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Americans with Disabilities Act

Introduction

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed July 26, 1990 as Public Law 101-336 (42 U.S.C. Sec. 12101 et seq. ) and became effective on January 26, 1992. The ADA is landmark federal legislation that opens up services and employment opportunities to the 43 million Americans with disabilities. The law was written to strike a balance between the reasonable accommodation of citizens' needs and the capacity of private and public entities to respond. It is not an affirmative action law but is intended to eliminate illegal discrimination and level the playing field for disabled individuals.

The law is comprised of five titles that prohibit discrimination against disabled persons within the United States. Titles I and II are the primary sections that affect local governments.

Title I prohibits employers, including cities and towns, from discriminating against qualified job applicants and workers who are or who become disabled. The law covers all aspects of employment including the application process and hiring, training, compensation, advancement, and any other employment term, condition, or privilege.

Title II prohibits state and local governments from discriminating against disabled persons in their programs and activities. Title II also sets forth the applicable structural accessibility requirements for public entities.

Title III prohibits private enterprises who provide public accommodations and services (e.g., hotels, restaurants, and transit systems) from denying goods, services and programs to people based on their disabilities. Title III also sets forth the applicable structural accessibility requirements for private entities.

Title IV makes available telecommunications devices and services for the hearing and speech impaired. These regulations spell out certain mandatory minimum standards telephone companies must maintain to be in compliance with the ADA.

Title V includes some miscellaneous provisions that relate to the construction and application of the ADA, including alternative dispute resolution.

This webpage is intended to provide local officials with documents and information to help clarify understanding and implementation of the law. There is one source of information, the ADA Document Portal, that provides comprehensive access to statutes, regulations, opinions, and guides regarding the ADA; if you are unable to find an answer to your questions from the resources set out below, the ADA Document Portal might prove helpful. Of course, local officials are encouraged to contact MRSC for assistance.

Legal References

Statutes

Regulations

General/Introductory References

  • Overview of the Americans with Disabilities Act , Job Accommodation Network, 7/2012 - A quick overview of the Act , its five titles, and the basic requirements of each title, with links to additional information.
  • ADA Requirements For Small Towns, Department of Justice, updated 8/20/2007 - Information relating to required compliance with the ADA by towns, small cities, school districts, water districts, special purpose districts, and other small local governments and instrumentalities
  • The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA): Statutory Language and Recent Issues, Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress, 6/12/2001 - A footnoted short explanation of the major provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act and of ten Supreme Court decisions issued or under consideration under that Act as of 4/2003. Although the article is almost ten years old, it provides good background information about the ADA, as well as discussions of important early court decisions regarding the Act.
  • Cities and Counties: First Steps Toward Solving Common ADA Problems, Department of Justice - A short article, with very useful photographs, discussing and graphically outlining common problems faced by persons with disabilities when dealing with local governments and their facilities
  • Definition of Disability is Expanded under Washington Law,  Washington State Human Rights Commission - Discusses definitions and answers common questions regarding Washington's definition of "disability," which was amended in 2007
  • ADA Best Practices Tool Kit for State and Local Governments, Department of Justice, last updated 09/2009 - The Tool Kit is designed to teach state and local government officials how to identify and fix problems that prevent people with disabilities from gaining equal access to state and local government programs, services, and activities. It also offers assistance to state and local officials as to how to conduct accessibility surveys of their buildings and facilities to identify and remove architectural barriers to access.
  • The ADA and City Governments: Common Problems, Department of Justice, updated 10/09/2008 - This document contains a sampling of common problems shared by city governments of all sizes that have been identified through the Department of Justice's ongoing enforcement efforts. The document provides examples of common deficiencies and explains how these problems affect persons with disabilities.
  • Questions and Answers on the Final Rule Implementing the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2011
  • Fact Sheet on the EEOC's Final Regulations Implementing the ADAAA,  U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2011 - The "ADAAA" is the ADA Amendments Act of 2008

Employment (ADA Title I)

Title I prohibits employers, including counties, cities, towns and other local governments, from discriminating against qualified job applicants and workers who are or who become disabled. The law covers all aspects of employment including the application process and hiring, training, compensation, advancement, and any other employment term, condition, or privilege.

