U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division
Americans with Disabilities Act
Questions and Answers
Barriers to employment, transportation, public accommodations, public services,
and telecommunications have imposed staggering economic and social costs
on American society and have undermined our well-intentioned efforts to
educate, rehabilitate, and employ individuals with disabilities. By breaking
down these barriers, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will enable
society to benefit from the skills and talents of individuals with disabilities,
will allow us all to gain from their increased purchasing power and ability
to use it, and will lead to fuller, more productive lives for all Americans.
The Americans with Disabilities Act gives civil rights protections to individuals
with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis
of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It guarantees equal
opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations,
employment, transportation, State and local government services, and telecommunications.
Fair, swift, and effective enforcement of this landmark civil rights legislation
is a high priority of the Federal Government. This booklet is designed to
provide answers to some of the most often asked questions about the ADA.
For answers to additional questions, call the ADA Information Line
Additional ADA resources are listed in the Resources section of this document,
Q. What employers are covered by title I of the ADA, and when is the
A. The title I employment provisions apply to private employers, State
and local governments, employment agencies, and labor unions. Employers
with 25 or more employees were covered as of July 26, 1992. Employers with
15 or more employees were covered two years later, beginning July 26, 1994.
Q. What practices and activities are covered by the employment nondiscrimination
A. The ADA prohibits discrimination in all employment practices, including
job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, training,
and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. It applies to
recruitment, advertising, tenure, layoff, leave, fringe benefits, and all
other employment-related activities.
Q. Who is protected from employment discrimination?
A. Employment discrimination is prohibited against "qualified individuals
with disabilities." This includes applicants for employment and employees.
An individual is considered to have a "disability" if s/he has
a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major
life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having
such an impairment. Persons discriminated against because they have a known
association or relationship with an individual with a disability also are
The first part of the definition makes clear that the ADA applies to persons
who have impairments and that these must substantially limit major life
activities such as seeing, hearing, speaking, walking, breathing, performing
manual tasks, learning, caring for oneself, and working. An individual with
epilepsy, paralysis, HIV infection, AIDS, a substantial hearing or visual
impairment, mental retardation, or a specific learning disability is covered,
but an individual with a minor, nonchronic condition of short duration,
such as a sprain, broken limb, or the flu, generally would not be covered.
The second part of the definition protecting individuals with a record of
a disability would cover, for example, a person who has recovered from cancer
or mental illness.
The third part of the definition protects individuals who are regarded as
having a substantially limiting impairment, even though they may not have
such an impairment. For example, this provision would protect a qualified
individual with a severe facial disfigurement from being denied employment
because an employer feared the "negative reactions" of customers
Q. Who is a "qualified individual with a disability?"
A. A qualified individual with a disability is a person who meets legitimate
skill, experience, education, or other requirements of an employment position
that s/he holds or seeks, and who can perform the oeessential functionsÓ
of the position with or without reasonable accommodation. Requiring the
ability to perform "essential" functions assures that an individual
with a disability will not be considered unqualified simply because of inability
to perform marginal or incidental job functions. If the individual is qualified
to perform essential job functions except for limitations caused by a disability,
the employer must consider whether the individual could perform these functions
with a reasonable accommodation. If a written job description has been prepared
in advance of advertising or interviewing applicants for a job, this will
be considered as evidence, although not conclusive evidence, of the essential
functions of the job.
Q. Does an employer have to give preference to a qualified applicant
with a disability over other applicants?
A. No. An employer is free to select the most qualified applicant available
and to make decisions based on reasons unrelated to a disability. For example,
suppose two persons apply for a job as a typist and an essential function
of the job is to type 75 words per minute accurately. One applicant, an
individual with a disability, who is provided with a reasonable accommodation
for a typing test, types 50 words per minute; the other applicant who has
no disability accurately types 75 words per minute. The employer can hire
the applicant with the higher typing speed, if typing speed is needed for
successful performance of the job.
