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?
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
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
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
Q. What kinds of auxiliary aids and services are required by the ADA to
ensure effective communication with individuals with hearing or vision
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
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
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
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 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