ADA Frequently Asked Questions Knowledge Base - Facility Access

“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?

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

Medicare, Medicaid, private health or disability insurance, and Worker’s Compensation may pay for some assistive technology. Funding sources often require a statement of medical necessity for the product or equipment and a prescription from a doctor or other health professional. Public educational institutions may have funding for assistive technologies needed to meet educational goals.  State vocational rehabilitation agencies may provide assistive technology for their clients when it is needed to achieve vocational goals.  Many states have programs to provide adaptive telecommunications equipment for deaf and hard of hearing individuals and others who need adaptive equipment for telecommunications.  For more information about funding assistive technology, contact your state’s Assistive Technology Act Program.  A list of these programs can be found at https://www.at3center.net/stateprogram.

For home modifications, such as installing ramps or renovating bathrooms, funds may be available through vocational rehabilitation agencies, local independent living centers, and local volunteer organizations that offer labor or materials for construction.  To find contact information for your local center for independent living visit http://www.ilru.org/.

Veterans with disabilities may receive assistance for improvements necessary to make a home and essential lavatory and sanitary facilities accessible under the Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA) program. A HISA grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is available to Veterans who have received a medical determination indicating that improvements and structural alterations are necessary or appropriate for the effective treatment of his/her disability. The HISA program is available for both service-connected Veterans and non-service-connected Veterans.

Home improvement benefits up to $6,800 may be provided for a:

  • service-connected condition
  • non-service-connected condition of a Veteran rated 50 percent or more service-connected

Home improvement benefits up to $2,000 may be provided to all other Veterans registered in the VA health care system. The prosthetics department of the VA may also donate lifting equipment such as chairlifts or vertical porch lifts.  To learn more about the program, visit http://www.prosthetics.va.gov/HISA2.asp.


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

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

FAQ: Does the ADA cover private apartments and private homes?

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 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design can be found at: http://www.ada.gov/2010ADAstandards_index.htm

The Department of Justice’s ADA web site, www.ada.gov, contains a number of useful documents on accessibility for businesses and state and local governments. For example, for businesses see “ADA Update: A Primer for Small Business” and the section on “Making the Built Environment More Accessible” at: http://www.ada.gov/regs2010/smallbusiness/smallbusprimer2010.htm.   

The U.S. Access Board also produces a number of documents on a wide range of accessibility-related topics which can be found at: www.access-board.gov.  For example, check “Guide to Updated ADA Standards” at: http://web.archive.org/web/20130721160340/http://access-board.gov//ada/guide.htm


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

FAQ: How do the 2010 changes to the ADA Standards for Accessible Design impact parking spaces that already exist?

FAQ: What does the ADA require in new construction?

Fact Sheet: Accessible Parking

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

In a situation where the requirements of both a state or local building code and the 2010 ADA Standards need to be 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 ADA Standards which states that alternative designs, products, or technologies may 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 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 state or local codes differ from the ADA is that the one that provides the most accessibility applies.


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

FAQ: What does ADA require in new construction?

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

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

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

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

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

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 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

The employer's obligation under title I is to provide access for an individual applicant to participate in the job application process, and for an individual employee with a disability to perform the essential functions of his/her job, including access to a building, to the work site, to needed equipment, and to all facilities used by employees. For example, if an employee lounge is located in a place inaccessible to an employee using a wheelchair, the lounge might be modified or relocated, or comparable facilities might be provided in a location that would enable the individual to take a break with co-workers. The employer must provide such access unless it would cause an undue hardship.

Under title I, an employer is not required to make its existing facilities accessible until a particular applicant or employee with a particular disability needs an accommodation, and then the modifications should meet that individual's work needs. However, employers should consider initiating changes that will provide general accessibility, particularly for job applicants, since it is likely that people with disabilities will be applying for jobs. The employer does not have to make changes to provide access in places or facilities that will not be used by that individual for employment-related activities or benefits.


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

FAQ: Can an employer be required to modify, adjust, or make other reasonable accommodations in the way a test is given to an applicant or employee with a disability?

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?

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?

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?

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

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

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?

A State or local government will be in compliance with the ADA for new construction and alterations if it follows the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design. Effective March 15, 2012 the 2010 ADA Standards must be used for new construction and alterations undertaken by state and local governments.


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

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

Fact Sheet: Overview of the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design

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

Effective March 15, 2012, the ADA requires that all new construction or alterations by a state or local government be accessible as defined by the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design.

Standards can be found here: https://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?

Fact Sheet: Open Doors to Everyone

Fact Sheet: Accessible Parking

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

Structural changes needed for program accessibility must be made as expeditiously as possible, and should have been made by January 26, 1995. A public entity that employs 50 or more persons must have developed a transition plan by July 26, 1992, setting forth the steps necessary to complete such changes.


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

FAQ: What changes must a public entity make to its existing facilities to make them accessible?

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

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

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

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?

The ADA requires that all new construction of places of public accommodation, as well as of "commercial facilities" such as office buildings, be accessible. Elevators are generally not required in facilities under three stories or with fewer than 3,000 square feet per floor, unless the building is a shopping center or mall; the professional office of a health care provider; a terminal, depot, or other public transit station; or an airport passenger terminal. The 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design set minimum requirements – both scoping and technical -- for newly designed and constructed or altered public accommodations and commercial facilities to be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.

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

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

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?

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?