The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal civil rights law that was passed to prevent both public and private employers from discriminating against persons who have physical and/or mental disabilities.
The Act also prohibits state and local government agencies, Congress, commercial facilities, housing providers, public accommodations, telecommunication providers, and modes of transportation from employing discriminatory practices against individuals with disabilities as well. Thus, it is so no surprise that the ADA is intentionally divided into five separate sections to cover all of these parties.
Specifically, the ADA guarantees persons with disabilities the right to equal opportunity in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, telecommunications, and various miscellaneous services.
For instance, Title III of the ADA focuses on nondiscrimination on the basis of a disability by commercial facilities and public accommodations. In other words, any entity that is open and accessible to the public must also be just as easy to access by a person with a disability.
Some examples include installing a wheelchair ramp to get into a store or restaurant, permitting service animals to enter a business, and/or adding handrails to stairs or steep inclines in a building.
Additionally, the Act also provides information on when a disability may not be covered under ADA laws, which types of employers and employees that the ADA applies to, and what sorts of benefits that an individual might be able to claim if eligible.
What are Some Examples of ADA Violations?
Parties who are covered under the Act must maintain ADA compliance. Failure to comply with the ADA can result in serious legal ramifications and monetary penalties. Some common examples of ADA violations that may form the basis of an ADA claim include:
- Failing to install a wheelchair ramp to access a place that is open to the public;
- Having a lack of handrails on staircases or walkways;
- Failing to install adequate handicap restroom accommodations or parking spots in the parking lot of a public place;
- Imposing special fees to accommodate disabled persons;
- Not providing effective communication methods for persons with hearing, visual, or speech impairments;
- Having hallways or staircases that are too steep or narrow;
- Malfunctioning elevator or escalator systems that are constantly left out of order; and/or
- Not hiring or firing a worker for discriminatory reasons that are based on an otherwise qualified worker’s disability.
Additionally, an entity may also violate ADA compliance requirements by not maintaining accommodations that have already been installed or by not updating those accommodations in accordance with the current rules under the Act.
As discussed above, entities who are covered by the Act have an affirmative duty to remain in compliance with present standards. Thus, they need to take an initiative in ensuring that persons with disabilities can access and use their facilities easily and in a safe manner, or else they can be held liable for any injuries that result from their lack of upkeep.
What are Public Accommodations?
According to Title III of the ADA, any private or public commercial facility that is accessible by the general public must also be accessible to persons with disabilities. If not it must be modified to accommodate such persons. As mentioned, this may include equipment that ranges from handrails to software to aid individuals who are visually impaired. For instance, a library must install braille software on its computers to serve people who are blind.
In addition, it is also important to note that the provisions of the ADA will still apply to businesses or entities that were constructed before the ADA was ever passed. To put it simply, all private and public places that accommodate the general public must be up to code.
Some examples of public accommodations listed under Title III of the Act include:
- Doctors’ offices;
- Private schools;
- Health clubs;
- Daycare centers;
- Movie theaters;
- Retail stores;
- Sports stadiums; and
- Various other locations.
What are ADA Accommodations Lawsuits?
ADA accommodation lawsuits can be filed for multiple reasons under each of the five divisions under the Act. For instance, an individual who is suing due to lack of accommodations in a public place may be able to file a personal injury claim if they are injured or are involved in an accident because an accommodation did not exist.
For example, if the person has a physical disability and a store failed to install a wheelchair ramp, which caused them to hurt themselves when attempting to enter the store. Similarly, a personal injury suit can also be filed if the store did not maintain their wheelchair ramp and carelessly left it in a condition that was sure to cause harm to customers. In such a case, the individual could file a claim for negligence or premises liability.
On the other hand, ADA discrimination cases that fall under Title I of the Act (i.e., employers), may sue an employer for employment discrimination if the employer refuses to provide reasonable accommodations for an employee in the workplace. So long as a worker’s request is reasonable and would not place a heavy financial burden on their employer, they will be able to sue them for not granting their request for an accommodation that could help them do their job.
How is Liability for ADA Accommodations Violations Determined?
In general, there are two ways that a person can file a claim for an ADA accommodation violation: they can either file a private lawsuit in a local civil court, or can submit a complaint to the U.S. Department of Justice. If an individual submits a complaint to the U.S. Department of Justice, then the Department will review the complaint and conduct an investigation based on the claims laid out in it.
After the investigation, the Department may either find that no violation occurred, a violation occurred and they will warn the entity, a pattern of violations have occurred and they will settle the matter on the individual’s behalf, or if serious enough, they will sue the entity in a U.S. District Court.
On the other hand, if an individual chooses to file a private lawsuit, then a judge or a jury will be the final decider of whether such a violation occurred. Precisely, how liability will be determined will depend on the facts of a case, the legal claim that the lawsuit is based on (e.g., negligence), and the laws of the jurisdiction hearing the case.
Some legal remedies that a plaintiff may be able to recover in a lawsuit concerning ADA accommodation violations include citations, revocation of a business license or permit, monetary fines, and/or injunctive relief.
A defendant in these cases may also need to update their existing policies and modify their place of business to accommodate persons with disabilities. They could potentially have to pay monetary damages if the plaintiff files a personal injury lawsuit against them in civil court.
Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer for Help with ADA Accommodation Requirements?
The ADA offers many different kinds of protections to individuals with disabilities and strives to guarantee disabled persons equal treatment throughout all aspects of society. This is especially true when it comes to employment opportunities, employers who engage in discriminatory practices, and general accommodation requirements. The provisions of the ADA that focus on these three areas only seem to grow stronger with each passing year.
Thus, it can be difficult to keep up with new changes in the law since it is constantly being amended to make sure that the strongest protections are afforded to persons with disabilities. Also, some updates may be hard to understand without the help of a legal expert because legislatures intentionally provide vague definitions, so that the Act may apply to more people.
Therefore, if you or someone you love has been discriminated against on the basis of a disability, then it may be in your best interest to contact a local discrimination lawyer immediately. An experienced employment lawyer will be able to assess your case and can tell you whether you have a viable claim against a particular entity. Alternatively they can tell you which benefits you may be eligible for under the ADA.
Depending on your circumstances, your lawyer will also be able to assist you in filing a lawsuit against any parties whom you feel are behaving in a discriminatory manner. They can help you in recovering potential legal damages or remedies. Additionally, your lawyer can discuss your options for legal recourse and will be able to provide representation in court or through a method of alternative dispute resolution (e.g., arbitration, mediation, etc.).