Frequently Asked Questions
Northwest ADA Center's Frequently Asked Questions section is designed to provide quick answers to questions most asked by the general public on topics that are the most requested. This 24-7 service is designed for easy use. If your questions are not answered here, please call our 1-800-949-4232 call center number from 8:30 to 4:30 Monday through Friday, except for holidays. Or you can use our Ask a Question section here.
- Reasonable Accommodation FAQ's
- Public Accommodation Title III FAQ's
- Miscellaneous ADA Questions and Answers
- ADAAG FAQ's - General
- ADAAG FAQ's - Specific
- Transportation FAQ's
- Service Animal FAQ's
- Accessible Parking FAQ's & Information by state in Region X
- Fair Housing FAQ's
- What employers are covered by title I of the ADA, and when is the coverage effective?
- What practices and activities are covered by the employment nondiscrimination requirements?
- Who is protected from employment discrimination?
- Who is a "qualified individual with a disability"?
- Does an employer have to give preference to a qualified applicant with a disability over the other applicants?
- Does the ADA require employers to develop written job descriptions?
- What is "reasonable accommodation"?
- What are some of the accommodations applicants and employees may need?
- When is an employer required to make a reasonable accommodation?
- What are the limitations on the obligation to make a reasonable accommodation?
- Can an employer be required to reallocate an essential function of a job to another employee as a reasonable accommodation?
- Can an employer be required to modify, adjust, or make other reasonable accommodations in the way a test is given to qualified applicant or employee with a disability?
- Can an employer consider health and safety when deciding whether to hire an applicant or retain an employee with a disability?
- What financial assistance is available to employers to help them make reasonable accommodations and comply with the ADA?
- Does the ADA require that an employer post a notice explaining its requirements?
1. What employers are covered by title I of the ADA, and when is the coverage effective?
The title I employment provisions apply to private employers, State and local governments, employment agencies, and labor unions. Employers with 25 or more employees will be covered as of July 26, 1992. Employers with 15 or more employees will be covered two years later, beginning July 26, 1994.
2. What practices and activities are covered by the employment nondiscrimination requirements?
The ADA prohibits discrimination in all employment practices, including job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. It applies to recruitment, advertising, tenure, layoff, leave, fringe benefits, and all other employment-related activities.
3. Who is protected from employment discrimination?
Employment discrimination is prohibited against "qualified individuals with disabilities." This includes applicants for employment and employees. An individual is considered to have a "disability" if s/he has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment. People discriminated against because they have a known association or relationship with an individual with a disability also are protected. The first part of the definition makes it clear that the ADA applies to persons who have impairments and the these must substantially limit major life activities such as seeing, hearing, speaking, walking, breathing, performing manual tasks, learning, caring for oneself, and working. An individual with epilepsy, paralysis, HIV infection, AIDS, a substantial hearing or visual impairment, mental retardation, or a specific learning disability is covered, but an individual with a minor, non-chronic condition of short duration, such as a sprain, broken limb, or the flu, generally would not be covered. The second part of the definition protection individuals with a record of a disability would cover, for example, a person who has recovered from cancer or mental illness. The third part of the definition protects individuals who are regarded as having a substantially limiting impairment, even though they may not have such an impairment. For example, this provision would protect a qualified individual with a severe facial disfigurement from being denied employment because an employer feared the "negative reactions" of customers or co-workers.
4. Who is a "qualified individual with a disability"?
A qualified individual with a disability is a person who meets legitimate skill, experience, education, or other requirements of an employment position that s/he holds or seeks, and who can perform the "essential functions" of the position with or without reasonable accommodation. Requiring the ability to perform "essential" functions assures that an individual with a disability will not be considered unqualified simply because of inability to perform essential job functions except for limitations caused by a disability, the employer must consider whether the individual could perform these functions with a reasonable accommodation. If a written job description has been prepared in advance of advertising or interviewing applicants for a job, this will be considered as evidence, although not conclusive evidence, of the essential functions of the job.
5. Does an employer have to give preference to a qualified applicant with a disability over the other applicants?
No. An employer is free to select the most qualified applicant available and to make decisions based on reasons unrelated to a disability. For example, suppose two persons apply for a job as a typist and an essential function of the job is to type 75 words per minute accurately. One applicant, an individual with a disability, who is provided with a reasonable accommodation for a typing test, types 50 words per minute; the other applicant who has no disability accurately types 75 words per minute. The employer can hire the applicant with the higher typing speed, if typing speed is needed for successful performance of the job.
6. Does the ADA require employers to develop written job descriptions?
No. The ADA does not require employers to develop or maintain job descriptions. However, a written job description that is prepared before advertising or interviewing applicants for a job will be considered as evidence along with other relevant factors. If an employer uses job descriptions, they should be reviewed to make sure they accurately reflect the actual functions of a job. A job description will be most helpful if it focuses on the results or outcome of a job function, not solely on the way it customarily is performed. A reasonable accommodation may enable a person with a disability to accomplish a job function in a manner that is different from the way an employee who is not disabled may accomplish the same function.
7. What is "reasonable accommodation"?
Reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions. Reasonable accommodation also includes adjustments to assure that a qualified individual with a disability has rights and privileges in employment equal to those of employees without disabilities.
8. What are some of the accommodations applicants and employees may need?
Examples of reasonable accommodation include making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to and usable by an individual with a disability; modifying work schedules; acquiring or modifying equipment; providing qualified readers or interpreters; or appropriately modifying examinations, training, or other programs. Reasonable accommodation also may include reassigning a current employee to a vacant position for which the individual is qualified, if the person is unable to do the original job because of a disability even with an accommodation. However, there is no obligation to find a position for an applicant who is not qualified for the position sought. Employers are not required to lower quality or quantity standards as an accommodation; nor are they obligated to provide personal use items such as glasses or hearing aids.
The decision as to the appropriate accommodation must be based on the particular facts of each case. In selecting the particular type of reasonable accommodation to provide, the principal test is that of effectiveness, i.e., whether the accommodation will provide an opportunity for a person with a disability to achieve the same level of performance and to enjoy benefits equal to those of an average, similarly situated person without a disability. However, the accommodation does not have to ensure equal results or provide exactly the same benefits.
9. When is an employer required to make a reasonable accommodation?
An employer is only required to accommodate a "known" disability of a qualified applicant or employee. The requirement generally will be triggered by a request from an individual with a disability, who frequently will be able to suggest an appropriate accommodation. Accommodations must be made on an individual basis, because the nature and extent of a disabling condition and the requirements of a job will vary in each case. If the individual does not request an accommodation, the employer is not obligated to provide one except where an individual's known disability impairs his/her ability to know of, or effectively communicate a need for, an accommodation that is obvious to the employer. If a person with a disability requests, but cannot suggest, an appropriate accommodation, the employer and the individual should work together to identify one. There are also many public and private resources that can provide assistance without cost.
10. What are the limitations on the obligation to make a reasonable accommodation?
The individual with a disability requiring the accommodation must be otherwise qualified, and the disability must be known to the employer. In addition, an employer is not required to make an accommodation if it would impose an "undue hardship" is defined as an "action requiring significant difficulty or expense" when considered in light of a number of factors. These factors include the nature and cost of the accommodation in relation to the size, resources, nature and structure of the employer's operation. Undue hardship is determined on a case-by-case basis. Where the facility making the accommodation is part of a larger entity, the structure and overall resources of the larger organization would be considered, as well as the financial and administrative relationship of the facility to the larger organization. In general, a larger employer with greater resources would be expected to make accommodations requiring greater effort or expense than would be required of a smaller employer with fewer resources.
If a particular accommodation would be an undue hardship, the employer must try to identify another accommodation that will not pose such a hardship. Also, if the cost of an accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer, the individual with a disability should be given the option of paying that portion of the cost which would constitute an undue hardship or providing the accommodation.
11. Can an employer be required to reallocate an essential function of a job to another employee as a reasonable accommodation?
No. An employer is not required to reallocate essential functions of a job as a reasonable accommodation.
12. Can an employer be required to modify, adjust, or make other reasonable accommodations in the way a test is given to qualified applicant or employee with a disability?
Yes. Accommodations may be needed to assure that test or examinations measure the actual ability of an individual to perform job functions rather than reflect limitations caused by the disability. Tests should be given to people who have sensory, speaking, or manual impairments in a format that does not require the use of the impaired skill, unless it is a job-related skill that the test is designed to measure.
