Table of Contents
Thanks to the ADA, a public university recently remodeled its facilities to increase accessibility. While the bathrooms were wheelchair accessible under the 1991 Standards for Accessible Design, they failed to meet the updated 2010 Standards for Accessible Design requirements. The school thought that due to the age of the building, they met an exception allowing them to follow the older standards.
After a student filed an informal complaint, an employee at the university contacted their regional ADA Center to get more information about what the Americans with Disabilities Act required. The regional ADA Center explained that when a remodel occurs, alterations must comply with the 2010 Standards for Design unless it is technically infeasible to do so. This conversation helped the university take action to update their bathrooms to meet the updated 2010 Standards for Design, making the campus more welcoming and accessible for everyone.
Jonah, an administrative employee at a medical office, reached out to his regional ADA Center when his vision loss started making it difficult for him to drive to work. Jonah was curious about his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. He had heard the term “reasonable accommodation,” and wanted to know whether he may be able to request telework as an accommodation so he could avoid driving. His regional ADA Center explained the Title I process for requesting a reasonable accommodation, which is a modification or adjustment to a job, the work environment, or the way things usually are done. As part of the interactive process, Jonah and his employer would need to work together to figure out a reasonable accommodation that would allow Jonah to perform the essential functions of the job without the employer experiencing undue hardship.
Equipped with the resources and knowledge provided by his regional ADA Center, Jonah began the interactive process of getting a reasonable accommodation. Shortly after Jonah reached out to his employer, the COVID-19 pandemic caused Jonah and many of his coworkers to begin working from home. Eventually, Jonah’s coworkers started returning to the office. Jonah successfully advocated for himself and was allowed to continue to work remotely as a reasonable accommodation.
Mara’s workplace runs a daycare so employees can bring their children to work. Mara’s daughter has a severe allergy, so Mara requested that the daycare kitchen avoid certain allergens for her meals. The daycare let Mara know they had a vegan meal option available that would not contain any of the allergens that would affect her daughter’s disability, but that the meal plan would cost an additional $2,000 annually.
Wanting to learn more about her daughters’ rights under the ADA, Mara contacted her regional ADA Center. The ADA Specialist let Mara know that Title III of the ADA covers public accommodations, including daycare settings. If a service is required under the ADA, a daycare setting cannot impose a surcharge on the person with a disability (or in this case, the parent of a child with a disability). Mara was able to write a letter to the management of the daycare and use the information provided by the regional ADA Center to advocate for her daughter’s rights. The daycare granted the reasonable accommodation request and modified the meal options for her daughter without an additional charge.
When a local library started offering a virtual story time for children, a parent contacted the library to request a sign language interpreter for their one-year-old daughter, who is deaf. The library expressed concerns about the cost of hiring an interpreter, and thought the girl may be too young to benefit from the service. The parent contacted their Regional ADA Center to find out what the requirements were under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The ADA Specialist let the parent know that under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, entities have an obligation to ensure effective communication for individuals with disabilities. The goal of the library’s story time was to help develop language and literacy skills for young children, and providing an ASL interpreter would help support that goal.
With this information, the parent was able to advocate for their child’s rights under the ADA, and the library set up an interpreter and educated their staff on their obligations. Thanks to the ADA, the library now provides sign language interpreters for their virtual story times.
As an avid swimmer, Dwayne regularly visits the pool run by the City’s Department of Parks & Rec. He discovered construction was underway at the pool and found all the accessible parking spaces were blocked off leaving him without a nearby place to park.
Dwayne decided to reach out to his ADA Regional Center for assistance. The Center’s TA specialist discussed parking alternatives and temporary interruptions and suggested he contact his city’s ADA Coordinator.
The ADA Coordinator got in touch with the pool’s facility manager and administrator. After the pool’s officials understood their responsibilities to provide accessible parking they moved the accessible spaces to a lot on the other side of the pool, allowing Dwayne accessible parking.
“I appreciate having this resource to help people with access issues,” Dwayne said. Thanks To The ADA and the guidance of the ADA Regional Center’s TA specialist Dwayne was able to continue swimming regularly despite the construction.
Terry is a volunteer for a childcare center. He was looking forward to attending a year-end dinner, but was surprised to learn the organizers planned the dinner in an inaccessible second floor dinner hall. The childcare center told him that they would accommodate him and his wheelchair by carrying him up the stairs. Terry insisted this was not a reasonable modification and suggested that the organizers choose a different location. The organizers ignored his request.
Feeling frustrated, Terry called his local ADA specialist and learned about his rights to a reasonable modification. The next day, he shared the information he learned with the childcare center staff. The staff realized their organization had an obligation to provide a reasonable modification and made a change in venue for the celebration. Later, Terry said he felt "empowered" and "grateful".
Thanks to the ADA, Terry was able to attend a dinner given to celebrate the years of service he and his fellow volunteers provided.
