ADA Frequently Asked Questions Knowledge Base - Business

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990. Some parts of the ADA didn’t go into effect until after that date to give entities time to comply with the law, but those compliance deadlines have passed.

Additional information on the history and background on the law is available on the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division website at: https://www.ada.gov/2010_regs.htm.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? 

Timeline of the Americans with Disabilities Act

The ADA is a comprehensive civil rights law. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, state and local government programs, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: What is the definition of disability under the ADA?

What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? 

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, such as for Social Security Disability related benefits.

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.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: What does “regarded as” having a disability mean? 

FAQ: What does a “record of” having a disability mean? 

What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

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.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: What is the definition of disability under the ADA?

FAQ: What does “regarded as” having a disability mean?

“Regarded as” means that the person either:

  • Has an impairment that does not substantially limit a major life activity;
  • Has an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity only as a result of the attitudes of others toward them; or
  • Does not have any impairment, but is treated by an entity as having an impairment.

For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: Can you give me an example of someone who is “regarded as” having a disability? 

FAQ: What are major life activities?

FAQ: Who is protected from employment discrimination?

FAQ: What is the definition of disability under the ADA?

I’ll give you the “lawyer answer” – it depends. All people who meet the ADA definition of disability are covered by the ADA in general, but they still may not have rights under particular sections of the ADA. For example, there is a section of the ADA that deals only with employment discrimination. If a person with a disability is not employed and is not seeking employment, then that person would not necessarily be covered by that part of the ADA, although the person would be covered by other parts of the ADA.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: What does "regarded as" having a disability mean?

FAQ: What is the definition of disability under the ADA?

FAQ:  Are alcoholics protected by the ADA?

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


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: What is the definition of disability under the ADA?

FAQ: What does "regarded as" having a disability mean?

“Readily achievable” means "easily accomplished without much difficulty or expense." The obligation for barrier removal is ongoing, which means a business must continue to evaluate existing barriers to determine if the barrier removal is readily achievable. In order to identify barriers in a facility, a business or non-profit should conduct an accessibility evaluation.

Determining what is “readily achievable” is made by each business on a case-by-case-basis based on the size and resources of the business. First, facilities should be assessed to determine what architectural barriers exist. Second, the costs of barrier removal should be documented and barrier removal priorities and timelines established. Third, this information can be used to create a "barrier removal plan."  For more information on barrier removal for small businesses, go to the ADA UPDATE: A PRIMER for SMALL BUSINESS. .

Further technical assistance is available through the ADA National Network at 1-800-949-4232.


For additional information, take a look at the following resource:

FAQ: What is considered an "undue hardship" for a reasonable accommodation?

According to the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) data, approximately 54 million Americans have a disability.


For additional information, take a look at the following resource:

Fact Sheet: Understanding Disability Statistics

Businesses doing alterations to improve accessibility are eligible for two federal tax incentives.  The Disabled Access Credit (Internal Revenue Code, Section 44) is available to help small businesses cover ADA-related eligible access expenditures. A small business is one that had either revenues of $1,000,000 or less or 30 or fewer full-time workers in the previous tax year. The credit can be taken to: (1) remove barriers that prevent a business from being accessible to or usable by individuals with disabilities; (2) provide qualified interpreters or other methods of making audio materials available to hearing-impaired individuals; (3) provide qualified readers, taped texts, and other methods of making visual materials available to individuals with visual impairments; and (4) acquire or modify equipment or devices for individuals with disabilities. The credit cannot be taken for the costs of new construction or planned alterations/renovations. The amount of the tax credit is equal to 50% of the eligible access expenditures in a year, up to a maximum expenditure of $10,250. There is no credit for the first $250 of expenditures. The maximum tax credit is $5,000.

A business of any size can take a tax deduction under Internal Revenue Code - Section 190 for the costs of removing architectural or transportation barriers. Businesses can also take a business expense deduction of up to $15,000 per year for costs of removing barriers in facilities or vehicles. These two incentives can be used together by eligible businesses if the expenditures qualify.

Technical guidance is available through the ADA National Network at 1-800-949-4232.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: Must alternative steps be taken without regard to costs?

FAQ: When barrier removal is not readily achievable, what kinds of alternative steps are required by the ADA?