13. Can an employer consider health and safety when deciding whether to hire an applicant or retain an employee with a disability?
Yes. The ADA permits employers to establish qualification standards that will exclude individuals who pose a direct threat--i.e., a significant risk of substantial harm-- to the health or safety of the individual or of others, if that risk cannot be eliminated or reduced below the level of a "direct threat" by reasonable accommodation. However, an employer may not simply assume that a threat exists: the employer must establish through objective, medically supportable methods that there is significant risk that substantial harm could occur in the workplace. By requiring employers to make individualized judgements based on reliable medical or other objective evidence rather than on generalizations, ignorance, fear, patronizing attitudes, or stereotypes, the ADA recognizes the need to balance the interests of people with disabilities against the legitimate interests of employers in maintaining a safe workplace.
14. What financial assistance is available to employers to help them make reasonable accommodations and comply with the ADA?
A special tax credit is available to help smaller employers make accommodations required by the ADA. An eligible small business may take a tax credit of up to $5,000 per year for accommodations made to comply with the ADA. The credit is available for one-half the cost of "eligible access expenditures" that are more than $250 but less than $10,250. A full tax deduction, up to $15,000 per year, also is available to any business for expenses of removing qualified architectural or transportation barriers. Expenses covered include costs of removing barriers created by steps, narrow doors, inaccessible parking spaces, restroom facilities, and transportation vehicles. Information about the tax credit and the tax deduction can be obtained from a local IRS office, or by contacting the Office of Chief Counsel, Internal Revenue Service. Tax credits are available under the Targeted Jobs Tax Credit Program (TJTCP) for employers who hire individuals with disabilities referred by State or local vocational rehabilitation agencies, State Commissions on the Blind, or the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and certified by a State Employment Service. Under the TJTCP, a tax credit may be taken for up to 40 percent of the first $6,000 of first year wages of a new employee with a disability. This program must be reauthorized each year by Congress, and currently is extended through June 30, 1993. Further information about the TJTCP can be obtained from the State Employment Services or from State Governors' Committees on the Employment of People with Disabilities.
15. Does the ADA require that an employer post a notice explaining its requirements?
The ADA requires that employers post a notice describing the provisions of the ADA. It must be made accessible, as needed, to individuals with disabilities. A poster is available from EEOC summarizing the requirements of the ADA and other Federal legal requirements for nondiscrimination for which EEOC has enforcement responsibility. EEOC also provides guidance on making this information available in accessible formats for people with disabilities.
Public Accommodation Title III
- What are public accommodations?
- Will the ADA have any effect on the eligibility criteria used by public accommodation to determine who may receive services?
- Are there any limits on the kind of modifications in policies, practices, and procedures required by the ADA?
- Will restaurants be required to have brailled menus?
- Will a clothing store be required to have brailled price tags?
- Will a bookstore be required to maintain a sign language interpreter on its staff in order to communicate with deaf customers?
- Are there any limitations on the ADA's barrier removal requirements for existing facilities?
- What does the term "readily achievable" mean?
- What are examples of the types of modifications that would be readily achievable in most cases?
- Will businesses need to install elevators?
- When barrier removal is not readily achievable, what kinds of alternative steps are required by the ADA?
- Must alternative steps be taken without regard to cost?
- How is "readily achievable" determined in a multisite business?
- Who has responsibility for ADA compliance in leased places of public accommodation, the landlord or the tenant?
- What does the ADA require in new construction?
- Is it expensive to make all newly constructed places of public accommodation and commercial facilities accessible?
- Must every feature of a new facility be accessible?
- What are the ADA requirements for altering facilities?
- Does the ADA permit an individual with a disability to sue a business when that individual believes that discrimination is about to occur, or must the individual wait for the discrimination to occur?
- How does the ADA affect existing state and local building codes?
- When are the public accommodation provisions effective?
- How will the public accommodation provisions be enforced?
1. What are public accommodations?
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
2. Will the ADA have any effect on the eligibility criteria used by public accommodation to determine who may receive services?
Yes. If a criterion screens out or tends to screen out individuals with disabilities, it may only be used if necessary for the provision of the services. For instance, it would be a violation for a retail store to have a rule excluding all deaf persons from entering the premises, or for a movie theater to exclude all individuals with cerebral palsy. More subtle forms of discrimination are also prohibited. For example, requiring presentation of a driver's license as the sole acceptable means of identification for purposes of paying by check could constitute discrimination against individuals with vision impairments. This would be true if such individuals are ineligible to receive licenses and the use of an alternative means of identification is feasible.
3. Are there any limits on the kind of modifications in policies, practices, and procedures required by the ADA?
Yes. The ADA does not require modifications that would fundamentally alter the nature of the services provided by the public accommodation. For example, it would not be discriminatory for a physician specialist who treats only burn patients to refer a deaf individual to another physician for treatment of a broken limb or respiratory ailment. To require a physician to accept patients outside of his or her specialty would fundamentally alter the nature of the medical practice.
4. Will restaurants be required to have brailled menus?
No, not if waiters or other employees are made available to read the menu to a blind customer.
5. Will a clothing store be required to have brailled price tags?
No, not if sales personnel could provide price information orally upon request.
6. Will a bookstore be required to maintain a sign language interpreter on its staff in order to communicate with deaf customers?
No, not if employees communicate by pen and notepad when necessary.
7. Are there any limitations on the ADA's barrier removal requirements for existing facilities?
Yes. Barrier removal need be accomplished only when it is "readily achievable" to do so.
8. What does the term "readily achievable" mean?
It means "easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense."
9. What are examples of the types of modifications that would be readily achievable in most cases?
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.
10. 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 cases.
11. When barrier removal is not readily achievable, what kinds of alternative steps are required by the ADA?
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.
12. Must alternative steps be taken without regard to cost?
No, only readily achievable alternative steps must be undertaken.
13. How is "readily achievable" determined in a multisite business?
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.
14. Who has responsibility for ADA compliance in leased places of public accommodation, the landlord or the tenant?
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.
15. 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; terminal, depot, or other public transit station; or an airport passenger terminal
16. Is it expensive to make all newly constructed places of public accommodation and commercial facilities accessible?
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.
17. Must every feature of a new facility be accessible?
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.
18. What are the ADA requirements for altering facilities?
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. The bathrooms, telephone, and drinking fountains serving that area must also be made accessible. These additional accessibility alterations are only required to the extent that the added accessibility costs do not exceed 20% of the cost of the original alteration. 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.
19. Does the ADA permit an individual with a disability to sue a business when that individual believes that discrimination is about to occur, or must the individual wait for the discrimination to occur?
The ADA public accommodations provisions permit an individual to allege discrimination based on a reasonable belief that discrimination is about to occur. This provision, for example, allows a person who uses a wheelchair to challenge the planned construction of a new place of public accommodation, such as a shopping mall, that would not be accessible to individuals who use wheelchairs. The resolution of such challenges prior to the construction of an inaccessible facility would enable any necessary remedial measures to be incorporated in the building at the planning stage, when such changes would be relatively inexpensive.
20. How does the ADA affect existing state and local building codes?
Existing codes remain in effect. The ADA allows the Attorney General to certify that a State law, local building code, or similar ordinance that establishes accessibility requirements meets or exceeds the minimum accessibility requirements for public accommodations and commercial facilities. Any State or local government may apply for certification of its code or ordinance. The Attorney General can certify a code or ordinance only after prior notice and a public hearing at which interested people, including individuals with disabilities, are provided an opportunity to testify against the certification.
21. When are the public accommodation provisions effective?
In general, they became effective on January 26,1992.
22. How will the public accommodation provisions be enforced?
Private individuals may bring lawsuits in which they can obtain court orders to stop discrimination. Individuals may also file complaints with the Attorney General, who is authorized to bring lawsuits in cases of general public importance or where a "pattern or practice" of discrimination is alleged. In these cases, the Attorney General may seek monetary damages and civil penalties. Civil penalties may not exceed $50,000 for a first violation or $100,000 for any subsequent violation.
Miscellaneous ADA: Questions & Answers
- Is the Federal government covered by the ADA?
- Does the ADA cover private apartments and private homes?
- Does the ADA cover air transportation?
- What are the ADA's requirements for public transit buses?
- How will the ADA make telecommunications accessible?
- Are businesses entitled to any tax benefit to help pay for the cost of compliance?
