More General Information
FAQs for Business Owners
Q. Does the ADA allow public accommodations to take safety factors into consideration in providing services to individuals with disabilities?
The ADA clearly states that a public accommodation may exclude an individual, if that individual poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others that cannot be mitigated by appropriate modifications in the public accommodation's policies or procedures, or by the provision of auxiliary aids. A public accommodation is permitted to establish objective safety criteria for the operation of its business; however, any safety standard must be based on objective requirements rather than stereotypes or generalizations about the ability of persons with disabilities to participate in an activity.
Q. Are there any limits on the kinds 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.
Q. What kinds of auxiliary aids and services are required by the ADA to ensure effective communication with individuals with hearing or vision impairments?
Appropriate auxiliary aids and services may include services and devices such as qualified interpreters, assistive listening devices, notetakers, and written materials for individuals with hearing impairments; and qualified readers, taped texts, and Brailled or large print materials for individuals with vision impairments.
Q. Are there any limitations on the ADA's auxiliary aids requirements?
Yes. The ADA does not require the provision of any auxiliary aid that would result in an undue burden or in a fundamental alteration in the nature of the goods or services provided by a public accommodation. However, the public accommodation is not relieved from the duty to furnish an alternative auxiliary aid, if available, that would not result in a fundamental alteration or undue burden. Both of these limitations are derived from existing regulations and caselaw under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and are to be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Q. Are restaurants required to have brailled menus?
No, not if waiters or other employees are made available to read the menu to a blind customer.
Q. Are clothing stores required to have brailled price tags?
No, not if sales personnel could provide price information upon request.
Q. Do businesses such as bookstores have to maintain a sign language interpreter on staff in order to communicate with deaf customers?
No, not if employees communicate by pen and notepad when necessary.
Q. Are there any limitations on the ADA's barrier removal requirements for existing facilities?
Yes. Barrier removal need be accomplished only when it is "readily achievable" to do so.
Q. What does the term "readily achievable" mean?
It means "easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense."
Q. What are examples of the types of modifications that would be readily achievable in most cases?
Examples include the simple ramping of a few steps, the installation of grab bars where only routine reinforcement of the wall is required, the lowering of telephones, and similar modest adjustments.
Q. Will businesses need to rearrange furniture and display racks?
Possibly. For example, restaurants may need to rearrange tables and department stores may need to adjust their layout of racks and shelves in order to permit access to wheelchair users.
Q. Do 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.
Q. 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.
Q. Must alternative steps be taken without regard to cost?
No, only readily achievable alternative steps must be undertaken.
Q. 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.
Q. 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.
Q. What does the ADA require in new construction?
The ADA requires that all new construction of places of public accommodation, as well as of "commercial facilities" such as office buildings, be accessible. Elevators are generally not required in facilities under three stories or with fewer than 3,000 square feet per floor, unless the building is a shopping center or mall; the professional office of a health care provider; a terminal, depot, or other public transit station; or an airport passenger terminal.
Q. Is it expensive to make all newly constructed places of public accommodation and commercial facilities accessible?
The cost of incorporating accessibility features in new construction is less than one percent of construction costs. This is a small price in relation to the economic benefits to be derived from full accessibility in the future, such as increased employment and consumer spending and decreased welfare dependency.
Q. 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, telephones, 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.