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

FAQ: What is public accommodation?

Fact Sheet: Effective Communication

The ADA is divided into five sections called “titles.” Each title covers a different area. Title I covers employment. Title II covers state and local government programs. Title III covers places of public accommodation. Title IV covers telecommunications. Title V has several miscellaneous provisions that cover things like retaliation and attorney fees.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

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.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

Fact Sheet: An Employee View of the Changes from the ADA Amendments Act

What is the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

Effective March 15, 2012, the applicable standards for new construction and alterations for either a public entity under Title II or a place of public accommodation under Title III are the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design.   The 2010 ADA Standards can be found at: http://www.ada.gov/2010ADAstandards_index.htm


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: Where can I find a complete set of ADA standards for accessible design?

No, as of March 15, 2012, the applicable standards for alterations and additions are the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design. The 2010 ADA Standards can be found at: http://www.ada.gov/2010ADAstandards_index.htm.  

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.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: What if a service animal barks or growls at other people, or otherwise acts out of control?

FAQ: Am I responsible for the animal while the person with a disability is in my business?

Service Animal Resource Hub

On or after March 15th, 2012 all newly constructed or altered facilities must comply with the requirements in the 2010 ADA Standards. If elements in existing facilities already comply with the 1991 ADA Standards and are not being altered, entities are not required to make changes to those elements to bring them into compliance with the 2010 ADA Standards.

For Title II entities, 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 ADA 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.

If that date is on or after March 15, 2012, then new construction and alterations must comply with the 2010 ADA Standards.

Source: http://www.ada.gov/revised_effective_dates-2010.htm.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: Is my building "grandfathered in" under the older 1991 ADA Standards for Accessible Design or do I need to comply with the 2010 ADA Standards?

FAQ: What does the ADA require in new construction?

Fact Sheet: Opening Doors to Everyone

The 1991 ADA Standards require that one in eight accessible spaces be van accessible and have a 96 in. wide minimum access aisle, rather than the 60 in. wide minimum access aisle required for regular accessible spaces. The 2010 ADA Standards change that so one in six accessible spaces must be van-accessible. If the parking lot or garage is in compliance with the 1991 ADA Standards, then the “safe harbor” provision applies and the number of van accessible spaces does not have to be increased. 

If the parking lot or garage is not in compliance with the 1991 ADA Standards, it must be altered to provide accessible parking spaces in compliance with the 2010 ADA Standards if it is readily achievable to do so.

If a parking lot or garage is altered, the safe harbor provision no longer applies and more van-accessible spaces may be required.
For example: A business’ parking lot has a total of 250 parking spaces and, as required in the 1991 ADA Standards, the lot includes seven accessible parking spaces, one of which is van-accessible. The 2010 ADA Standards require two van-accessible spaces even though the total minimum number of accessible spaces remains at seven.  The business does not have to modify its parking lot to provide the additional van-accessible space until the lot undergoes a planned alteration (re-striping, re-surfacing, etc.).


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: Is my building “grandfathered in” under the older 1991 ADA Standards for Accessible Design or do I need to comply with the 2010 ADA Standards?

Fact Sheet: Accessible Parking

Yes.  Any service animal and their owner must be allowed to access those areas of a restaurant where customers are allowed to go.  Whenever a public health ordinance, or other local law, is different from the ADA, the law which is least restrictive for the person with a disability takes priority.  


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: What if a service animal barks or growls at other people, or otherwise acts out of control?

Service Animal Resource Hub

Service Animal Misconceptions

Both tenants and landlords have obligations to ensure that facilities and operations are ADA compliant.  The lease may indicate how barrier removal responsibilities are shared but the lease does not relieve either tenant or landlord from their individual obligations to comply with the ADA. 
The ideal time to address this is when leasing new space or renewing a lease.  A tenant should request that the landlord agree in the lease to modify those areas which are under the exclusive control of the landlord, such as parking, walkways, entrances, and rest rooms.  If the lease specifies that the tenant has control over these areas, then the tenant should request that a provision be added to the lease so that the tenant can make those alterations needed to comply with barrier removal requirements.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

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

Fact Sheet: Accessible Parking

No. You cannot ask or require an individual with a disability to pay maintenance or cleaning fees, even if people with pets are required to pay these fees.  Service animals are not pets.  If you normally charge individuals for the damage they cause, you may charge an individual with a disability for damages caused by his or her service animal.  Service animals must be housebroken and under the control of the owner at all times. 


