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Public Accommodations

 

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 construction?

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?

A. 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 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 facilities?

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 vision impairments?

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 menus?

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 tags?

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 necessary.

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 modest adjustments.

Q. Will businesses need to rearrange furniture and display racks?

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?

A. Businesses are not required to retrofit their facilities to install elevators unless such installation is readily achievable, which is unlikely in most cases.

Q. When barrier removal is not readily achievable, what kinds of alternative steps are required by the ADA?

A. 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.

Q. Must alternative steps be taken without regard to cost?

A. No, only readily achievable alternative steps must be undertaken.

Q. How is "readily achievable" determined in a multisite business?

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?

A. 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.

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.

For More ADA Information

Click here for a listing of agencies and organizations that can be utilized as sources for obtaining information about ADA requirements and informal guidance in understanding and complying with the ADA, or click on FYI.

 

 

 

 

 

WILC Main Office
200 Hamilton Avenue, 2nd Floor
White Plains, New York 10601
(914) 682-3926 (Voice)
866-933-5390 (VP/TTY)
(914) 682-8518 (FAX)
Directions to WILC

Satellite Office PILS
1961 Route 6, 2nd Floor
Carmel, New York 10512
845-228-7457 (Voice)
866-933-5390 (VP/TTY)
845-228-7460 (Fax)
Directions to PILS

Yonkers Outreach Office
Pathways to Success
75 Riverdale Avenue
Yonkers, New York 10701
914-376-8600 (Voice)

 

 

 

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