1. Is the Federal government covered by the ADA?
The ADA does not cover the executive branch of the Federal government. The executive branch continues to be covered by title V of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination in services and employment on the basis of handicap and which is a model for the requirements of the ADA. The ADA, however, does cover Congress and other entities in the legislative branch of the Federal government.
2. Does the ADA cover private apartments and private homes?
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.
3. Does the ADA cover air transportation?
Discrimination by air carriers in areas other than employment is not covered by the ADA but rather by the Air Carrier Access Act (49 U.S.C. 1374 (c)).
4. What are the ADA's requirements for public transit buses?
The Department of Transportation has issued regulations mandating accessible public transit vehicles and facilities. The regulations include requirements tat all new fixed-route, public transit buses be accessible and that supplementary para transit services be provided for those individuals with disabilities who cannot use fixed-route bus service.
5. How will the ADA make telecommunications accessible?
The ADA requires the establishment of telephone relay services for individuals who use telecommunications devices for deaf persons (TDD's) or similar devices. The Federal Communications Commission has issued regulations specifying standards for the operation of these services.
6. Are businesses entitled to any tax benefit to help pay for the cost of compliance?
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.
ADAAG FAQ's - General
- What's the difference between the ADA, ADA regulations, and ADAAG?
- What does the ADA cover?
- How is the ADA implemented?
- How does ADAAG fit into the ADA regulations?
- How are the regulations organized?
- How is ADAAG organized?
- How was ADAAG developed?
- Have there been any changes in ADAAG?
- How can I tell if I have a current edition of ADAAG?
- What's next for ADAAG?
- How will ADAAG be updated?
- What if there are no provisions in ADAAG for a facility type, element, or feature?
- What about ADA requirements for existing facilities?
- How does program accessibility apply to existing facilities?
- How does barrier removal affect existing facilities?
- What about obligations to employees?
- Who enforces ADAAG provisions?
- What about other accessibility regulations?
- Where can I get more information?
1. What's the difference between the ADA, ADA regulations, and ADAAG?
The Americans with Disabilities Act - the ADA - is a law, passed by Congress and signed by the President in July of 1990, that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. To effect this prohibition, the statute required certain designated Federal agencies to develop implementing regulations, the first of which were promulgated in July of 1991. This rulemaking continues today. The regulations detail a wide range of administrative and procedural requirements, including compliance with design and construction standards; those standards are expressed in the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines: ADAAG.
2. What does the ADA cover?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (Public Law 101-336), has five titles (a title is a discrete part of a larger document), each of which defines and prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability within a specific arena:
- Title I - Employment
- Title II - Public Services
- Subtitle A covers state and local governments generally;
- Subtitle B applies to most public transportation systems
- Title III - Public Accommodations and Services (including transportation) Operated by Private Entities
- Title IV - Telecommunications
- Title V - Miscellaneous Provisions
Strictly speaking, the titles refer to the divisions within the statute itself. However, they have come to be used as a shorthand way of discriminating between the ADA obligations of public - title II - and private - title III - entities.
The ADA generally exempts religious entities and private clubs from coverage (note that individual state or local regulations may nevertheless require accessible design in such facilities).
3. How is the ADA implemented?
The text of the law outlines the findings and purposes that made it necessary. In order to accomplish its objectives, however, the general and specific prohibitions of discrimination mandated by Congress in each title of the statute must be expressed in rules and regulations - terms used interchangably here - that specify and detail its application. This rulemaking is assigned to an appropriate Federal agency in each of the substantive titles (I-IV; title V is largely administrative) of the ADA:
- Title I - Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
- Title II -
- Subtitle A - Department of Justice (DOJ)
- Subtitle B - Department of Transportation (DOT)
- Title III - Department of Justice (DOT for vehicles)
- Title IV - Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
The DOT rule entitled Transportation for Individuals with Disabilities covers transportation services provided by both title II and title III entities. Title II transportation providers must look to the DOT rule for both facility, vehicle, and operational requirements; those who receive Federal monies will also be covered by DOT's implementing regulations for section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Incidental transportation services provided by public accommodations that are not primarily engaged in the business of transporting people is subject to DOJ's title III regulation for operations and barrier removal and to DOT's regulation for vehicles and systems.
4. How does ADAAG fit into the ADA regulations?
The DOJ and DOT rules describe all of the ADA obligations of covered entities arising from titles II and III of the Act. The ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) were developed to guide new construction and alterations undertaken by covered entities. The guidelines establish the minimum requirements for accessibility in buildings and facilities and in transportation vehicles subject to the title II and title III regulations. When adopted by DOJ and DOT, the Access Board guidelines became the standards for accessible design under title III (title II entities may choose either ADAAG or UFAS - the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards - until the Department of Justice completes title II rulemaking now underway).
Regulations implementing the general provisions of titles II and III of the ADA - including those that cover buildings and facilities - were published in the Federal Register (FR) on July 26, 1991 in three parts (the Part designations are Federal Register divisions only and do not relate to titles of the statute):
- Part II - Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board - 36 CFR Part 1191 - Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities; Final Guidelines (this is ADAAG);
- Part III - Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General - 28 CFR Part 36 - Nondiscrimination by Public Accommodations and in Commercial Facilities; Final Rule (this is the title III regulation; subpart C contains requirements for existing facilities; subpart D covers new construction and alterations, incorporating ADAAG as Appendix A), and
- Part IV - Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General - 28 CFR Part 35 - Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in State and Local Government Services; Final Rule (this is the title II regulation: subpart D contains requirements for existing facilities and new construction and alterations).
Regulations implementing the transportation provisions of titles II and III of the ADA were published in the Federal Register on September 6, 1991, also in three parts:
- Part II - Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board - 36 CFR 1191 - Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities; Transportation Facilities; Amendment to Final Guidelines (this is Section 10 of ADAAG, initially reserved in its July publication);
- Part III - Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board - 36 CFR Part 1192 - Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines for Transportation Vehicles; Final Guidelines (called 'vehicle guidelines'), and
- Part IV - Department of Transportation - 49 CFR Parts 27, 37 and 38 - Transportation for Individuals with Disabilities; Final Rule (this is known as the DOT rule; it incorporates ADAAG, including Section 10 on transportation facilities and the vehicle guidelines).
5. How are the regulations organized?
The DOJ regulations governing title III entities were published in theFederal Register in three major divisions:
- the Preamble (pps. 35544-35592) discussed the rulemaking history and contained a detailed, section-by-section analysis of the regulation, including a discussion of public comment on the proposed rule; its three-column text can be distinguished by its italicized headings;
- the Rule (pps. 35592-35604), also in three columns, but with bold headings, contains the legal requirements that cover private sector entities. These are divided into subparts, each containing a series of sections (note that requirements for existing facilities - including barrier removal in places of public accommodation - are only covered in the regulation and not in ADAAG).
- ADAAG (pps. 35605-35691), the Access Board's ADA Accessibility Guidelines, is incorporated in the regulations as Appendix A - Standards for Accessible Design.
Similarly, the DOJ title II rule, as originally published, contained a preamble and regulation; however, no ADAAG is appended to the document published in the Federal Register. Title II entities may elect to follow either ADAAG - excluding its elevator exceptions - or the 1984 Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS) for new construction and alterations (the Department of Justice will consider removing this option when it adopts title II guidelines).
The original DOT transportation rule contained a preamble and regulation as well, and incorporates ADAAG (including Section 10. Transportation Facilities) as Appendix A to Part 37. Appendix D contains an interpretive guide. Vehicle standards are in Part 38.
After publication in the Federal Register, regulations are codified in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) which does not contain the preamble that accompanied the original issuance.
The Access Board's ADAAG, also published in the Federal Register as a stand-alone document, contained only a preamble, the guidelines, and an advisory appendix. The detailed discussion of the provisions for new construction and alterations found in its preamble will be of particular use to design professionals applying its scoping and technical requirements (copies containing the preamble are no longer being published; consult the July 26, 1991 Federal Register, available at many libraries).
6. How is ADAAG organized?
The guidelines contain requirements applicable to new construction and alterations. Organized into five parts, ADAAG includes:
- general information, instructions, and definitions (Sections 1 -3);
- scoping provisions for new construction and alterations of sites and buildings that define which - and how many - elements are required to be accessible (Section 4.1.1 - 4.1.7);
- technical specifications for accessible elements (Section 4.2 - 4.35);
- special occupancy sections that apply additional scoping and technical provisions to certain facility types (Sections 5 - 10), and
- an advisory appendix that offers additional (non-mandatory) informatio on accessibility (paragraph numbers correspond to those in the guidelines, where an asterisk notes a related Appendix entry).