For additional information, take a look at the following resource:

Fact Sheet: Service Animals

The ADA does not have a provision to "grandfather" a facility but it does have a provision called “safe harbor” in the 2010 ADA regulations for businesses and state and local governments. A "safe harbor" means that you do not have to make modifications to elements in a building that comply with the 1991 ADA Standards, even if the 2010 ADA Standards have different requirements for them. For example the 1991 ADA Standards permitted controls, such as a light switch, to be 54 inches high maximum for a side reach. The 2010 ADA Standards lowered that to 48 inches maximum. If the light switch was installed before March 15, 2012 (the date the 2010 ADA Standards went into effect) it does not need to be lowered to 48 inches. This provision is applied on an element-by-element basis.  However, if you choose to alter elements that were in compliance with the 1991 ADA Standards, the altered elements must comply with the 2010 ADA Standards.

Please note that “safe harbor” does not apply to elements that were NOT addressed in the original 1991 ADA 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, fishing piers, boating facilities, and bowling alleys. Public accommodations must remove architectural barriers to these elements when it is readily achievable to do so. State and local governments must ensure program accessibility at these recreational areas. 


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: Must an employer modify existing facilities to make them accessible?

FAQ: If I am altering or doing an addition to my building, can I still follow the older 1991 ADA Standards for Accessible Design or must I use the new 2010 ADA Standards?

Architectural Accessibility Laws

Yes, this is a violation of the ADA. Taxicab companies may not refuse to provide services to individuals with disabilities. Private taxicab companies are also prohibited from charging higher fares or fees for transporting individuals with disabilities and their service animals than they charge to other persons for the same service.  The owner must have the service animal under control and the animal must be housebroken.

A person traveling with a service animal:

  • cannot be denied access to transportation, even if there is a “no pets” policy
  • cannot be forced to sit in a particular spot
  • does not have to provide advance notice that he or she will be traveling with a service animal 

These laws apply to both public and private transportation providers and include subways, fixed route buses, paratransit, rail and light rail, taxicabs, shuttles and limousine services.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: What if a service animal barks or growls at other people, or otherwise acts out of control?

FAQ: Am I responsible for the animal while the person with a disability is in my business?

Service Animal Resource Hub

Instead of providing a list of impairments that would “consistently,” “sometimes,” or “usually not” be disabilities, the regulations provide the ‘nine rules of construction’ to help determine what impairments constitute a disability. By applying those rules, the regulations state there will be some impairments that virtually always constitute a disability. The regulations also provide a list of examples of impairments that should easily be concluded to be disabilities.  Included in this list of examples are deafness, intellectual disability, autism, epilepsy, diabetes, cancer, HIV infection, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, mobility impairments requiring the use of a wheelchair, post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Sources: EEOC Final Rule Implementing the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 and Fact Sheet on the EEOC’s Final Regulations Implementing the ADAAA.   Links to these documents can be found at: http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/regulations/index.cfm.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: What is the definition of disability under the ADA?

What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

No. The care or supervision of a service animal is solely the responsibility of the owner. You are not required to provide care or food or a special location for the animal. 


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

Fact Sheet: Service Animals

Service Animal Booklet

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 facilities is provided in Tables 224.2 (mobility features) and 224.4 (communication features) of the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design - http://www.ada.gov/2010ADAstandards_index.htm.  Note that for rooms with mobility features, 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 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 rooms 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 required 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. 

Source: Section 224.1.1, and accompanying Advisory, of the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design - http://www.ada.gov/2010ADAstandards_index.htm.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: What are public accommodations?

Fact Sheet: Accessible Lodging

You may ask an individual with a disability to remove a service animal from the premises (facility) if the animal is not housebroken or if the animal is out of control and the individual does not take effective action to control it.  Unwarranted and unprovoked violent behavior, such as uncontrolled barking, growling at other customers, jumping on other people, or running away from the owner are examples of unacceptable behavior.

