Q: What exactly is considered to be an “alteration” under the ADA?
When any business makes an alteration to any facility, it has an obligation to make the alteration accessible to the maximum extent feasible. “Alteration” is defined as remodeling, renovating, rehabilitating, reconstructing, changing or rearranging structural parts or elements, changing or rearranging plan configuration of walls and full-height partitions, or making other changes that affect, or could affect, the usability of the facility.
Examples from the U.S. Department of Justice include: restriping a parking lot, moving walls, moving a fixed ATM to another location, installing a new sales counter or display shelves, changing a doorway entrance, and replacing fixtures, flooring, or carpeting. Normal maintenance, such as reroofing, painting, or wallpapering, is not considered to be an alteration.
Q: The day care center near my home says that it is not equipped to handle children with disabilities. Can they refuse to accept my child who has a disability?
Day care centers cannot legally refuse to accept children with disabilities because of their disabilities unless it can show that it would cause an undue burden, considering all the financial resources available to the day care center, including tax incentives, or would fundamentally alter the services altered by the day care center. That determination has to be made on a case-by-case basis. There cannot be a “no children with disabilities” policy.
Q: If a business operates out of a space it leases, who is responsible for ADA compliance—the tenant or the landlord?
The ADA places the responsibility for compliance on both the landlord and the tenant. But the landlord and tenant might decide, through the terms of the lease, who will actually make the changes, remove the barriers, provide the aids and services, and pay for them. However, both the tenant and the landlord remain legally obligated.
Q: Are small businesses held to the same accessibility standards as big businesses?
The ADA requires that all businesses remove architectural barriers in existing facilities when it is readily achievable to do so. Readily achievable means “easily accomplishable without much difficulty or expense.” This requirement is based on the size and resources of a business. So, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, businesses with more resources are expected to do more than businesses with fewer resources.
Readily achievable barrier removal may include providing an accessible route from a parking lot to the business’ entrance, installing an entrance ramp, widening a doorway, installing accessible door hardware, repositioning shelves, or moving tables, chairs, display racks, or other furniture. When removing barriers, businesses are required to comply with the Standards to the extent possible. For example, when there is not enough space to install a ramp with a slope that complies with the Standards, a business may install a ramp with a slightly steeper slope. However, any deviation from the Standards must not pose a significant safety risk.
Q: What’s the best way to make an entrance accessible?
It depends on the barriers that exist at the entrance. One small step at an entrance can make it impossible for individuals using wheelchairs, walkers, canes, or other mobility devices to go inside. Removing the barriers may be accomplished in any number of ways, such as installing a ramp or a lift or regarding the walkway to provide an accessible route. If the main entrance cannot be made accessible, an alternate accessible entrance can be used. If there is more than one entrance and only one is accessible, a sign should be posed at each inaccessible entrance directing individuals to the accessible entrance. This entrance must be open whenever other public entrances are open.
Q: Do all restrooms have to be accessible?
If a business has a public restroom, at least toilet room must be accessible and must have a sign that says it is an accessible toilet. There are very specific measurements and provisions in the 2010 Standards regarding accessible restrooms.
Q: Are automatic teller machines (ATMs) covered by Title III of the ADA?
Q: Do all ATMs have to be accessible?
At least one ATM per location must be accessible. If a bank offers ATMs both inside and outside the bank, each of those is considered to be a different location and must have at least one accessible ATM inside and outside.
If a drive-up ATM is a separate location, then it must be accessible and provide voice guidance and Braille instruction. Sometimes people question why drive-up ATMs have to be accessible to people who have visual impairments. A person with a visual impairment might ask a friend or family member, or even a taxi, to drive him/her to the bank. Just because a person is blind or has low vision does not mean that s/he should have to give out a PIN or trust that the sighted person is handling the transaction correctly.
The keypads on an accessible ATM might be different. The 2010 Standards require a left arrow symbol on the clear function key. The ATM’s keypad has to be in a 12-key descending layout, which is how a computer number pad is designed. Function keys must be designed to contrast visually from their background surfaces.
Q: Do accessible ATMs have to offer all of the same options as the other ATMs?
Yes. All of the banking services that are available at other ATMs must also be available at accessible ATMs. If non-banking services, such as the ability to purchase postage stamps or theater tickets, are available on the non-accessible ATMs, they must also be available at the accessible ATMs.
Q: Do all parts of a walk-up ATM have to be accessible?
The input controls for accessible walk-up ATMs, including all buttons, touchscreens, receipt dispensers, card slots, cash slots, and deposit slots, must be between 15-48 inches from the ground to comply with the 2010 Standards.
Q: Do ATMs have to have voice guidance?
Yes. Accessible ATMs must have voice guidance and include Braille instructions that explain how to initiate the voice guidance features.
Q: Are there any tax breaks to help businesses comply with Title III of the ADA?