State and Local Governments (ADA Title II)

Title II prohibits state and local governments from discriminating against disabled persons in their programs and activities. Title II also sets forth the applicable structural accessibility requirements for public entities.

  • Guide to the ADA Standards, A new installment of the U.S. Access Board's online guide to accessibility standards has been issued, 7/2015 – The guide provides information on accessible routes, including doors and gates, rampos and curb ramps, elevators and platform lifts. The guide also includes animations on wheelchair maneuvering, entrances and doors, toilet and bathing facilities, and information on dealing with protruding objects. Other topics covered are design requirements for places of public accommodation and for state and local government facilities covered by the ADA.
  • ADA Update: A Primer for State and Local Governments, U.S. Department of Justice, 6/2015 – A document that addresses nondiscrimination requirements, such as program accessibility, service animals, communicating with people with disabilities, power-driven mobility devices, policies and procedures, and 2010 ADA Standards for Accessibe Design to the built environment, including existing buildings, new construction and alterations.
  • ADA Title II Highlights, U.S. Department of Justice, 8/2002 – A summary of the ADA Title II provisions applicable to public entities. Document remains a basic source.
  • ADA Title II Technical Assistance Manual, U.S. Department of Justice – A technical assistance manual and has been updated in a supplement. An important source document comprehensively addressing Title II issues.
  • Commonly Asked Questions About the Americans with Disabilities Act and Law Enforcement, U.S. Department of Justice, 4/2006 – A 13-page publication providing information for law enforcement agencies in a simple question and answer format. This document remains a good resource.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act Information for Law Enforcement, Department of Justice, revised 12/2008 – Links to information providing assistance on ADA issues to those who serve in law enforcement
  • Questions and Answers: The ADA and Hiring Police Officers, Department of Justice, 3/1997 – A five-page publication providing information on ADA requirements for interviewing and hiring police officers. This 1997 document remains on the Department of Justice ADA website and continues to provide useful information.
  • A Summary of Accessibility Guidelines for Play Areas, U.S. Access Board, 1/2007 – Final guidelines providing a comprehensive set of criteria for access to play areas, covering the number of play components required to be accessible, accessible surfacing in play areas, ramp access and transfer system access to elevated structures, and access to soft contained play structures. The guidelines address play areas provided at schools, parks, child care facilities (except those based in the operator's home, which are exempt), and other facilities subject to the ADA. This continues to be the primary source document on this subject.
  • An ADA Guide for Local Governments: Making Community Emergency Preparedness and Response Programs Accessible to People with Disabilities, Department of Justice, 8/2006 (Linked documents have been updated) – A basic, primary source document
  • Accessibility of State and Local Government Websites to People with Disabilities, Department of Justice, 10/2008 – Discussion and examples of how to design webpages in order to make them more accessible to persons with disabilities. A basic source document.
  • Questions and Answers about Deafness and Hearing Impairments in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2/2011 – Page is currently under review.
  • Service Animals, Department of Justice, 7/2011 – New rules regarding use of service animals
  • Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0,  W3C, 12/2008 – Addresses barriers to accessing the Web experienced by people with visual, auditory, physical, cognitive and neurological disabilities, and by older individuals
  • Americans with Disabilities Act, Federal Transit Administration, 9/2011 – Final rule, links and information concerning the ADA and transit operations
  • Wheelchairs, Mobility Aids, and Other Power-Driven Mobility Devices, 1/2014 – Final rules relating to the accommodation of wheelchairs and other mobility devices. Covered governments must allow people with disabilities who use wheelchairs (including manual wheelchairs, power wheelchairs, and electric scooters) and manually-powered mobility aids such as walkers, crutches, canes, braces, and other similar devices into all areas of a facility where members of the public are allowed to go.
  • Effective communication, 1/2014 – Final regulations have been adopted. Covered municipalities must provide aids and services when needed to communicate effectively with people who have communication disabilities. The goal of the regulations is to ensure that communication with people with disabilities is equally effective as communication with people without disabilities.