Q. What limitations does the ADA impose on medical examinations and inquiries
A. An employer may not ask or require a job applicant to take a medical
examination before making a job offer. It cannot make any pre-employment
inquiry about a disability or the nature or severity of a disability. An
employer may, however, ask questions about the ability to perform specific
job functions and may, with certain limitations, ask an individual with
a disability to describe or demonstrate how s/he would perform these functions.
An employer may condition a job offer on the satisfactory result of a post-offer
medical examination or medical inquiry if this is required of all entering
employees in the same job category. A post-offer examination or inquiry
does not have to be job-related and consistent with business necessity.
However, if an individual is not hired because a post-offer medical examination
or inquiry reveals a disability, the reason(s) for not hiring must be job-related
and consistent with business necessity. The employer also must show that
no reasonable accommodation was available that would enable the individual
to perform the essential job functions, or that accommodation would impose
an undue hardship. A post-offer medical examination may disqualify an individual
if the employer can demonstrate that the individual would pose a "direct
threat" in the workplace (i.e., a significant risk of substantial harm
to the health or safety of the individual or others) that cannot be eliminated
or reduced below the oedirect threatÓ level through reasonable accommodation.
Such a disqualification is job-related and consistent with business necessity.
A post-offer medical examination may not disqualify an individual with a
disability who is currently able to perform essential job functions because
of speculation that the disability may cause a risk of future injury.
After a person starts work, a medical examination or inquiry of an employee
must be job-related and consistent with business necessity. Employers may
conduct employee medical examinations where there is evidence of a job performance
or safety problem, examinations required by other Federal laws, examinations
to determine current oefitnessÓ to perform a particular job, and voluntary
examinations that are part of employee health programs.
Information from all medical examinations and inquiries must be kept apart
from general personnel files as a separate, confidential medical record,
available only under limited conditions.
Tests for illegal use of drugs are not medical examinations under the ADA
and are not subject to the restrictions of such examinations.
Q. When can an employer ask an applicant to "self-identify"
as having a disability?
A. Federal contractors and subcontractors who are covered by the affirmative
action requirements of section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 may
invite individuals with disabilities to identify themselves on a job application
form or by other pre-employment inquiry, to satisfy the section 503 affirmative
action requirements. Employers who request such information must observe
section 503 requirements regarding the manner in which such information
is requested and used, and the procedures for maintaining such information
as a separate, confidential record, apart from regular personnel records.
A pre-employment inquiry about a disability is allowed if required by another
Federal law or regulation such as those applicable to disabled veterans
and veterans of the Vietnam era. Pre-employment inquiries about disabilities
may be necessary under such laws to identify applicants or clients with
disabilities in order to provide them with required special services.
Q. Does the ADA require employers to develop written job descriptions?
A. No. The ADA does not require employers to develop or maintain job
descriptions. However, a written job description that is prepared before
advertising or interviewing applicants for a job will be considered as evidence
along with other relevant factors. If an employer uses job descriptions,
they should be reviewed to make sure they accurately reflect the actual
functions of a job. A job description will be most helpful if it focuses
on the results or outcome of a job function, not solely on the way it customarily
is performed. A reasonable accommodation may enable a person with a disability
to accomplish a job function in a manner that is different from the way
an employee who is not disabled may accomplish the same function.
Q. What is "reasonable accommodation?"
A. Reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job
or the work environment that will enable a qualified applicant or employee
with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform
essential job functions. Reasonable accommodation also includes adjustments
to assure that a qualified individual with a disability has rights and privileges
in employment equal to those of employees without disabilities.
Q. What are some of the accommodations applicants and employees may need?
A. Examples of reasonable accommodation include making existing facilities
used by employees readily accessible to and usable by an individual with
a disability; restructuring a job; modifying work schedules; acquiring or
modifying equipment; providing qualified readers or interpreters; or appropriately
modifying examinations, training, or other programs. Reasonable accommodation
also may include reassigning a current employee to a vacant position for
which the individual is qualified, if the person is unable to do the original
job because of a disability even with an accommodation. However, there is
no obligation to find a position for an applicant who is not qualified for
the position sought. Employers are not required to lower quality or quantity
standards as an accommodation; nor are they obligated to provide personal
use items such as glasses or hearing aids.