A man needed to take a driver’s license exam but was concerned that his reading disability might pose a problem with the written section. An ADA specialist he contacted discussed how he could request a reasonable accommodation for the exam from the DMV. The ADA specialist advised him about accommodations and effective communication and said the DMV could read the test out loud if the man preferred.
The man conveyed this information to the DMV office, which worked to provide the proper accommodations; they agreed to give the exam in an audio format to comply with the ADA as well as providing other accommodations the man needed.
Thanks to the ADA, the man was able to take the driving exam and have the results reflect his knowledge and skills rather than his reading disability.
A Hotel Manager Learns About Her Rights and Responsibilities Regarding Service Animals Thanks to the ADA
After a man tried to register his “service parrot” at a hotel, the manager called her local ADA specialist to find out what the regulations are for service animals. They discussed how the legal definition of a service animal is a dog and, in some circumstances, a miniature horse. After they reviewed some FAQs on service animals the hotel manager printed out service animal FAQs and factsheets to have at the front desk. Having that information on hand has helped the staff and manager clarify what kinds of animals can be considered legal service animals and what cannot.
Lisa is a small business owner who thought she was in for an uphill battle. The city was about to install water lines on the street in front of her business, which would block the accessible pathway that Lisa, a wheelchair user, and her clients rely on. The pathway connects the accessible parking space on one side of the building to the accessible entrance on the other side.
A call to her regional ADA center led Lisa to an ADA Specialist who said she should contact the city’s ADA Coordinator and explain the situation. The ADA Specialist said that because the city is a covered entity under Title II of the ADA it has an obligation to ensure the accessible pathway remain open. Acting on the ADA Specialist’s advice, Lisa provided information to both the ADA Coordinator and the construction company on how critical the accessible pathway was to her business.
At first Lisa thought no one was going to listen but noticed that once construction began, the city left an accessible route for Lisa and her clients to use. The head of the construction company even came out to meet Lisa, apologizing for the inconvenience.
“Things dramatically changed!” Lisa said. “Without the information I received from the ADA Specialist, my clients and I may not have been able to access to my business.”
A local wheelchair sports team had been using a nearby college’s basketball court for their wheelchair rugby and wheelchair lacrosse activities. After installing a new floor, the college told the group that they could no longer use the gym because it had established a “no wheels on the floor policy,” explaining that the wheelchairs would damage the new floor. The wheelchair sports team contacted their regional ADA center to get help navigating this situation. The ADA center consulted with the Department of Justice (DOJ) who agreed that the policy was problematic under the ADA because it appeared to prohibit anyone with wheels, prosthetic blades, walkers, or strollers from even using the gym for the non-athletic activities often held there. The wheelchair sports team went back to the college with this information to have a conversation. The college agreed to withdraw the policy, allowing the wheelchair sports team to resume their rugby and lacrosse games while at the college!
A founding member of a lawn bowling club was denied the opportunity to bowl from a manual wheelchair she uses. The club believed her wheelchair would damage the lawn where bowling happens. At first, she asked the club if they could put down a mat she could bowl from on the lawn. The bowling club said no. The woman called her Regional ADA Center and asked if the ADA could help keep bowling accessible for her in her chair. The ADA specialist told her that because a bowling club falls under Title III of the ADA as a place of public accommodation, she could request a reasonable modification. With this information, the woman informed the club of their responsibilities under the ADA. The bowling club agreed to work with her and the officers of the club obtained an adaptable wheelchair mat that would not damage the lawn, allowing the club’s founding member to bowl from her chair.
A dance studio owner called her regional ADA Center seeking guidance on accommodating a potential student who is deaf and had requested an interpreter. The ADA Specialist discussed Title III (Public Accommodations and Commercial Facilities) and the studio owner’s responsibilities to ensure effective communication as a public accommodation. After the call, the instructor contacted a local American Sign Language (ASL) organization who was able to provide an interpreter for each class in which the student participated. Personalized assistance from the ADA National Network guided the dance instructor to best accommodate the new student with a disability.
Photograph by Michael Zittel
A small business owner who designs portable healthcare rooms or “pods” called their regional ADA center and received valuable guidance on how to improve accessibility. The pods are created for individuals who would like to see a medical provider but doesn’t have easy access to a clinic. They will be placed in grocery stores and pharmacies nationwide.
Each healthcare pod is equipped with a screen through which people can communicate and interact with a doctor. Originally the designer of the pods intended to include healthcare instruments such as a thermometer and blood pressure cuff, as well as a light and camera, allowing the doctor to perform a remote physical exam. After calling the ADA Center, he received crucial feedback regarding accommodations for individuals with differing disability limitations. For example, some individuals may not be able to grasp an instrument with a closed fist, while others may not be able to transfer into a different chair within the room. He also had to take into consideration communication accommodations for individuals with hearing difficulties and/or low vision. Priority was also placed on allowing individuals fully accessible entry to the pods after booking an appointment.