The owner must use a harness, leash or other tether with his or her service animal unless the individual is unable to do so because of a disability or the use of these would make it difficult or unsafe for the service animal to perform tasks.  When a harness, leash or other tether are not being used, the service animal must be under the owner’s control through voice control, signals, or other effective means. 

If a service animal is removed from the premises, the individual with a disability must still be offered the opportunity to obtain goods, services, and accommodations.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

Service Animal Resource Hub

Service Animal Basics

Service Animals, Small Business, and Other Public Accommodations

FAQ: What are some common misconceptions about service animals?

Yes.  A business has the right to deny access to a service animal that disrupts their business.   For example, a service dog that barks and disrupts another patron’s enjoyment of a movie could be asked to leave.   Also, businesses, airlines, public programs and transportation providers may exclude a service animal when the animal’s behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others.  However, some animals may be trained to whine or bark as part of doing their job.

A decision to exclude a service animal cannot be based on the notion that an animal might threaten the safety of others. It also cannot be based on a business person’s assumptions or bad experiences with other animals.  Each service animal must be considered individually.


For additional information, take a look at the following resource:

Fact Sheet: Service Animals

The miniature horse is not included in the definition of service animal, which is limited to dogs. However, the new ADA regulations contain a specific provision which covers miniature horses.  Businesses must make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a miniature horse by an individual with a disability if the miniature horse has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of the individual with a disability.  

Factors to assist in determining whether miniature horses can be accommodated are whether:

  • the miniature horse is housebroken
  • the miniature horse is under the owner’s control
  • the facility can accommodate the miniature horse’s type, size, and weight
  • the miniature horse’s presence will not compromise legitimate safety requirements necessary for the safe operation of the facility

For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

Service Animal Basics

Service Animals, Small Business, and Other Public Accommodations

Service Animal Misconceptions

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

  1. Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
  2. 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. In addition:

  • You may not ask about the nature or extent of an individual’s disability
  • You may not require proof that the animal has been certified, trained or licensed as a service animal
  • You may not require the animal to wear an identifying vest or tag
  • You may not ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the task or work

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

The handler is responsible for the care and supervision of his or her service animal. If a service animal behaves in an unacceptable way and the person with a disability does not control the animal, a business or other entity has the right to ask that the dog be removed. A business also has the right to deny access to a dog that disrupts their business or poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others. For example, if a service dog barks repeatedly or growls at customers, it could be asked to leave.

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.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

Service Animal Basics

Service Animal FAQs

FAQ: What must I do when an individual with a service animal comes to my business?

Individuals with disabilities are allowed to be accompanied by their service animals in all areas of public facilities and private businesses where members of the public are 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.

Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals.  If it is possible, separate the person with the allergy or other animal aversions from the person with a service animal.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources: 

FAQ: What if a service animal barks or growls at other people, or otherwise acts out of control?

FAQ: How can I tell if an animal is really a service animal and not just a pet?

Fact Sheet: Service Animals

Yes. Even if the business or a public program has a “no pets” policy, it may not deny entry to a person with a service animal.  Service animals are working animals, not pets. So, although a “no pets” policy is perfectly legal, it does not allow a business to exclude service animals.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: What if a service animal barks or growls at other people, or otherwise acts out of control?

FAQ: How can I tell if an animal is really a service animal and not just a pet?

Service Animal Resource HUB

The U.S. Department of Justice issued revised Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations that took effect on March 15, 2011.  Under the revised ADA regulations, public and commercial facilities such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities must permit service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas where members of the public are allowed to go. Private businesses and government agencies must make reasonable modifications of policy and procedure to allow miniature horses trained to act as a service animal as well, when reasonable. A service animal is a working animal; not a pet. An example of a task a service animal can perform is providing a safety check or a room search for a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Under Title I of the ADA, the employment section, there is no definition of "service animal." A service animal in the workplace is just like any other reasonable accommodation in the workplace and may not necessarily be defined by the regulations as stated in Title II and III regulations.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: What if a service animal barks or growls at other people, or otherwise acts out of control?

FAQ: How can I tell if an animal is really a service animal and not just a pet?

Service Animals, Small Business, and Other Public Accommodations

Beginning on March 15, 2011, under Titles II and III of the ADA, the definition of a service animal is: "A service animal is a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks directly related to the person’s disability." 

