The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The ADA requires that new construction and alterations to existing facilities comply with the ADA Standards for Accessible Design. ADA requirements for new construction and alterations include detailed provisions for elements, spaces, and facilities. Successful accessibility is often measured in inches, so attention to detail can make the difference between achieving access and excluding or injuring someone.
When the ADA’s minimum requirements are not met, the results can limit or exclude a person with a disability and can be dangerous. For example, when a curb ramp extends into an access aisle at an accessible parking space, a person using a wheelchair may not be able to get out of the car or van. When the slope of a sidewalk that is an accessible route becomes steeper than 1 to 20, railings and edge protection are required for safe use. Objects that project into circulation spaces from the side, or that do not provide at least 80 inches of head clearance, can be extremely hazardous to people who are blind or who have low vision.
This document lists a sampling of common accessibility errors or omissions that have been identified through the Department of Justice’s ongoing enforcement efforts. The specific requirement of the Standards that has not been met follows each error/omission. The list of errors/omissions provides examples of common deficiencies. It is not intended to be comprehensive or exhaustive. Any failure to comply with the Standards violates the ADA.
For additional information about the design and construction requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), contact the Department of Justice ADA Information Line. This free service provides answers to general and technical questions about ADA requirements and is a source for free ADA materials including the ADA Standards for Accessible Design. You may reach the ADA Information Line at: 800-514-0301 (voice) or 800-514-0383 (TDD).
ADA information is also available on the Department’s ADA Home Page: www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/adahom1.htm
Title III of the ADA: Public Accommodations
Title III prohibits discrimination based on disability in public accommodations. Private entities covered by Title III include places of lodging, establishments serving food and drink, places of exhibition or entertainment, places of public gathering, sales or rental establishments, service establishments, stations used for specified public transportation, places of public display or collection, places of recreation, places of education, social service center establishments, and places of exercise or recreation.
Title III also covers commercial facilities (such as warehouses, factories, and office buildings), private transportation services, and licensing and testing practices.
If you feel you or another person have been discriminated against by an entity covered by Title III, we urge you to take action.
Your first step should always be to talk to the owner of the establishment and negotiate for change.
Our own John Gladstone, a person with a disability and a member of Liberty Resources’ Board of Directors, successfully negotiated with Bookbinders, a local restaurant. This is a long time Philadelphia establishment on 15th Street in Center City. The building is older and must comply with historic preservation laws. After much negotiation between the owner and the city, Bookbinders is now accessible to people in wheelchairs.
DIA (Disabled In Action) met an owner that would not negotiate. The IHOP, International House of Pancakes, a national chain with a restaurant on Walnut Street in center city said no to DIA’s request for modification and would not negotiate. A Title III Complaint was filed and DIA was able to affect change in this local restaurant as well as other IHOP’s nationally.
If you feel you, or another person has been discriminated against by an entity covered by Title III, send a letter to the Department of Justice, at the address below, including the following information:
Your full name, address, and telephone number, and the name of the party discriminated against; the name of the business, organization, or institution that you believe has discriminated; a description of the act or acts of discrimination, the date or dates of the discriminatory acts, and the name or names of the individuals who you believe discriminated; and other information that you believe necessary to support your complaint. Please send copies of relevant documents. Do not send original documents.
Sign and send the letter to the following address:
Disability Rights Section
Civil Rights Division
U. S. Department of Justice
P.O. Box 66738
Washington, DC 20035-6738
The Disability Rights Section will consider your complaint and inform you of its action. The office will investigate the complaint and determine whether to begin litigation. We will not necessarily make a determination on each complaint about whether or not there is an ADA violation. If we believe there is a pattern or practice of discrimination or the complaint raises an issue of general public importance, we may attempt to negotiate a settlement of the matter or we may bring an action in U.S. District Court. Any such action would be taken on behalf of the United States. We do not act as an attorney for, or representative of, the complaint.
You also have the option of filing your own case in the U.S. District Court. Depending on the nature of your complaint, other information would also be helpful to our investigation:
Small businesses have limited protection from lawsuits. Except with respect to new construction and alterations, no lawsuit can be filed concerning acts or omissions that occur before: July 26, 1992 by businesses with 25 or fewer employees and gross receipts of $1,000,000 or less; January 26, 1993 by businesses with 10 or fewer employees and gross receipts of $500,000 or less. The name or names of the individuals or entities who have an ownership and/or managerial interest in each facility or business that is the subject of your complaint, with phone numbers and addresses, including zip codes, if you have them. Information specifying whether facility is owned and/or operated by a private entity or a state or local government. The nature of the activity or service provided by the business. If you are alleging failure to remove architectural barriers, a description, including as much detail as possible, of the barriers. If possible, please provide pictures, videotapes, diagrams, or other illustrations that accurately set forth the alleged violation. Any suggestions for remedying the alleged violations of the ADA. Information about whether you have filed a related complaint with a U.S. Attorney’s office, or any other Federal, State, or local agency, or any court, or whether you intend to file such a complaint.
The authority for collecting this information is contained in 42 U.S.C. 12188(b). We need this information in order to investigate your complaint. The personal information will be used primarily for authorized civil rights compliance and enforcement activities conducted by the Department of Justice. The Department will not disclose the name of, or other identifying information about an individual, unless it is necessary for enforcement activities against an entity alleged to have violated federal law, or unless such information is required to be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. 552, or as is allowed through the publication of a routine use in accordance with the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. 552a.
To further the Department’s enforcement activities, information we have about you may be given to appropriate Federal, State, or local agencies. Additional disclosures of information may be made: to members of Congress or staff; to volunteer student workers with the Department of Justice so that they may perform their duties; to the news media when the release is made consistent with the Freedom of Information Act and 28 C.F.R. 40.2; and to the National Archives and Records Administration and General Services Administration to perform records management inspection functions in accordance with their statutory responsibilities.
Furnishing of the requested information is voluntary except that the failure to provide such information may result in our being unable to process your complaint.