Yes. To assist small businesses in complying with the ADA, the IRS Code includes a Disabled Access Credit (Section 44) for businesses with 30 or fewer full-time employees or with total revenues of $1 million or less in the previous tax year. Eligible expenses may include the cost of undertaking barrier removal to improve accessibility, providing sign-language interpreters, or making material available in accessible formats such as Braille, audiotape, or large print.
Section 190 of the IRS Code provides a tax deduction for businesses of all sizes for costs incurred in removing architectural barriers in existing facilities. The maximum deduction is $15,000 per year.
Q: What does the ADA require in terms of ticketing?
An entity that sells tickets for a single event or a series of events has to modify its policies, practices, or procedures to make sure that individuals with disabilities have an equal opportunity to buy tickets for accessible seating:
-During the same hours;
-During the same stages of ticket sales, including, but not limited to, pre-sales, promotions, lotteries, waitlists, and general sales;
-Through the same methods of distribution;
-In the same types and numbers of ticketing sales outlets, including telephone service, in-person ticket sales at the facility, or third party ticketing services, as other patrons;
-Under the same terms and conditions as other tickets sold for the same event or series of events
Q: Exactly what does the term “accessible seating” mean?
“Accessible seating” is defined as wheelchair spaces and companion seats that comply with sections 221 and 802 of the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design (“2010 Standards”), along with any other seats required to be offered for sale to the individual with a disability, as outlined in the regulations.
Q: What information must be available regarding accessible seating?
Individuals with disabilities, and those purchasing tickets for accessible seating for individuals with disabilities, must be informed of the locations of all unsold and otherwise available accessible seating for any ticketed event at the facility.
Features of available accessible seating must be identified and described in enough detail to reasonably permit a person with a disability to decide independently whether a given accessible seating location meets his or her accessibility needs.
Materials, such as seating maps, plans, brochures, pricing charts, and other information that identifies accessible seating, must be provided to the same level of specificity as other seats, if such materials are provided to the general public.
Q: Can the entity charge more for accessible seating?
No, entities cannot charge more for accessible seating, and they are not required to charge less, either. They must provide individuals with disabilities with the opportunity to purchase tickets at all price levels. To do that, they may price accessible seating tickets in proportion to the price of other tickets in the venue. They may not price tickets for accessible seating any higher than the price of other tickets in the same section for the same event, though. For example, if the venue has three different price zones, but all the wheelchair accessible seats are physically located in the most expensive price zone, then the venue has to figure out what percentage of seat in the venue are priced in each of the zones and then price the accessible seats to that same percentage.
Q: Who is eligible to purchase tickets for accessible seats?
Individuals with disabilities who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices may purchase tickets for accessible seats. Other individuals with disabilities are eligible to purchase tickets for accessible seats if they require the use of the features of accessible seating. A ticket purchaser may, for example, have a service animal that requires the additional space offered by accessible seating. Or a ticket purchaser may, for example, be unable to navigate stairs, necessitating the need for accessible seating. Tickets for accessible seats may be sold to individuals who require accessible seating themselves or to someone purchasing on their behalf.
Q: May someone purchasing accessible seating purchase non-accessible seating for family/friends?
For each accessible ticket purchased by or for an individual with a disability, an entity must allow the purchase of up to three other tickets for companion seats immediately adjacent to and in the same row as the wheelchair space, so long as there are three such seats available at the time of purchase. The additional seats may include wheelchair spaces.
If people are allowed to buy at least four tickets, and there are fewer than three such additional seat tickets available for purchase, a seller has to offer the next highest number of such seat tickets available for purchase and must make up the difference by offering tickets for sale for seats that are as close as possible to the accessible seats.
If ticket sales are limited to fewer than four seats per patron, then the obligation is to offer as many seats to buyers with disabilities, including the ticket for the wheelchair space, as would be offered to buyers without disabilities. If buyers are allowed to purchase more than four tickets, then buyers with disabilities must be allowed to purchase up to the same number of tickets, including the ticket for the wheelchair space.
If a group includes one or more people who need to use accessible seating because of a mobility disability, or because the disability requires the use of the accessible features that are provided in accessible seating, the group must be placed in a seating area with accessible seating so that, if possible, the group can sit together. If it is necessary to divide the group, it should be divided so that the people in the group who use wheelchairs are not isolated from the group.
Q: When can accessible seating be released for sale to people who don’t need accessible seating?
Tickets for accessible seating may be released for sale in certain limited circumstances. Unsold tickets for accessible seating may be released only under the following circumstances:
-When all non-accessible tickets (excluding luxury boxes, club boxes, or suites) in the venue have been sold out (the venue gets to define what “sold out” means);
-When all non-accessible tickets in a designated seating area have been sold out and the tickets for accessible seating in that same area may be released in the same designated area;
-When all non-accessible tickets in a designated price category have been sold out and the tickets for accessible seating in that designated price category may be released within the same designated price category
A facility is not required to release tickets for accessible seating to individuals without disabilities, but it may under the three categories above.