Scoping provisions may require that an accessible element be provided; require accessibility of an element if any are provided; require that a minimum number or percentage of several elements of a type be accessible; or require conformance to a technical provision generally. Special occupancy sections, though generally also subject to sections 4.1 through 4.35, may contain additional or different scoping and technical requirements.
Technical provisions describe the characteristics of an accessible element: the width of a door, the maneuvering clearance required to use it, mounting heights for operating hardware, etc. Some building elements - telephones are a good example - are subject to several kinds of technical provisions as a result of separate scoping provisions: some units must be installed at a height accessible to persons who use wheelchairs; some must be equipped for use by persons who are hard of hearing; others must incorporate (or support the connection of a portable) text telephone. The technical provisions specify the accessibility required in scoping.
In general, specific provisions take precedence over general requirements, and words and text over figures (although some figures may contain requirements not specified in text). Definitions (in ADAAG 3.5) do not constitute provisions and should not be read as requirements. Furniture, furnishings and equipment not fixed to building construction are not scoped or specified in ADAAG (although the DOJ and DOT rules cover some such items). Designers are encouraged to read ADAAG in concert with the relevant regulation and preamble discussion (a chart on p. 35602 of the DOJ title III regulation simplifies cross-referencing). This is particularly important for existing facilities, whose ADA obligations may be markedly different than those applied to new construction and alterations.
Although ADAAG compliance will not generally be reviewed during the permitting process for new construction or alterations, its application is not unlike that of a state or local building code, whose scoping requirements may be contained in the local adopting amendments, while the technical requirements are those of a model code. Indeed, ADAAG itself is based upon the format of ANSI A117.1-1980, whose standards have been adopted - with the addition of state/local scoping provisions - as the accessibility code in many jurisdictions.
7. How was ADAAG developed?
The responsibility to supplement existing Federal accessibility guidelines for application to titles II and III of the ADA was assigned to the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (the Access Board) in the statute itself. A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), published in the Federal Register on January 22, 1991, contained the proposed document, the ADA Accessibility Guidelines, modeled on the format and technical specifications of ANSI - the American National Standards Institute - A117.1-1980 and -1986, with scoping based on that required by the existing Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS). Public input was sought during a 60-day comment period, which included a number of public hearings across the country. Several proposed provisions were modified as a result of information and data received in response to questions in the NPRM.
Proposed Section 10 Transportation Facilities of the guidelines was reserved at initial publication and later proposed as an amendment to ADAAG in a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking..
8. Have there been any changes in ADAAG?
There have been a number of changes to the basic ADAAG since publication of the initial document in the Federal Register of July 26, 1991. Several typographical errors have been corrected and minor editorial changes made to clarify intent. Three major changes in the design standards should be noted:
- on September 6, 1991 the Board's guidelines for Section 10. Transportation Facilities and Transportation Vehicles were published as amendments (both have been adopted by DOJ and DOT as standards);
- on August 16, 1993, in a joint rulemaking with DOJ and DOT, the Board published revisions to the reach ranges for ATMs and fare vending machines to clarify that either a forward or a side approach was permissible. A table of values for reach over a horizontal obstruction was added;
- on April 12,1994, July 26, 1996, and November 23, 1998, in three successive joint rulemakings, the Board temporarily suspended (until July 26, 2001) the requirements for detectable warnings at curb ramps, reflecting pools, and hazardous vehicular areas. Note that requirements for detectable warning at transit platforms remain in effect.
A fourth change to ADAAG was the addition of section 11, Judicial, Legislative and Regulatory Facilities, and section 12, Detention and Correctional Facilities on January 13, 1998. Special provisions for Building Elements Designed for Children's Use were added at the same time. These sections and special provisions have not been adopted by either DOJ or DOT and thus have not become enforceable standards under the ADA, although the children's provisions have been utilized by several entities under section 2.2 Equivalent Facilitation.
9. How can I tell if I have a current edition of ADAAG?
Designers who consult the Federal Register of Friday, July 26, 1991 containing the DOJ title III regulation (28 CFR Part 36), which incorporates ADAAG as an appendix, are using the original document, which can be most easily identified by the omission of Section 10 Transportation Facilities. The Access Board publication of a stand-alone ADAAG in the Federal Register of the same date may be similarly identified by the absence of Section 10. Both documents pre-date the ADAAG changes noted above.
On July 1, 1994, DOJ published a compact edition of the title III regulation incorporating ADAAG. It contains Section 10 and updates ATM and fare machine requirements. Minor editorial changes have been made to the text. However, this edition does not reflect the temporary suspension of certain detectable warning requirements. Its cover identifies it as a reprint from the Code of Federal Regulations.
New Access Board editions of ADAAG are dated on the title page. The current (September 1998) publication contains - or references - all of the major changes to ADAAG that have been adopted to date. The version of ADAAG on this Web site is current as of January, 1998.
10. What's next for ADAAG?
Sections 11 and 12 (and certain Miscellaneous provisions) were adopted on January 13, 1998, but have not yet been adopted by the Departments of Justice and Transportation. On the same date, the Access Board published a final guidelines for Building Elements Designed for Children's Use. While the children's provisions have not been adopted by DOJ and DOT, several entities have used them underADAAG Section 2.2: Equivalent Facilitation.
A Federal Advisory Committee was established in 1994 to make recommendations to the Board concerning accessibility in Recreation Facilities. Following the submission of the Committee's report (published with an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking - an ANPRM - seeking public response to a series of questions posed by the Board) in 1995, an agenda for guideline development in this area was established. Rulemaking will include:
- a final rule to establish guidelines for access to play areas, to be issued in early 1999;
- an NPRM (under development) proposing provisions for sports facilities, amusement parks, golf courses, and boating and fishing facilities;
- a regulatory negotiation - now underway - on outdoor developed areas, including park and trail facilities; and
- an NPRM proposing a complete revision of ADAAG, to be issued in early 1999.
11. How will ADAAG be updated?
The Access Board intends to periodically review and update the guidelines to ensure that they remain state-of-the-art documents. Late in 1994, the Board chartered a Federal Advisory Committee to assist in the first-ever revision to ADAAG. Twenty-two members drawn from organizations representing design professionals, building owners and operators, persons with disabilities, model codes, and state and local governments, have worked through five subcommittees to develop recommendations for the Board to consider in amending ADAAG. The report, Recommendations for a New ADAAG, was delivered in September of 1996. From this and other documentation, the Board will draft text, figures, commentary, and preamble discussion necessary for rulemaking. It is anticipated that a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking containing a fully revised version of the ADA Accessibility Guidelines will be published for public comment in early 1999.
12. What if there are no provisions in ADAAG for a facility type, element, or feature?
Facilities for which there are no specific ADAAG criteria are nevertheless subject to other ADA requirements, including the duty to provide equal opportunity. In many cases it will be feasible to provide access by incorporating basic elements specified in ADAAG, such as ramps and other parameters of an accessible route. Where appropriate standards exist, they should be applied. Scoping may be derived from similar occupancies or uses, considering the range of experiences provided; in general, a reasonable number, but at least one of each type of element should be designed to be accessible. ADAAG 2.2 Equivalent Facilitation also permits the use of alternative designs and technologies that provide substantially equivalent or superior access to and usability of a facility. Such innovative approaches may also be useful in providing access to facility types for which no specific standards have been written.
13. What about ADA requirements for existing facilities?
ADAAG was developed for new construction and alterations. Existing facilities not otherwise being altered are subject to requirements specified in the DOJ/DOT regulations, not in the guidelines. Title II entities must achieve program accessibility; title III entities must pursue barrier removal - or alternatives - in existing places of public accommodation; employers must make reasonable accommodation to the needs of an employee with a disability. Broadly viewed, ADA implementing regulations outline a hierarchy of obligations:
- new construction must be fully accessible, in compliance with applicable provisions of ADAAG;
- alterations must observe ADAAG new construction criteria where technically feasible; less stringent technical specifications may be applied where technical infeasibility is encountered; alterations to primary function areas carry an additional obligation to improve the path of travel to the altered area;
- existing facilities must achieve a level of usability that balances user needs, the constraints of existing conditions, and the resources available for remedial work.
Thus, the highest degree of accessibility is expected in new work, when the cost of providing accessible features is nominal compared to the overall cost of construction. Alterations and additions, constrained by work already in place, may default to an intermediate standard when structural and site conditions prohibit full accessibility. Existing facilities must do the best they can with what they have, a flexibility that permits needs to be balanced against available resources.
