The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a comprehensive federal law aimed at preventing discrimination against people with disabilities.
This legislation is divided into three primary titles:
- Title I, which addresses employment discrimination;
- Title II, which focuses on public entities and public transportation; and
- Title III, which deals with places of public accommodation and commercial establishments.
Public entities under Title II include but are not limited to, government-run parks, museums, and court buildings. Meanwhile, places of public accommodation under Title III encompass movie theaters, malls, recreation facilities, and other establishments open to the general public.
What Does Title I of the Americans With Disabilities Act Require?
Title I of the ADA mandates that both public and private employers may not discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities.
A disability is defined as a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as eating, walking, and lifting.
To be covered by the ADA, the disabled individual must be considered “qualified,” meaning they are capable of performing the job they hold or seek.
Additionally, the ADA requires employers to offer reasonable accommodations to qualified people with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations involve adjustments to how a task is normally performed, making the workplace more accessible, or modifying equipment or facilities. However, employees are only entitled to reasonable accommodations if they can perform the essential functions of their position, with or without accommodations.
Employers are not required to provide accommodations if doing so would create an undue burden on business operations.
An “undue burden” is a significant difficulty or expense that would be imposed on an employer in providing a reasonable accommodation. What qualifies as an undue burden depends on the circumstances of each case, including the size of the business, its financial resources, and the nature of its operations.
Here are some examples of situations where providing an accommodation might be considered an undue burden:
- A small business with limited resources would not be expected to install an expensive elevator to accommodate an employee who uses a wheelchair if doing so would cause significant financial hardship.
- A restaurant would not be required to provide a sign language interpreter for every customer who is deaf, as this would be a significant expense that would be difficult for the restaurant to absorb.
- An employer would not be required to modify the essential functions of a job to accommodate an employee with a disability if doing so would fundamentally alter the nature of the job, such as requiring a flight attendant to lift heavy objects if that is not a typical duty of the job.
What Does Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act Require?
Title II of the ADA requires state and local governments to provide equal opportunities for disabled individuals to access government services, programs, and activities. Examples include public schools, social services, state and local parks, courtrooms, and departments of motor vehicles.
The law mandates that state and local governments adhere to architectural standards during construction to ensure accessibility, relocate programs or provide access to services in inaccessible buildings. The law also mandates reasonable modifications be made to services, activities, or programs unless such modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of the program or result in undue administrative burden.
Let’s say that a city offers a recreational program for residents including a weekly fitness class in a local park. The fitness class is held in a grassy area that is difficult for people with mobility disabilities to access. A resident with a mobility disability requests an accommodation to make the class accessible, such as holding the class on a paved area or providing a ramp to the grassy area.
The city would need to consider this request and determine whether it is reasonable. If holding the class on a paved area or providing a ramp would not fundamentally alter the nature of the program and would not result in an undue administrative burden, the city would likely be required to provide the accommodation.
These accommodations might involve relocating the fitness class to a different area of the park, providing a temporary ramp, or making other modifications to ensure accessibility.
Regarding public transportation, Title II mandates that public transportation authorities make good-faith efforts to lease or purchase accessible buses. Additionally, the government must purchase new vehicles that meet accessibility requirements unless doing so would impose an undue burden.
Let’s say that a city operates a public bus system that includes a fleet of older buses that are not fully accessible to people with disabilities. The city receives federal funding for its public transportation system and is, therefore, subject to the accessibility requirements of Title II of the ADA.
The city would need to make a good-faith effort to lease or purchase accessible buses to replace its older buses. This good-faith effort might involve gradually phasing out the older buses and replacing them with accessible buses as funds become available or entering into a long-term leasing agreement with a bus manufacturer to ensure that a certain percentage of the buses in the fleet are accessible.
In addition, if the city were to purchase new buses, it would need to ensure that the new buses meet accessibility requirements unless doing so would impose an undue burden. An undue burden might arise if the cost of the accessible buses is significantly higher than the cost of non-accessible buses or if the accessible buses would require significant infrastructure changes or modifications to maintenance facilities.
What Does Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act Require?
Title III of the ADA applies to private businesses, nonprofits, commercial facilities, and privately owned transportation facilities that are generally open to the public, such as hotels, cleaners, restaurants, banks, and airports. Title III applies to landlords and building owners.
Entities covered by Title III may not exclude, segregate, or provide unequal treatment to disabled individuals. As a result, these entities must make buildings and services accessible to disabled individuals if it does not pose an undue burden.
Title III also requires that new buildings be constructed with accessibility in mind. Furthermore, places of public accommodation must provide auxiliary aids and services (e.g., interpreters or notetakers) to disabled individuals.
Do I Need the Help of a Lawyer for ADA Compliance?
If you need help with ADA compliance and the ADA covers you, consider reaching out to a discrimination lawyer. They can provide guidance on ADA regulations and suggest steps to bring your workplace or public space up to code.
LegalMatch is an online legal matching service that connects clients with attorneys who are well-suited to their needs. LegalMatch can help you find an employment lawyer who has experience with ADA compliance issues.
By filling out a brief questionnaire about your particular legal issue, LegalMatch can match you with lawyers in your area with experience in ADA compliance and related matters. Being matched with the right lawyer can save you time and effort in searching for the right attorney and increase the likelihood that you’ll find someone knowledgeable and capable of helping you with your specific legal needs.
Use LegalMatch to find an experienced and qualified employment lawyer for your ADA business compliance case today.