Examples of service animal tasks include:

--Guiding a person who is blind.

--Pulling a wheelchair.

--Alerting a person who has a seizure disorder.

--Providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability.

--Assisting 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, comfort, therapy, or crime prevention is not considered a service animal under the ADA. A service animal is a working animal; not a pet. Laws similar to the ADA, as well as local states; counties; and cities, may have different and more broad definitions of "service animal." Check with your local ADA Center.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources: 

Fact Sheet: Service Animals

Service Animal Resource Hub

Service Animal or Emotional Support Animal: What is the Difference?

Yes. Barrier removal needs to be accomplished only when it is "readily achievable" to do so, which means means "easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense."


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: When barrier removal is not readily achievable, what kinds of alternative steps are required by the ADA?

FAQ: What are examples of the types of physical modifications or barrier removal that would be readily achievable in most cases?

FAQ: What does the term "readily achievable" mean?

Fact Sheet: Small Business and ADA Readily Achievable Requirements

Places of public accommodations and commercial facilities should use the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design for readily achievable barrier removal, new construction and alterations. 

See the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design for more information: https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/2010ADAStandards/2010ADAstandards.htm


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: What does the term “readily achievable” mean?

FAQ: Where can I find a complete set of ADA standards for accessible design?

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 inexpensive.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: Who is protected from employment discrimination?

FAQ: What is the definition of disability under the ADA?

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, amusement parks, private schools, and day care centers. Private clubs and religious organizations are exempt from the ADA's title III requirements for public accommodations.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: Is it expensive to make all newly constructed places of public accommodation and commercial facilities accessible?

FAQ: What funding assistance is available for removing barriers and accommodating customers with disabilities?

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,  restriping parking lots, and similar modest adjustments.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: What is the process to request a reasonable accommodation in employment? 

FAQ: What does the term “readily achievable” mean?

Fact Sheet: Reasonable Accommodations in the Workplace

Existing 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 certification.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: How will a State or local government know that a new building is accessible?

FAQ: What does the ADA require in new construction?

Yes.  However, if a requirement 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 if the use of an alternative means of identification is available.


For more information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: What are public accommodations?

FAQ: What standards must places of public accommodations and commercial facilities use for readily achievable barrier removal and in new construction and alterations?

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.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: When barrier removal is not readily achievable, what kinds of alternative steps are required by the ADA?

FAQ: What does the term “readily achievable” mean?

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.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: How does the ADA affect existing State and local building codes?

FAQ: Where can I find a complete set of ADA standards for accessible design?

FAQ: What should be applied to a situation when both the local or state code and the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design need to be considered?

Yes. The ADA does not require modifications that would fundamentally alter the nature of the services provided by the public accommodation.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: What is considered an "undue hardship" for a reasonable accommodation?

Fact Sheet: Reasonable Accommodations in the Workplace

Businesses are not required to retrofit their facilities to install elevators unless such installation is readily achievable, which is unlikely in most cases.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: What does the term “readily achievable” mean?

FAQ: Where can I find a complete set of ADA standards for accessible design?

In general, the revised regulations published by the U.S. Department of Justice on September 15, 2010 covering places of public accommodation and commercial facilities, became effective on March 15, 2011.  The section of the revised regulations covering hotel reservation systems became effective on March 15, 2012.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: What are public accommodations? 

Timeline of the Americans with Disabilities Act

FAQ: What are public accommodations?

Appropriate auxiliary aids and services for individuals with hearing loss may include:

  • qualified interpreters on-site or through video remote interpreting (VRI) services;
  • notetakers;
  • real-time computer-aided transcription services;
  • written materials; exchange of written notes;
  • telephone handset amplifiers;
  • assistive listening devices;
  • assistive listening systems;
  • telephones compatible with hearing aids;
  • closed caption decoders;
  • open and closed captioning, including real-time captioning;
  • voice, text, and video-based telecommunications products and systems, including text telephones (TTYs), videophones, and captioned telephones, or equally effective telecommunications devices;
  • videotext displays;
  • accessible electronic and information technology;
  • or other effective methods of making aurally delivered information available to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Appropriate auxiliary aids and services for individuals who are blind or have low vision may include:

  • qualified readers;
  • taped texts;
  • audio recordings;
  • Brailed materials and displays;
  • screen reader software;
  • magnification software;
  • optical readers;
  • secondary auditory programs (SAP);
  • large print materials;
  • accessible electronic and information technology;
  • or other effective methods of making visually delivered materials available to individuals who are blind or have low vision.