Sidewalks under the ADA

  • Barden v. City of Sacramento - Sidewalks must be accessible under the ADA

    A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in the case Barden v. City of Sacramento in 2001 that sidewalks installed and maintained by local governments must be accessible to persons with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). (The Ninth Circuit serves the state of Washington.) Under the decision, the city of Sacramento, California was advised that not only must it provide curb ramps at intersections on newly-constructed or remodeled roadways and walkways, it must have a program which will assure the accessibility of all its sidewalks between curb ramps. The ruling means that governments will be obligated to remove barriers from their sidewalks, such as benches, wires, cracks, breaks, and sign posts, if their presence poses a barrier to the accessibility of the sidewalk to, for example, persons using wheelchairs or those with sight impairments. The decision is based upon the court's holding that the operation of sidewalks is a municipal "service, program, or activity" under the ADA and that maintaining a public sidewalk is a "normal function of a governmental entity." The city appealed the decision to the United States Supreme Court which in June 2003 rejected the appeal without comment.

  • Sidewalk Design Guidelines and Existing Practices, Federal Highway Commission - Addresses accessibility issues
  • Curb Ramps and Pedestrian Crossings Under Title II of the ADA, Department of Justice, 5/07/2007 - Chapter 6 of the ADA Best Practices Tool Kit for State and Local Governments,
  • Pedestrian Facilities, Chapter 1510 of the Washington State Department of Transportation Design Manual, 7/2011 - Provides standards for pedestrian facilities in accordance with ADA requirements
  • Seattle ADA Curb Ramp Installation Requirements, 2/02/2011 - Requirements to make curb ramps accessible when alterations are made to a pedestrian walkway
  • Bellevue's ADA Sidewalk and Curb Ramp Compliance Program, 2010 - A report discussing the process Bellevue used to determine the accessibility of its sidewalks and curbs

Public Accommodations and Services (ADA Title III)

Title III prohibits private enterprises who provide public accommodations and services (e.g., hotels, restaurants, and transit systems) from denying goods, services and programs to people based on their disabilities. Title III also sets forth the applicable structural accessibility requirements for private entities.

  • ADA Title III Technical Assistance Manual, U.S. Department of Justice - Title III applies to public accommodations and commercial facilities. Basic and primary resource.
  • ADA Title III Technical Assistance Manual, 1994 Supplement, U.S. Department of Justice, updated 5/2008 - This manual updates for the above-mentioned Title III manual. It is a primary source document and remains valid.
  • The 2009 IBC/ASAAG/ADA-ABA Guidelines Matrix, Indiana University - Compares ADA accessibility guidelines with the 2009 International Building Code

Washington Sample Documents

Although the Americans with Disabilities Act is the law of the land, some jurisdictions have adopted policies affirming their commitment to aims of the law and establishing procedures and forms to implement the law's requirements. The following are examples of general policies and notices; the fact that some of the documents are older than others does not detract from their usefulness, since many of the policies have been unchanged since the law's adoption in 1990.

Additional References

  • Americans With Disabilities Act , U.S. Department of Justice
  • The Access Board - A federal agency that promotes equality for people with disabilities - Links to agencies involved with the ADA
  • ADA Document Portal, U. S. Department of Education - Resource/link to over 7,400 ADA documents
  • ADA Technical Assistance Program - Resource for information on the Americans with Disabilities Act, accessible information technology, and more
  • Disability Resources Monthly - Disability Resources, a nonprofit organization that provides information about resources for independent living. This excellent comprehensive newsletter provides great links to assistance available within the state of Washington.
  • Job Accommodation Network - The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is a free service of the Office of Disability Employment Policy of the U.S. Department of Labor.
  • ADA Library, Jobs Accommodation Network - ADA Hotlinks and Document Center

Last Modified: August 20, 2015