Again, these requirements for remedial action in existing facilities are contained in the DOJ/DOT implementing regulations. There is no expectation under the ADA that existing facilities be improved to fully meet the scoping and technical standards set in ADAAG.
State and local government services are subject to a program accessibility standard (see §35.150 - p. 35719 of the title II regulation and related preamble material). Existing private sector facilities that are places of public accommodation have an on-going obligation to remove barriers to use by persons with disabilities when it is readily achievable to do so (see §36.304 - p. 35597 of the title III regulation and related preamble). In general, where barrier removal or program accessibility measures involve construction, ADAAG (or UFAS, if elected by title II entities) technical standards for alterations will apply. However, neither ADAAG nor UFAS contain scoping for accessibility measures taken to comply with barrier removal or program accessibility requirements in existing facilities.
14. How does program accessibility apply to existing facilities?
A public (title II) entity may not deny the benefits of its programs, activities, and services to persons with disabilities because its existing facilities are inaccessible. Thus, it is the general availability of a program to persons with disabilities that must be evaluated, not compliance with facility standards developed for new construction and alterations.
While state and local governments may wish to measure the accessibility of their existing buildings against the scoping and technical provisions in ADAAG or UFAS, program accessibility may be achieved without making every existing facility - or every part of an existing building - accessible. Alternatives to building retrofit can include the temporary relocation of an activity to an accessible facility or the delivery of the service or benefit by other means. In many cases, however, permanent construction that provides physical access may be the most efficient and economical approach to program access, particularly when life cycle costs are considered.
Although physical changes are required only when there is no other feasible way to make a program accessible, public entities are nevertheless required to give priority to methods that result in the most integrated setting appropriate.
The program access obligation is limited: title II entities do not have to take actions that they can demonstrate would result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of a program or that would impose undue financial or administrative burdens.
Most state and local governments were required to prepare a self-evaluation plan to identify program access issues; from this, a transition plan was to be developed to fix items of construction that would be undertaken to achieve program accessibility. Transition plan work - except for curb ramp installation, for which DOJ has proposed an extension - was to have been completed by January 1995.
On November 29, 1995, the Department of Justice published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposing to extend the date by which public entities must complete the installation of curb ramps required by the title II rule. The comment period closed on March 1, 1996; DOJ staff are currently analyzing public response. Transportation planners should note that existing key stations in certain transportation facilities must be made accessible in accordance with requirements outlined in ADAAG 10.3.2 (see also Subpart C of the DOT rule).
15. How does barrier removal affect existing facilities?
Barrier removal is the private sector (title III) obligation for existing facilities. Only those commercial facilities that are places of public accommodation must comply with this requirement to remove physical and communications barriers to the use of existing facilities by persons with disabilities. The regulation limits barrier removal to actions that are readily achievable, that is, projects that are relatively easy and inexpensive to accomplish. The DOJ rule provides both examples of and priorities for barrier removal and specifies criteria for assessing what is ready achievable. When a public accommodation can show that barrier removable is not readily achievable, as, for instance, the addition of an elevator to serve an inaccessible story, the public accommodation must make its goods and services available by other (readily achievable) means. Such alternatives to barrier removal might include assigning assistance or providing home delivery.
Because the barrier removal obligation is a continuing one, no compliance date is set. It is anticipated that covered public accommodations will work steadily to improve access over time until the facility meets ADAAG standards for alterations.
Barrier removal is also required of public accommodations that provide transportation service, such as hotel shuttles, college and university campus transport, and van services provided by automobile dealers. However, lift retrofit of vehicles is not required.
16. What about obligations to employees?
Reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities is covered under title I by regulations issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC); this includes employee transportation provided by public accommodations. Employee accommodations are not generally subject to ADAAG criteria.
Since employers must provide a reasonable accommodation to an applicant or employee with a disability, commercial facilities that are not places of public accommodation need not make general accessibility improvements to existing facilities until planned alterations or additions provide an opportunity to do so.
17. Who enforces ADAAG provisions?
Because the ADA is civil rights law, compliance with and enforcement of its implementing regulations, including its guidelines for new construction and alterations, is not overseen by a local building code official but is exercised through private suit or by specified Federal agencies when discrimination - or the probability of discrimination on the basis of disability - is alleged.
18. What about other accessibility regulations?
Most Federal buildings and federally-funded or -assisted construction are covered by the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 (ABA), for which UFAS is the current accessibility standard. The Access Board is the compliance and enforcement agency for the ABA and provides technical assistance to Federal agencies on the application of UFAS. Federally-funded or -assisted programs and services must also meet the accessibility requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, for which UFAS is the referenced standard. The concept of program accessibility applied under the ADA to title II entities was first applied in regulations implementing the Rehabilitation Act.
The Access Board is currently reviewing and updating guidelines for newly-constructed, altered, and leased Federal facilities covered by the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968. This effort is being coordinated with the proposed revisions to ADAAG. Working with the four ABA standard-setting agencies - the Departments of Defense and Housing and Urban Development, the General Services Administration, and the Postal Service - the Board anticipates publication of an NPRM proposing new requirements for Federal facilities early in 1999. A single document is anticipated with a scoping section for the ADA, a scoping section for the ABA, and a common set of technical provisions.
Accessibility in multifamily residential facilities generally is covered by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (FHAA) and its related regulations and standards; for more information, contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development. All housing - even single-family residences - constructed or altered by or on behalf of state and local governments must meet ADA title II requirements. Since ADAAG does not yet include scoping or technical provisions for residential units, public entities should use UFAS as the accessibility standard until the Access Board completes work on title II housing guidelines. Residential design, construction, and alterations supported by Federal funds are covered by the ABA; Federally-assisted or -conducted housing programs and services are covered by the Rehabilitation Act. Both require conformance to UFAS accessibility provisions in new construction and alterations. Housing projects may in fact be covered by the ABA, the Rehabilitation Act, the FHAA, and the ADA; by applying the most stringent of the UFAS/FHAAG/ADAAG scoping and technical provisions, developers can satisfy all requirements.
Although publicly-operated airports are not subject to DOT's ADA regulation, they are covered by the DOJ title II rule. Additionally, airports that receive Federal financial assistance are covered by the ABA (for facilities designed, constructed, or altered with Federal funds) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (for Federally-assisted or -conducted programs and services) and the DOT Section 504 regulations. As with housing, UFAS is the generally referenced standard. Privately-operated airports are covered by subpart A of DOT's transportation regulation and by the Department of Justice title III rule as commercial facilities. Most airports also contain places of public accommodation in shops, restaurants, and similar uses. Airline operations are subject to the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 and its implementing regulations, which include some facility provisions.
Most new construction and alterations projects - and work undertaken as barrier removal or to provide program accessibility, where a local building department requires a permit - will be subject to state accessibility requirements as well as those of the ADA. Almost half of US states reference the ANSI A117.1 accessibility standard. Several have developed unique codes; a few reference UFAS. The balance have adopted ADAAG as their accessibility code and implement its requirements through state and local building code officials in the same way as other applicable building regulations are applied, reviewed, and enforced.
Some jurisdictions have submitted their building code/standard for review by the Department of Justice. Standards that meet or exceed the minimum accessibility requirements of the ADA will be certified. To date, Florida, Maine, Texas and Washington state codes have been certified. The model codes, including ANSI A117.1, have sought to coordinate accessibility provisions through informal review and technical assistance from DOJ.
ADA/ADAAG compliance does not relieve the designer from complying with the provisions of a state or local access code or other accessibility regulation. Where such a code or document contains more stringent requirements, they must be incorporated. Conversely, adoption of ADAAG or certification of the equivalency of a state/local code will not relieve covered entities of their responsibilities to meet the accessibility standards of the ADA (or other accessibility requirements).
The Board is a member of the ANSI A117.1 Committee and shares its interest in more uniform national accessibility specifications. As ADAAG, ANSI A117.1, and state and model codes are periodically reviewed and revised, it will be possible to achieve greater consistency in provisions among the several documents a design professional must apply to new construction and alterations.
Recently, the Access Board issued accessibility guidelines for telecommunications and customer premises equipment under the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The Telecommunications Access Advisory Committee submitted its Final Report to the Board with recommendations and the Board published a Final Rule on February 3, 1998. The Federal Communications Commission is responsible for enforcement.
