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.
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 people with disabilities.
The law is comprised of five titles that prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities. 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 have disabilities or 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 people with disabilities 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.
- 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. - Americans with Disabilities Act, including changes made by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008
- PL. 110-325 (S. 3406) - ADA Amendments Act of 2008
- RCW 49.60.040 - Legislation that redefines the term "disability" under Washington law
- Revised ADA regulations, 28 C.F.R. 35 and 36
- 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design, 28 C.F.R. 35.151
- Regulations implementing Equal Employment provisions of the ADA, 29 C.F.R. 1630
- Americans with Disabilities Act Title II Regulations, Part 35 Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in State and Local Government Services, 28 C.F.R. 35.61 et seq.,
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
- Washington State Human Rights Commission: Guide to Disability & Washington State Non-Discrimination Laws (2012) - Discusses definitions and answers common questions regarding Washington's definition of "disability," which was amended in 2007
- Job Accommodation Network - Source of free, expert, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodation and disability employment issues
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Q&A on the Final Rule Implementing the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 and Fact Sheet
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
- The ADA: Your Responsibilities as an Employer (2008) - A brief discussion of personnel issues, such as reasonable accommodations and medical examinations
- Enforcement Guidance: Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) (2002) - How to provide reasonable accommodation to current and potential employees.
- Fact Sheet on Obtaining and Using Employee Medical Information as Part of Emergency Evacuation Procedures (2005) - A fact sheet, set out in question and answer format, to use in the development of procedures for the evacuation of employees from the workplace in times of emergency, including those who may have disabilities.
- Job Applicants and the Americans with Disabilities Act (2017) - Information for job applicants set out in question and answer format.
- Small Employers and Reasonable Accommodation (2017) - A fact sheet setting out information on accommodations in employment. Under review but remains in effect.
U.S. Department of Justice Resources
- Questions and Answers: The ADA and Hiring Police Officers (2017) - A five-page publication providing information on ADA requirements for interviewing and hiring police officers
- Work at home/Telework as a reasonable accommodation (2017) - A question and answer format discussing the possibility of an employer accommodating a disability by allowing a person with disabilities to work at home.
State and Local Governments (ADA Title II)
Title II prohibits state and local governments from discriminating against people with disabilities in their programs and activities. Title II also sets forth the applicable structural accessibility requirements for public entities.
U.S. Department of Justice Resources
- ADA Update: A Primer for State and Local Governments (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 Accessible Design to the built environment, including existing buildings, new construction and alterations.
- ADA Title II Technical Assistance Manual – Technical assistance manual 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 (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 (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 (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.
- ADA Guide for Local Governments: Making Community Emergency Preparedness and Response Programs Accessible to People with Disabilities (2006) – A basic, primary source document
- Accessibility of State and Local Government Websites to People with Disabilities (2008) – Discussion and examples of how to design webpages in order to make them more accessible to persons with disabilities. A basic source document.
- Service Animals (2011) – Provides guidance on the term “service animal” and the service animal provisions in the Department’s 2010 regulations
- Wheelchairs, Mobility Aids, and Other Power-Driven Mobility Devices (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 (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.
- U.S. Access Board: Guide to the ADA Standards (2015) – The guide provides information on accessible routes, including doors and gates, ramps 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.
- U.S. Access Board: A Summary of Accessibility Guidelines for Play Areas (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.
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Q&As about Deafness and Hearing Impairments in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act (2011)
- Federal Transit Administration: Americans with Disabilities Act (2011) – Final rule, links and information concerning the ADA and transit operations
- W3C: Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (2008) – Addresses barriers to accessing the Web experienced by people with visual, auditory, physical, cognitive and neurological disabilities, and by older individuals
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.
- Federal Highway Commission: Sidewalk Design Guidelines and Existing Practicesn - Addresses accessibility issues
- U.S. Department of Justice: Curb Ramps and Pedestrian Crossings Under Title II of the ADA (2007) - Chapter 6 of the ADA Best Practices Tool Kit for State and Local Governments,
- WA State Department of Transportation: Pedestrian Facilities (2011) - This chapter of the Washington State Department of Transportation Design Manual provides standards for pedestrian facilities in accordance with ADA requirements.
- Seattle ADA Curb Ramp Installation Requirements (2011) - Requirements to make curb ramps accessible when alterations are made to a pedestrian walkway
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
- ADA Title III Technical Assistance Manual - Title III applies to public accommodations and commercial facilities. Basic and primary resource.
- ADA Title III Technical Assistance Manual, 1994 Supplement - This manual updates for the above-mentioned Title III manual. It is a primary source document.
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.
- Clarkston ADA Policy and Notice (2010) - Establishes policy and notice regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act. Includes Resolution adopting policy.
- Port Angeles ADA Policy and Notice (2008)
- Shoreline Grievance Procedure (2018) - Procedure for filing a complaint alleging discrimination on the basis of disability in provision of services, activities, programs, facilities or benefits from the City. Includes Resolution.
- Wenatchee Policy for Compliance Regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (2013)
- Yakima Americans with Disabilities Act Grievance Procedure (2007)
- Yakima Transit ADA Policy (2015)
- Americans With Disabilities Act, U.S. Department of Justice
- United States Access Board - A federal agency that promotes equality for people with disabilities - Links to agencies involved with the ADA
- ADA Web Search 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
- 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. Their ADA Library offers links to a variety of documents.
- National Disability Institute - This nonprofit organization provides resources to improve the economic self-sufficiency of people with disabilities. See their Advancing Economic Self-Sufficiency and Financial Capability Resources.