The decision as to the appropriate accommodation must be based on the particular
facts of each case. In selecting the particular type of reasonable accommodation
to provide, the principal test is that o effectiveness, i.e., whether the
accommodation will provide an opportunity for a person with a disability
to achieve the same level of performance and to enjoy benefits equal to
those of an average, similarly situated person without a disability. However,
the accommodation does not have to ensure equal results or provide exactly
the same benefits.
Q. When is an employer required to make a reasonable accommodation?
A. An employer is only required to accommodate a "known" disability
of a qualified applicant or employee. The requirement generally will be
triggered by a request from an individual with a disability, who frequently
will be able to suggest an appropriate accommodation. Accommodations must
be made on an individual basis, because the nature and extent of a disabling
condition and the requirements of a job will vary in each case. If the individual
does not request an accommodation, the employer is not obligated to provide
one except where an individual's known disability impairs his/her ability
to know of, or effectively communicate a need for, an accommodation that
is obvious to the employer. If a person with a disability requests, but
cannot suggest, an appropriate accommodation, the employer and the individual
should work together to identify one. There are also many public and private
resources that can provide assistance without cost.
Q. What are the limitations on the obligation to make a reasonable accommodation?
A. The individual with a disability requiring the accommodation must
be otherwise qualified, and the disability must be known to the employer.
In addition, an employer is not required to make an accommodation if it
would impose an "undue hardship" on the operation of the employer's
business. "Undue hardship" is defined as an "action requiring
significant difficulty or expense" when considered in light of a number
of factors. These factors include the nature and cost of the accommodation
in relation to the size, resources, nature, and structure of the employer's
operation. Undue hardship is determined on a case-by-case basis. Where the
facility making the accommodation is part of a larger entity, the structure
and overall resources of the larger organization would be considered, as
well as the financial and administrative relationship of the facility to
the larger organization. In general, a larger employer with greater resources
would be expected to make accommodations requiring greater effort or expense
than would be required of a smaller employer with fewer resources.
If a particular accommodation would be an undue hardship, the employer must
try to identify another accommodation that will not pose such a hardship.
Also, if the cost of an accommodation would impose an undue hardship on
the employer, the individual with a disability should be given the option
of paying that portion of the cost which would constitute an undue hardship
or providing the accommodation.
Q. Must an employer modify existing facilities to make them accessible?
A. The employer's obligation under title I is to provide access for
an individual applicant to participate in the job application process,
and for an individual employee with a disability to perform the essential
functions of his/her job, including access to a building, to the work site,
to needed equipment, and to all facilities used by employees. For example,
if an employee lounge is located in a place inaccessible to an employee
using a wheelchair, the lounge might be modified or relocated, or comparable
facilities might be provided in a location that would enable the individual
to take a break with co-workers. The employer must provide such access unless
it would cause an undue hardship.
Under title I, an employer s not required to make its existing facilities
accessible until a particular applicant or employee with a particular disability
needs an accommodation, and then the modifications should meet that individual's
work needs. However, employers should consider initiating changes that will
provide general accessibility, particularly for job applicants, since it
is likely that people with disabilities will be applying for jobs. The employer
does not have to make changes to provide access in places or facilities
that will not be used by that individual for employment-related activities
Q. Can an employer be required to reallocate an essential function of
a job to another employee as a reasonable accommodation?
A. No. An employer is not required to reallocate essential functions
of a job as a reasonable accommodation.
Q. Can an employer be required to modify, adjust, or make other reasonable
accommodations in the way a test is given to a qualified applicant or employee
with a disability?
A. Yes. Accommodations may be needed to assure that tests or examinations
measure the actual ability of an individual to perform job functions rather
than reflect limitations caused by the disability. Tests should be given
to people who have sensory, speaking, or manual impairments in a format
that does not require the use of the impaired skill, unless it is a job-related
skill that the test is designed to measure.
Q. Can an employer maintain existing production/performance standards
for an employee with a disability?