Design professionals can track these and other regulatory actions of the Board through their professional membership organizations, trade publications, the update posted on this Web site and the toll-free Access Board technical assistance line, which include a monthly update of Board activities. The Access Board also publishes a bi-monthly newsletter, Access Currents, highlighting its research, technical assistance, rulemaking, and ABA enforcement activities.
19. Where can I get more information?
Questions about new construction and alterations under ADAAG or UFAS should be addressed to the Access Board technical assistance line at (800) 872-2253 (V) or (800) 993-2822 (TTY). When the automated telephone recording responds, press "2" to speak to an accessibility specialist. Other menu choices include publications ordering (press "1"); the monthly Board news update (press "5"), and a comment line (press "6"). Technical assistance questions can also be submitted by E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. At this time, responses to E-mail questions will be by telephone, so you must include a telephone number with your question.
Questions about program accessibility (a title II requirement) andbarrier removal (a title III obligation) in existing facilities should be directed to the Department of Justice ADA information line at (800) 514-0301 (V) or (800) 514-0381 (TTY). The Department of Justice has also published Technical Assistance Manuals for its title II and title III rules; they - and copies of the DOJ regulations - may be ordered through the same telephone number. DOJ regulations also cover other ADA obligations, including those for alternatives to barrier removal, auxiliary aids and services, modifications in policies and procedures, maintenance of accessible features, communications, and similar requirements.
Information about and copies of the transportation regulation governing both title II and title III entities may be obtained from the Department of Transportation (DOT) at (888) 446-4511 (V or TTY). Operational questions should be addressed to DOT at (202) 366-4390. For information about the requirements of the Air Carrier Access Act, contact DOT at (202) 366-4859 (V) or (202) 755-7687 (TTY).
Title I (Employment) issues involving reasonable accommodation and other obligations should be raised with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at (800) 669-4000 (V/TTY).
ADAAG FAQ's - Specific
- 4.1 Minimum Requirements (scoping)
- 4.5 Ground and Floor Surfaces
- 3. Are the mats placed on the floor of my office lobby during wet weather considered carpet that must be firmly attached?
- 4. Is there a specific coefficient of friction required for a surface to be "slip resistant"?
- 5. ADAAG specifies that carpet must be firmly attached. Does this mean that each individual carpet tile must by glued down?
- 4.6 Parking and Passenger Loading Zones
- 6. Why are curb ramps in access aisles problematic? Wouldn't a parking space be more accessible if the curb ramp is close by?
- 7. How is parking for doctor's offices calculated?
- 8. Must accessible parking spaces be provided in each parking lot in a facility or can they be grouped?
- 9. How is the width of an accessible parking space measured?
- 10. Must the accessible route to a parking space access aisle be at the head of the space?
- 4.7 Curb Ramps
- 4.8 Ramps
- 4.9 Stairs
- 4.10 Elevators
- 4.13 Doors
- 4.22 Toilet Rooms
- 4.24 Sinks
- 4.26 Handrails, Grab Bars, and Tub and Shower Seats
- 4.28 Alarms
- 4.30 Signage
- 9 Accessible Transient Lodging
- 10 Transportation Facilities
1. When are areas of rescue assistance required? (ADAAG 4.3.11)
In new construction, ADAAG requires accessible means of egress in the same number as required for exits by the local life safety regulations. Where direct exit discharge cannot be provided, such as from floors above or below grade, areas of rescue assistance are required, unless a supervised automated sprinkler system is provided. They are not required in altered buildings.
2. Does the definition of "technically infeasible" include cost considerations?
Cost is not a factor in determining whether an action would be technically infeasible. Technically infeasible is defined at ADAAG 4.1.6(1)(j) and includes actions such as the removal of a load bearing member which is an essential part of the structural frame of a building. In applying the alterations guidelines, the Department of Justice considers cost under certain circumstances. The terms "readily achievable" and "undue financial and administrative burdens" are used by the DOJ and are not synonymous with "technically infeasible" as defined in ADAAG.
3. Are the mats placed on the floor of my office lobby during wet weather considered carpet that must be firmly attached? (ADAAG 4.3 Accessible route)
No, such mats are "furnishings" not covered by ADAAG. However, section 36.211 of the Department of Justice rule requires that accessible features be maintained so such furnishings cannot degrade the accessible route. So-called "walk-off mats" are designed to provide traction on wet floors and, as long as they are stable and do not pose a tripping hazard, they may actually improve the accessibility of a surface. On the other hand, loose throw rugs, for example, could decrease the accessibility of a surface.
4. Is there a specific coefficient of friction required for a surface to be "slip resistant"? (ADAAG 4.5.1)
No. There are a variety of ways to measure the coefficient of friction for different materials and no single test device or procedure has been identified. A Board sponsored research project, described in the ADAAG Appendix Section A4.5.1, suggested some values but, without a defined test procedure, these recommendations cannot be applied.
5. ADAAG specifies that carpet must be firmly attached. Does this mean that each individual carpet tile must by glued down? (ADAAG 4.5.3)
No. The requirement is to ensure that the carpeted surface provides a firm and stable surface. When carpet tiles are used, they are frequently installed with some tiles glued down and others held in place by friction. As long as the resulting carpeted surface remains firm and stable, that is, the tiles don't move, the carpet is considered to be firmly attached.
6. Why are built-up curb ramps in access aisles problematic? Wouldn't a parking space be more accessible if the curb ramp is close by?
Access aisles and the parking spaces they serve must be level (1:50 or 2%) in all directions. Therefore, built-up curb ramps cannot extend into access aisles. It is especially difficult to transfer from a vehicle to a wheelchair on a sloped surface. (ADAAG 4.6.3)
7. Is a doctor's office a medical care facility? How is parking for doctor's offices calculated?
While a doctor's office is a professional office of a health care provider, it is not generally a medical care facility and parking must be allocated according to the chart at ADAAG 4.1.2(5)(a) and (b). For example, if 51 to 75 parking spaces are provided, three must be accessible, and one of these must be a van space.
8. Must accessible parking spaces be provided in each parking lot in a facility or can they be grouped?
Although parking is calculated on a per-lot basis, it can be located in a different location if equivalent or greater accessibility, in terms of distance to an accessible entrance, fees, and convenience is ensured. For example, while site constraints may may prohibit the location of a large parking lot adjacent to an accessible entrance, the required number of accessible spaces might be installed at the entrance to provide more convenient access.
9. How is the width of an accessible parking space measured?
Parking space width is measured from the center line of the stripe on one side to the center line of the stripe on the other.
10. Must the accessible route to a parking space access aisle be at the head of the space?
No. Although ADAAG Figure 9 shows the accessible route connecting to the access aisle at the head of the parking space, this configuration is not mandatory. The Access Board recommends that the accessible route not require persons with disabilities to pass behind parked cars, but this is not required. Nevertheless, the accessible route must meet all the requirements of ADAAG 4.3.
11. Are curb ramps required to have detectable warnings?)
Originally, ADAAG required detectable warnings, a distinctively bumpy surface detectable by cane and underfoot, on the surface of curb ramps to provide a tactile cue for persons with vision impairments of their approach to streets. This warning was required since the sloped surfaces of curb ramps remove a tactile cue provided by curb faces. They were also required at hazardous vehicular areas, reflecting pools, and the edges of boarding platforms in transit facilities. The Board temporarily suspended these requirements (except those applicable to boarding platforms) in 1994 due to concerns raised about the technical specifications, the availability of complying products, maintenance issues such as snow and ice removal, usefulness, and safety. DOJ and DOT joined the Board in this action, which effectively removed the requirement from the enforceable standards. During the two-year suspension, the Board conducted further research on the need for detectable warnings at curb ramps, which showed that such warnings can be helpful, but that people with vision impairments rely on a combination of cues to detect intersections. The suspension was extended twice (in 1996 and 1998) to accommodate the review and update of ADAAG. The ADAAG Review Advisory Committee recommended that the issue of detectable warnings at curb ramps should be resolved specifically in relation to public rights-of-ways before reinstating any requirements in ADAAG, which specifically applies to facilities on sites. The Board agreed and did not include requirements for detectable warnings at curb ramps (or hazardous vehicular areas and reflecting pools) in its proposal to update ADAAG. Consequently, the Board did not further extend the suspension, which expired on July 26, 2001. However, since the enforcing agencies did not extend the suspension either, the detectable warning requirements are technically part of the standards again. DOJ can provide additional guidance on its enforcement of these requirements pending the update of its standards based on the new ADAAG. The Board intends to revisit the issue specifically in relation to curb ramps in public streets and sidewalks in an upcoming effort to establish guidelines for public rights-of-way.