For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: What funding assistance is available for individuals with disabilities to purchase assistive devices, ramps, etc.?

Fact Sheet: Effective Communication

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.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: What does the term “readily achievable” mean?

FAQ: How is “readily achievable” determined in a multi site business?

FAQ: What funding assistance is available for removing barriers and accommodating customers with disabilities?

Fact Sheet: Small Business and ADA Readily Achievable Requirements

Private individuals may bring lawsuits asking for court orders to stop discrimination. Individuals may also file complaints with the United States 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.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: How can I file an ADA complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice?

Federal Agencies and Resources

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 case law under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and are to be determined on a case-by-case basis.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: What kinds of auxiliary aids and services are required by the ADA to ensure effective communication?

FAQ: What is considered an "undue hardship" for a reasonable accommodation?

Fact Sheet: Effective Communication

Communication Interpretation Resources

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, the portions of the residence used for that purpose are subject to the ADA's requirements.


For additional information, take a look at the following resource:

Fact Sheet: Accessible Lodging

Generally no, as long as restaurant management has instructed waiters or waitresses to read menus upon request or retail stores have sales staff that will read sales tags to customers with visual impairments. They key is to provide effective communication.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

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

Fact Sheet: Effective Communication

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.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: What is considered an “undue hardship” for a reasonable accommodation?

FAQ: What are the limitations on the obligation to make a reasonable accommodation?

Fact Sheet: Reasonable Accommodations in the Workplace

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.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: What funding assistance is available for removing barriers and accommodating customers with disabilities?

ADA Quick Tips: Tax Incentives Factsheet

Generally no, not if employees are able to communicate by using pen and notepad and it is effective.  However, in situations where the exchange of information is over a long duration or the information being exchanged is complex it may be necessary for the business to provide a qualified interpreter. A business should discuss with the person with the disability to determine which auxiliary aid or service will result in effective communication.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

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

Fact Sheet: Effective Communication

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.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

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

Fact Sheet: Effective Communication

FAQ: If I am a business or non-profit organization leasing building space from a building owner and the parking lot is not compliant with the 2010 ADA Standards, am I obligated to address this or is it solely the responsibility of the building owner?

FAQ: What are public accommodations?

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A qualified individual 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.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: Can an employer be required to reallocate an essential function of a job to another employee as a reasonable accommodation?

FAQ: What are “essential functions” of a job?

FAQ: Can an employer maintain existing production/performance standards for an employee with a disability?

A wheelchair is a manually operated or power-driven device designed primarily for use by an individual with a mobility disability for the main purpose of indoor, or of both indoor and outdoor, locomotion.  Individuals with mobility disabilities must be permitted to use wheelchairs and manually powered mobility aids, i.e., walkers, crutches, canes, braces, or other similar devices designed for use by individuals with mobility disabilities, in any areas open to pedestrian traffic.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources: 

Fact Sheet: The ADA & Accessible Ground Transportation

Power Driven Mobility Devices

Fact Sheet: Wheelchairs and Other Power-Driven Mobility Devices

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.


For additional information, take a look at the following resource:

FAQ: Where can I find a complete set of ADA standards for accessible design?

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 cars, 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.


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

Power Driven Mobility Services

Fact Sheet: Wheelchairs and other Power-Driven Mobility Devices

Fact Sheet: The ADA & Accessible Ground Transportation

All 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 passenger terminal.

See the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design for more information regarding alterations: https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/2010ADAStandards/2010ADAstandards.htm


For additional information, take a look at the following resources:

FAQ: Is my building "grandfathered in" under the older 1991 ADA Standards for Accessible Design or do I need to comply with the 2010 ADA Standards?

FAQ: If I am doing a renovation on a hotel, how many guest rooms need to be accessible?

Fact Sheet: Overview of the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design