When series-of-events tickets are sold out, and the entity sells the accessible seats to people without disabilities for a series of events, the entity must establish a process by which those seats are not automatically reassigned to those ticket holders for future seasons or years. Individuals with disabilities who need accessible seating, and who become newly eligible to purchase tickets when these series-of-events tickets are available for purchase, must be given an opportunity to do so.
When series of events tickets with an ownership right in accessible seating areas are forfeited or otherwise returned to an entity, there must be a process in place so that individuals with mobility disabilities, or individuals with disabilities that require accessible seating, have the chance to purchase such tickets in accessible seating areas.
Q: What if I want to buy tickets for accessible seating and then want to transfer them to someone else?
Individuals with disabilities who hold tickets for accessible seating must be permitted to transfer tickets, meaning to give or sell, to third parties to the same extent as other individuals holding the same type of tickets, whether they are for a single event or a series of events.
Q: Do these ticketing rules apply to the secondary ticket market, too?
People with disabilities may use tickets purchased on the secondary ticket market under the same terms and conditions as other individuals who purchase tickets on the secondary market for the same event or series.
If a person with a disability gets a ticket to an inaccessible seat through the secondary market, the individual must be allowed to exchange the ticket for one to an accessible seat in a comparable location, if such a seat is available at the time the ticket is presented to the venue.
Q: Are hotel reservations covered by the ADA?
Yes. Individuals with disabilities must be able to make reservations for accessible guest rooms at a place of lodging during the same hours and in the same manner as others. This is true whether the reservation is made by telephone, in-person, or online through a website.
Q: How can I tell whether a certain room will meet my accessibility needs?
Places of lodging have to describe the accessible features of the facility and the guest rooms that are offered through the reservation system in enough detail that the person with a disability is able to assess whether it meets individual accessibility needs. Information, including photos or drawings, may be posted online or included in brochures. Staff members who provide customer service must know about the accessibility features so that they can answer questions about the features and accessible routes to and through the facility. Staff must be able to answer questions about the guest rooms and bathrooms, the availability of accessibility equipment such as bath benches or visual alert devices, and the accessibility of common areas such as meeting rooms, restaurants, bars, pools, business centers, and fitness centers.
Q: Can an accessible guest room be rented by a person who doesn’t need the accessible features?
Yes, but accessible guest rooms must be held for use by individuals with disabilities until all other guest rooms of that type have been rented. When a reservation is made for an accessible guest room, the specific accessible guest room reserved has to be held for that customer and the room must be removed from the reservation system.
Q: Do travel agents or online travel services have obligations regarding reservations?
Yes. Reservations made through travel agents or online travel services have to provide accessible rooms and must provide information about the accessible features of the facility and the rooms.
Q: Where is a service animal allowed to go?
Generally, a service animal is allowed to go wherever the person with the disability can go, meaning they can go wherever the public is allowed to go.
Q: What about a restaurant? Is it hygienic to allow service animals to go where people eat?
A place of public accommodation must modify its policies to allow a service animal to accompany an individual with a disability, unless it would result in a fundamental alteration or would jeopardize the safe operation of the public accommodation. In a restaurant, a service animal must be allowed to accompany the person with a disability in all areas that are open to other patrons.
Q: What about a hospital?
In a hospital, the same is true, except that there may be certain areas of the hospital where having a service animal could jeopardize safety, such as in the sterile environment of an operating room.
Q: Are there circumstances under which a person might have to remove a service animal, even if it meets the definition of a service animal?
Yes, but it’s rare. It’s all right to ask an individual with a disability to remove a service animal from the premises if either the animal is out of control and the individual does not take effective action to control it, or the animal is not housebroken. What the regulations mean by the animal being “out of control” is that the animal must be under the individual’s control. It must have a harness, leash, or other tether, unless the individual is unable to use one of those because of the disability, and, if that’s the case, then the animal still has to be under some kind of control—like voice control or signals.
If an animal is properly excluded because the animal is out of control or is not housebroken, then the entity has to give the individual with a disability the opportunity to participate in the service, program, or activity, or enter the place of public accommodation, without having the service animal on the premises.
Q: If a service animal is on the premises, who is responsible for its care and supervision?
That’s an easy one. The person with the service animal is responsible for its care and supervision at all times. The entity is not responsible for the care or supervision of a service animal.
Q: Is it all right for a business or other entity to require documentation that shows the animal is a service animal?
Unless it is readily apparent that the animal is a service animal, then the entity may ask if the animal is required because of a disability. It is not, however, allowed to require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal.
Q: If an entity requires a pet deposit, or charge extra for people who have pets, do those fees apply to service animals too?
No. An entity cannot ask or require an individual with a disability to pay a surcharge, even if people accompanied by pets are required to pay fees, or to comply with other requirements generally not applicable to people without pets. If an entity normally charges individuals for the damage they cause, an individual with a disability may be charged for damage caused by his or her service animal.