Using the feedback from the ADA center the owner was able to redesign the pods to make them fully accessible. Examples of changes include easy to grasp medical instruments, the ability to request closed captioning or a video interpreter, a foldable built-in chair allowing better access for wheelchairs, and a physically accessible card reader allowing for pod entry. Thanks to the ADA, over the next two years fully accessible pods will be placed in grocery stores and pharmacies nationwide allowing full inclusion for all.
Like any other senior in high school, Kevin was excited to go to prom and his father Patrick was going to make sure it would be a memorable night. However, they ran into a roadblock when the school district would not allow Kevin to attend. Kevin has Down syndrome and has an aide that accompanies him, but because the aide was over 21, the school’s policy dictated that he would not be allowed to attend a high school celebration. Patrick called the ADA National Network hoping that they could help him resolve this situation. An ADA Specialist advised him to contact the local school district ADA coordinator and superintendent, and also pointed to information needed to file a complaint. Thanks to Patrick’s efforts guided by the ADA specialist’s advice, the school district gave permission to Kevin and his aide to attend to his high school prom and have a wonderful time!
For the last 10 years a pipe welder who is deaf has successfully worked with his team by communicating with American Sign Language, reading lips, exchanging notes, and using gestures. The company he works for has a contract with a large gas and electricity company, which tests all workers through a certification process. The process recently changed to include an oral portion; gas pipe welders must now respond to verbal questions given by examiners. He failed the test after not responding to the oral questions, even after writing a note asking for a sign language interpreter, which was denied. He called a TA Specialist at one of our ADA centers who advised him to get in touch with his organization’s ADA coordinator in order to ensure that it provides effective communication. The organization’s ADA coordinator worked with the examiners to educate them on their responsibilities under the ADA. As a result, the pipe welder was able to retake the oral portion with a sign language interpreter and passed, keeping his job as a highly skilled and experienced employee.
Abdi, coordinator of a local branch of a health club chain, emailed the ADA National Network with questions about a week-long camp program designed for children with disabilities it runs. The ADA Specialist who reviewed Abdi’s camp brochure caught something that would be problematic: an additional $100 fee for trained counselors that would be available upon request to accommodate children with disabilities. The specialist told Abdi that while they were on the right track to try to accommodate children with disabilities, the camp was obligated to pay the cost of any of those reasonable modifications needed for children with disabilities to participate in camping activities. The ADA specialist also stated that parents should not be charged any additional costs beyond the basic camp fee. The advice prompted the camp to no longer charge additional fees for one-on-one counselors, making the health club chain more accessible for everyone.
A Small-Business Owner Learned That She Did Not Have to Make a Costly Modification to Her Older Building
Andrea called the ADA national hotline with a question facing many businesses: do they need to modify their bathrooms to meet ADA standards? A knowledgeable ADA Specialist informed her that because the ADA went into effect in 1991, all buildings that were operating before that are required to make accessibility improvements that are “readily achievable,” which means that it can be done with relatively little expense and difficulty.
Although she wanted her business to be as accessible as possible, the Business Guide helped Andrea understand that, although highly preferable, businesses are not always required to make their bathrooms accessible – in her case because of the small size of her business and the cost of modifying an older building. The ADA specialist explained that although the law protects the rights of individuals with disabilities, it also incorporates reasonable considerations by businesses and other entities.
When Jake landed a new construction job, he disclosed being bipolar to his manager and requested a 24-hour notice if he was needed at a site earlier than usual. This would allow him to adjust his medication beforehand in order to drive safely.
Although the company agreed to this accommodation, he was cited for being late more than once. Jake called his regional ADA center and was advised that a good first step would be to contact human resources to see if they could work things out.
In the end the company not only reaffirmed his accommodation but made sure to provide a hotel when sites were more than two hours from his home, which has helped him to show up on time as well as has required less driving. The advice left Jake empowered with the knowledge he needed to tackle the barriers he was facing thanks to the ADA.
A Business Owner Learns About Her Rights and Responsibilities in Making Her Office Space Accessible Thanks to the ADA
Sarah works for a business that is comprised of basement warehouse and upper-floor office space. Her business is leasing the spaces from a building owner who is responsible for most of the accessibility issues and being up to building code. But as Sarah understands it, her business needs to make sure the space is physically accessible. Consequently, she was wondering what they need to do in order to do so. To get answers, she called one of our regional ADA centers.
Our ADA specialist and Sarah discussed how she might make structural changes for an employee as a reasonable accommodation. The ADA specialist also emphasized that while the building owner may be responsible for making the building accessible as a whole, Sarah’s business has an obligation to be located in an accessible space. Thus, if an employee or client with a disability comes into her shop and cannot access it, it may become her problem, because she made the choice to set up in an inaccessible location. Sarah understood and set up a call with the building owner to make accessibility improvements to the space.