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Americans with Disabilities Act

This page provides an overview of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for Washington local government agencies, including examples of local policies and procedures.


Overview

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 page 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 National Network's ADA Web Search 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, or you may contact us.


Legal References

Statutes

Regulations


General References

U. S. Department of Justice Resources

  • Cities and Counties: First Steps Toward Solving Common ADA Problems - 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
  • The ADA and City Governments: Common Problems (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.
  • ADA Best Practices Tool Kit for State and Local Governments (2007) - 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.
  • ADA Requirements For Small Towns (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

Other Resources


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.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Resources

U.S. Department of Justice Resources


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.

U.S. Department of Justice Resources

Other Resources

Sidewalk Accessibility under the ADA

In 2001, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled, in the case Barden v. City of Sacramento, 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.

Below are some resources regarding sidewalk accessibility.


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.

U.S. Department of Justice Resources


Examples of Policies and Procedures

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.


Recommended Resources


Last Modified: August 24, 2018