Q. What are public accommodations?
A. 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, parks, private schools, and day
care centers. Private clubs and religious organizations are exempt from the
ADA's title III requirements for public accommodations.
Q. When are the public accommodations provisions effective?
A. In general, they became effective on January 26, 1992.
Q. What does the ADA require in new
A. 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.
Q. Is it expensive to make all newly constructed places of
public accommodation and commercial facilities accessible?
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 and decreased welfare dependency.
Q. Must every feature of a new facility be accessible?
A. No, only a specified number of elements such as parking spaces
and drinking fountains must be made accessible in order for a facility to be
"readily accessible." Certain nonoccupiable spaces such as elevator pits,
elevator penthouses, and piping or equipment catwalks need not be accessible.
Q. What are the ADA requirements for altering
A. 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.
Q. What kinds of auxiliary aids and services are required by
the ADA to ensure effective communication with individuals with hearing or
A. Appropriate auxiliary aids and services may
include services and devices such as qualified interpreters, assistive
listening devices, notetakers, and written materials for individuals with
hearing impairments; and qualified readers, taped texts, and brailled or large
print materials for individuals with vision impairments.
Q. Are there any limitations on the ADA's auxiliary aids
requirements? A. 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 caselaw under section 504 of the Rehabilitation
Act and are to be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Q. Will restaurants be required to have brailled
A. No, not if waiters or other employees are made available
to read the menu to a blind customer.
Q. Will a clothing store be required to have brailled price
A. No, not if sales personnel could provide price information
orally upon request.
Q. Will a bookstore be required to maintain a sign language
interpreter on its staff in order to communicate with deaf customers?
A. No, not if employees communicate by pen and notepad when
Q. Are there any limitations on the ADA's barrier removal
requirements for existing facilities?
A. Yes. Barrier removal need
be accomplished only when it is "readily achievable" to do so.
Q. What does the term "readily achievable" mean?
A. It means "easily accomplishable and able to be carried out
without much difficulty or expense."
Q. What are examples of the types of modifications that
would be readily achievable in most cases?
A. 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, and similar
Q. Will businesses need to rearrange furniture and display
A. 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.
Q. Will businesses need to install elevators?
Businesses are not required to retrofit their facilities to install elevators
unless such installation is readily achievable, which is unlikely in most
Q. When barrier removal is not readily achievable, what
kinds of alternative steps are required by the ADA?
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.
Q. Must alternative steps be taken without regard to
A. No, only readily achievable alternative steps must be
Q. How is "readily achievable" determined in a multisite
A. 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.
Q. Who has responsibility for ADA compliance in leased
places of public accommodation, the landlord or the tenant?
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.
Q. Are businesses entitled to any tax benefit to help pay
for the cost of compliance?
A. 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.
Q. Does the ADA cover private apartments and private homes?
A. 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, those portions of
the residence used for that purpose are subject to the ADA's requirements.
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