12. Is there a minimum landing width requirement at the top of a curb ramp? ADAAG Figure 12 shows a dimension "X" that is related to the slope of the side flares, but does not indicate a minimum.
The minimum landing width at the top of a curb ramp is 36 inches. A curb ramp is required when an accessible route crosses a curb; the curb ramp is part of the accessible route. Figure 12 is not intended to represent all the requirements for curb ramps. The actual requirements are contained in the text of the technical specifications. Since an accessible route has a maximum cross slope of 1:50 (2%), and the curb ramp side flares do not meet this criterion, the accessible route, with a minimum 36 inch width, must instead connect to the top and bottom of the curb ramp. (ADAAG 4.3.3 & 4.7.1)
13. ADAAG ramp requirements specify "level" landings. Does "level" mean zero slope? (ADAAG 4.6.3 and 4.6.6)
No. In general, "level" means having a slope no greater than 1:50 (2%) in any direction.
14. Are all stairs required to be accessible in accordance with section 4.9? (ADAAG 4.9)
No. Only stairs which connect levels which are not connected by an accessible route are required to comply with ADAAG 4.9.
15. In new construction, are basements considered stories for the purpose of applying the elevator exception in ADAAG 4.1.3(5) Exception 1?
The definition of story in ADAAG 3.5 clarifies that nonoccupiable space is not considered a story. However, a basement that is occupiable as defined in ADAAG, will be considered a story.
16. Are all my doors required to have maneuvering clearances? (ADAAG 4.13.6)
Not necessarily. The maneuvering clearances specified applies to doors that are not automatic or power-assisted. Of course, if power doors are provided, the controls must meet the requirements for Controls and Operating Mechanisms (4.27).
17. ADAAG figure 25 (a) appears to permit latch-side clearance on an outswinging door with a front approach to be zero dimension. Is this correct?
Yes, if the door has only a latch or a closer, but not both, the "X" dimension may be zero.
18. Can the door of a toilet room swing into the required maneuvering space? (ADAAG 4.22.2 and 4.23.2)
Yes, the door can swing into the maneuvering space, but not into the space required at a fixture.
19. Is it acceptable for portable toilets to be designed according to the requirements of ADAAG 4.17 Stalls?
A No. Although only five percent of the portable toilets in a cluster are required to be accessible, each accessible toilet must satisfy the requirements for toilet rooms inADAAG 4.22. (ADAAG 4.1.2(6))
20. How are the provisions of 4.24 sinks applied?
The technical provisions for sinks at section 4.24 are not scoped in ADAAG. This means that the technical provisions serve only as guidance, not requirements. The Department of Justice rules generally require that new facilities be accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities. In the absence of specific scoping provisions, the provisions of 4.24 can be the best guidance available, however designers are not precluded from developing their own technical provisions that provide access. Sinks that comply with the side reach ranges specified in ADAAG 4.2.6 may be acceptable in cases where they are for incidental use and where they are usable by right or left handed persons.
21. Can I use standard pipe for handrails? (ADAAG 4.9.2)
Yes. Common IPS pipe sizes designated as 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 are considered to be within the dimensional tolerances for handrail diameter.
22. Must the handrails in corridors of nursing homes or housing for elderly persons comply with ADAAG 4.26?
Corridor handrails are not required by ADAAG and are, therefore, not covered by section 4.26. However, some housing for elderly persons is covered by standards issued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The 1994 edition of the HUD Handbook 4910.1, Minimum Property Standards, Section 100-2, Housing For The Elderly, contains some requirements for corridor handrails. Contact HUD for further information.
23. How can I apply the principle of equivalent facilitation to the placement or intensity of visual alarm strobes? (ADAAG 4.28.3)
The current ADAAG requirement is for a minimum 75 candela strobe to provide sufficient illumination in all directions in the horizontal plane 50 feet from the strobe. The formula
I1 divided by D1 squared = I2 divided by D2 squared
can be used, where
- I1 = 75 candela
- D1 = 50 feet
- I2 = new intensity
- D2 = new distance
If the strobe is to be mounted above 80 inches, calculate the new distance (D2) by the Pythagorean Theorem where the new distance is the hypotenuse of a triangle with 50 feet as its long leg and the height above 80 inches as its short leg.
While strobes of intensity lower than 75 candela can work for rooms smaller than 50 feet, one should not place multiple, unsynchronized strobes in a room or space less than 80 feet across since the resulting composite flash frequency from multiple strobes may exceed the safe limits and trigger some types of epilepsy. Use the least number of strobes and lowest intensity needed to cover a space.
24. How is the 6-inch dimension measured for pictograms that are required to comply with ADAAG 4.30.4?
A pictogram includes both a symbol and the field on which it is displayed. The 6-inch vertical dimension applies to the field, not the symbol. The symbol may be smaller than the field. The required equivalent verbal descriptor must be placed below the pictogram and may not intrude on the 6-inch field.
25. In hotels, are the required rooms with roll-in showers to be provided in addition to those rooms that are required to be otherwise accessible?
Yes. ADAAG 9.1.2 specifies that, in hotels with 50 or more sleeping rooms or suites, additional accessible sleeping rooms with a roll-in shower shall be provided in conformance with the table. For example, a new 150-room hotel must have a total of seven accessible rooms, two with roll-in showers.
26. In transient lodging, do all the doors to all the rooms have to be accessible?
ADAAG 9.4 requires that doors and doorways designed to allow user passage into and within all sleeping rooms or suites comply with ADAAG 4.13.5 for clear width. This includes entry doors, bathroom doors, doors connecting rooms in a suite and doors connecting multiple suites, but does not include doors to shallow closets. This provision does not require compliance with maneuvering clearance or any of the other provisions of 4.13.
27. Are there any accessibility requirements for Boat and Ferry Docks, since Section 10.5 is reserved?
The absence of requirements in section 10.5 simply means there are no special requirements for boat and ferry docks. Docks are covered by ADAAG section 4 to the same extent as other facilities required to be accessible by titles II and III. The DOJ technical assistance manual states that the technical requirements should be applied to the extent possible. For example, it may not be possible for a ramp to a floating dock to maintain the 1:12 maximum slope under all tidal conditions.
- 1. How is disability defined for purposes of transportation?
- What is the difference between "fixed route" and "demand responsive" transportation systems?
- What are "designated" and "specified" public transportation?
- What is meant by transportation providers who are "primarily engaged" and "not primarily engaged"?
- What is paratransit?
- How do the transportation rules define "wheelchair"?
- Transportation Systems Covered by the ADA
- City Bus Systems
- Airport and Hotel Shuttles
- Over-the-Road Buses
- Rapid Rail and Subway Systems
- Transportation Systems Not Covered by the Transportation Rules (Part 37) of the ADA
- Elementary and Secondary Education Systems
- Recreational Conveyances
- Employee Transportation
- Private or Religious Organizations
- What is Required
- Vehicle Acquisition & Accessibility Requirements
- General Service Requirements
- Transportation Facilities
- Other Sources of Information
1. How is disability defined for purposes of transportation?
A person with a disability is an individual with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working of the individual. The definition also includes individuals with a record of such an impairment or an individual who regarded as having such an impairment. (§37.3)
2. What is the difference between "fixed route" and "demand responsive" transportation systems?
A fixed route transportation system is one that operates along a prescribed route according to a fixed schedule. A demand responsive system is any other transportation system. Fixed route systems typically include city bus systems, commuter and over-the road bus systems, subways, light rail systems, and intercity rail transportation. Demand responsive transportation typically includes taxis, limousine services, van services, and shuttle bus systems. (§37.3)
3. What are "designated" and "specified" public transportation?
Designated public transportation is transportation service provided by a public entity such as a municipality or special transportation district. Specified public transportation is transportation service such as a taxi or bus service provided by a private entity to the general public. Both provide service to the general public only the nature of owner/operation differs. (§37.3)
4. What is meant by transportation providers who are "primarily engaged" and "not primarily engaged"?
Some private entities or specified public transportation providers such as taxi and over-the road bus companies provide transportation as the central feature of their operation. These companies are said to be "primarily engaged" in the business of transportation. For others such as hotels providing a shuttle service the transportation service is peripheral to their main business. These entities are said to be "not primarily engaged" in the business of transportation. (§37.105)
5. What is paratransit?
Paratransit means comparable transportation service required by the ADA for people with disabilities who are unable to use fixed route transportation systems. (§37.3)
6. How do the transportation rules define "wheelchair"?
The operational definition (non-manufacturing) of a wheelchair was changed. It now reads:
If a transportation provider has a vehicle and equipment that meets or exceeds the Access Board’s guidelines, and the vehicle and equipment can in fact safely accommodate a given wheelchair, then it is not appropriate, under disability nondiscrimination law, for the transportation provider to refuse to transport the device and its user.
