ADA Frequently Asked Questions Knowledge Base - Public Accommodations (ADA Title III)

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

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

You can file an ADA complaint alleging disability discrimination against a state or local government (Title II) or a public accommodation (Title III - including, for example, a restaurant, doctor's office, retail store, hotel, etc.) online, by mail, or fax.

Online Complaint Form for Titles II and III (fill out and submit through website)

Title II State and Local Government Complaint Form (print and mail or fax)

Title III Public Accommodation Complaint Information (mail or fax a letter)

Include the following:

  • Your name, address, email, the telephone number. The name of the party discriminated against (if other than you).
  • 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 in known.
  • Other information that you believe necessary to support your complaint. Please send copies of relevant documents. Do not send original documents. (Retain them.)
  • How to communicate with you effectively; for example if you want written communications in a specific format (e.g., large print, Braille, e-mail, or other electronic documents) or require communications by video phone or TTY.

Email:                        

Send your complaint to the following e-mail address: ada.complaint@usdoj.gov.
Fax: (202) 307-1197

Mail:

To file a complaint using by mail, send your complaint form to the following address:
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Civil Rights Division
Disability Rights Section – 1425 NYAV
Washington, D.C. 20530


 If you are unable to write because of your disability and are unable to submit a complaint online, by mail, or fax, the Department can assist you by scribing your complaint by phone or, for individuals who communicate by American Sign Language, by videophone. Contact the ADA Information Line at 1-800-514-0301 (voice) or 1-800-514-0383 (TTY) to schedule an appointment.  It may take two weeks or more for Department staff to contact you.

Please note that Title I employment complaints should be filed with 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: www.eeoc.gov/employees/howtofile.cfm

Source: Frequently Asked Questions about Filing an ADA Complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice http://www.ada.gov/fact_on_complaint.htm


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

Federal Agencies and Resources

Federal ADA Regulations and Standards

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 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

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

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

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

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

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?

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

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

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

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

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?

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

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 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?

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?

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?

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

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