDMDs may include golf carts, electronic personal assistance mobility devices, such as the Segway® Personal Transporter (PT), or any mobility device that is not a wheelchair, which is designed to operate in areas without defined pedestrian routes. Covered entities must make reasonable modifications in their policies, practices, or procedures to permit individuals with mobility disabilities to use OPDMDs unless the entity can demonstrate that the class of OPDMDs cannot be operated in accordance with legitimate safety requirements adopted by the entity.

  • Discrimination by air carriers in areas other than employment is not covered by the ADA but rather by the Air Carrier Access Act.

  • 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.