Consequently, the final rule deletes the operational role of the ‘‘common wheelchair’’ design standard and deletes the sentence concerning ‘‘common wheelchair’’ from the part 37 definition of wheelchair, as well as from section 37.165(b) and the Appendix D explanatory text. We are also making one other modification in the definition of ‘‘wheelchair,’’ changing ‘‘three- orfour wheeled devices’’ to ‘‘three- or more-wheeled devices.’
This rule is effective October 19, 2011. (§37.3)
7. Transportation Systems Covered by the ADA
The following types of transportation and their respective nondiscrimination requirements illustrate the nature of the transportation rules. It is impossible to cover every mode of transportation in this overview. Further, it must be noted that every system must be analyzed as one of a kind.
8. City Bus Systems
A fixed route system is a system for transporting individuals on which a vehicle is operated along a prescribed route according to a fixed schedule. A typical city bus system fits clearly into this category. With fixed route service, no action by the individual is needed to initiate service. If an individual is at a bus stop at the time the bus is scheduled to appear, then that individual will be able to access the transportation system. If a service is provided along a given route, and a vehicle will arrive at certain times regardless of whether a passenger actively requests the vehicle, the service in most cases should be regarded as fixed route rather than demand responsive. (§37.3)
Taxis and limousines are subject to the rules for privately operated, demand responsive entities primarily engaged in the business of transporting people. (§37.29)
10. Airport and Hotel Shuttles
Fixed route transportation systems operated by public airports are regarded as fixed route commuter bus systems. Shuttles among terminals and parking lots, connector systems among the airport and a limited number of other local destinations must acquire accessible vehicles but are not subject to complementary paratransit requirements. (§37.33)
Private entities (i.e., those operating places of public accommodation) are covered by the rules governing private entities not primarily engaged in the business of transporting people. Fixed route or demand responsive rules apply, depending on the characteristics of the system involved. (§37.35)
11. Over-the-Road Buses
Over-the-Road buses are characterized by an elevated passenger deck located over a baggage compartment. This service is subject to all the other entity requirements of the rule. (§37.169)
12. Rapid Rail and Subway Systems
A rapid rail system is a subway-type transit vehicle railway operated on exclusive private rights of way with high level platform stations. Rapid rail may also operate on elevated or at grade level track separated from other traffic. Rapid rail is distinguished from inter-city or commuter rail systems. (§37.3)
13. Transportation Systems Not Covered by the Transportation Rules (Part 37) of the ADA
The following transportation systems are not covered by the transportation provisions (Part 37) of the ADA:
14. Elementary and Secondary Education Systems
The requirements of Part 37 do not apply to elementary and secondary education systems operated by public entities or private entities receiving federal funding. (§37.27) Accessibility of school transportation is addressed in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Non-transportation aspects of school accessibility are covered by titles II and III of the ADA.
15. Recreational Conveyances
Conveyances used for recreational purposes such as amusement park rides or ski lifts are not covered by Part 37 of the ADA. Rather, they are subject to the nondiscrimination rules under titles II and III of the ADA as applicable. Other conveyances may fit into this category. (§37.37)
Aircraft used for point-to-point transportation are not subject to the transportation rules of the ADA. They are covered by the Air Carrier Access Act, 14 CFR Part 382. (§37.3) Aircraft used in a "loop" situation, such as a tour of the Grand Canyon, might be considered recreational conveyances and thus may be covered under title III, similar to other recreational conveyances.
17. Employee Transportation
Employee transportation systems such as shuttle buses are not covered by the transportation rules of the ADA. Such services are subject to the regulations put forth by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under title I of the ADA. For public entities, such services are subject to regulations under title II of the ADA. (§37.37)
18. Private or Religious Organizations
Transportation systems operated by private clubs or establishments exempted from coverage under Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000-a(e)) or religious organizations or entities controlled by religious organizations are not subject to the requirements of Part 37. (§37.37)
19. What is Required
20. Vehicle Acquisition & Accessibility Requirements
The table here shows non rail vehicle acquisition requirements for private, primarily engaged, private not primarily engaged, and public transportation providers. (§37.9, §37.71-§37.95, §37.101-§37.109 & §37.171)
The requirements for accessibility features differ with the type of vehicle. In general, the vehicle must provide for entry, maneuverability, securement, and exit of mobility aids including wheelchairs. Public information systems including stop announcement and other passenger information inside the vehicle, as well as destination signs outside the vehicle must support the needs of people with vision and hearing impairments as appropriate. The specific requirements for each vehicle type were developed by the Access Board and are contained in 49 CFR Part 38.
Demonstrating equivalency requires the operating entity to show that each of the following items is equivalent for people with and without disabilities: response times, fares, area of coverage, hours and days of operation, restrictions or priorities, availability of information, reservations, and constraints on capacity.
21. General Service Requirements
No entity shall discriminate against an individual with a disability in connection with the provision of transportation service. (§37.5)
Public and private entities providing transportation services shall maintain in operative condition those features of facilities and vehicles that are required to make the vehicles and facilities readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. These features include lifts and other means of access to vehicles, securement devices, elevators, signage and systems to facilitate communications with persons with impaired vision or hearing. (§37.161)
The entity is not required to permit wheelchairs to ride in places other than designated securement locations in the vehicle. The entity shall provide and use a securement system, and the entity may require that an individual permit his or her wheelchair to be secured. (§37.165)
The entity shall permit service animals to accompany individuals with disabilities in vehicles and facilities. (§37.167)
Entities shall ensure that personnel are trained to proficiency, as appropriate to their duties, so that they operate vehicles and equipment safely and properly assist and treat individuals with disabilities who use the service in a respectful and courteous way, with appropriate attention to the differences among individuals with disabilities. (§37.173)
All public entity-operated, fixed route systems except commuter bus, commuter rail, and intercity rail systems must provide paratransit or other special service to individuals with disabilities that is comparable to the level of service provided to individuals without disabilities who use the fixed route system. (§37.121)
Paratransit users must meet one eligibility criteria: 1) They must be unable to use accessible vehicle; 2) They are able to use an accessible vehicle, but accessible vehicles are not available; 3) They have a specific condition restricting travel to or from a boarding or disembarking point. (§37.123(e))
There are specific requirements addressing the paratransit service area, response time, fares, restrictions, hours and days of service, and capacity constraints. (§37.131)
Public entities are permitted to use subscription services as part of a complementary paratransit system. (§37.133)
All public entity-operated, fixed route systems except commuter bus, commuter rail, and intercity rail systems must develop a paratransit plan by January 26, 1992. Each plan shall provide for full compliance by no later than January 26, 1997, unless the entity has received a waiver based on undue financial burden. (§37.135)
23. Transportation Facilities
Accessibility specifications for transportation facilities are provided in Section 10 of the ADA Accessibility Guidelines. These specifications cover both new facilities and alterations to existing facilities. (§37.7)
The guidelines cover bus stops and terminals including pads and shelters and posted route signs; rail stations including platforms, fare vending machines, signage, and elevators and escalators; and airports including paths of circulation, ticketing and check-in, and terminal information systems. Other facility elements, such as restrooms, are covered, independent of their transportation connection, by the general element sections of the ADAAG. (§37.41-§37.61)
24. Other Sources of Information
Regional ADA Technical Assistance Centers: Toll-Free 1-800-949-4232
Federal Transit Administration ADA Toll-Free Technical Assistance Line: 1-888-446-4511 (Voice) or 1-800-877-8339 (TTY); http://www.fta.dot.gov/
Service Animal FAQ'S
2010 Revised ADA Requirements: Service Animals - Department of Justice
Service Animals and Transportation - Easter Seals Project ACTION
Service Animal Basics - Pet Partners
Service Animal FAQs - Pet Partners
Accessible Parking FAQ's and Information by States in Region X
Disabled Parking Permit
Fair Housing FAQ's