A. An employer can hold employees with disabilities to the same standards
of production/performance as other similarly situated employees without
disabilities for performing essential job functions, with or without reasonable
accommodation. An employer also can hold employees with disabilities to
the same standards of production/performance as other employees regarding
marginal functions unless the disability affects the person's ability to
perform those marginal functions. If the ability to perform marginal functions
is affected by the disability, the employer must provide some type of reasonable
accommodation such as job restructuring but may not exclude an individual
with a disability who is satisfactorily performing a jobs essential functions.
Q. Can an employer establish specific attendance and leave policies?
A. An employer can establish attendance and leave policies that are
uniformly applied to all employees, regardless of disability, but may not
refuse leave needed by an employee with a disability if other employees
get such leave. An employer also may be required to make adjustments in
leave policy as a reasonable accommodation. The employer is not obligated
to provide additional paid leave, but accommodations may include leave flexibility
and unpaid leave.
A uniformly applied leave policy does not violate the ADA because it has
a more severe effect on an individual because of his/her disability. However,
if an individual with a disability requests a modification of such a policy
as a reasonable accommodation, an employer may be required to provide it,
unless it would impose an undue hardship.
Q. Can an employer consider health and safety when deciding whether to
hire an applicant or retain an employee with a disability?
A. Yes. The ADA permits employers to establish qualification standards
that will exclude individuals who pose a direct threat -- i.e., a significant
risk of substantial harm -- to the health or safety of the individual or
of others, if that risk cannot be eliminated or reduced below the level
of a oedirect threatÓ by reasonable accommodation. However, an employer
may not simply assume that a threat exists; the employer must establish
through objective, medically supportable methods that there is significant
risk that substantial harm could occur in the workplace. By requiring employers
to make individualized judgments based on reliable medical or other objective
evidence rather than on generalizations, ignorance, fear, patronizing attitudes,
or stereotypes, the ADA recognizes the need to balance the interests of
people with disabilities against the legitimate interests of employers in
maintaining a safe workplace.
Q. Are applicants or employees who are currently illegally using drugs
covered by the ADA?
A. No. Individuals who currently engage in the illegal use of drugs
are specifically excluded from the definition of a "qualified individual
with a disability" protected by the ADA when the employer takes action
on the basis of their drug use.
Q. Is testing for the illegal use of drugs permissible under the ADA?
A. Yes. A test for the illegal use of drugs is not considered a medical
examination under the ADA; therefore, employers may conduct such testing
of applicants or employees and make employment decisions based on the results.
The ADA does not encourage, prohibit, or authorize drug tests.
If the results of a drug test reveal the presence of a lawfully prescribed
drug or other medical information, such information must be treated as a
confidential medical record.
Q. Are alcoholics covered by the ADA?
A. Yes. While a current illegal user of drugs is not protected by
the ADA if an employer acts on the basis of such use, a person who currently
uses alcohol is not automatically denied protection. An alcoholic is a person
with a disability and is protected by the ADA if s/he is qualified to perform
the essential functions of the job. An employer may be required to provide
an accommodation to an alcoholic. However, an employer can discipline, discharge
or deny employment to an alcoholic whose use of alcohol adversely affects
job performance or conduct. An employer also may prohibit the use of alcohol
in the workplace and can require that employees not be under the influence
Q. Does the ADA override Federal and State health and safety laws?
A. The ADA does not override health and safety requirements established
under other Federal laws even if a standard adversely affects the employment
of an individual with a disability. If a standard is required by another
Federal law, an employer must comply with it and does not have to show that
the standard is job related and consistent with business necessity. For
example, employers must conform to health and safety requirements of the
U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. However, an employer
still has the obligation under the ADA to consider whether there is a reasonable
accommodation, consistent with the standards of other Federal laws, that
will prevent exclusion of qualified individuals with disabilities who can
perform jobs without violating the standards of those laws. If an employer
can comply with both the ADA and another Federal law, then the employer
must do so.
The ADA does not override State or local laws designed to protect public
health and safety, except where such laws conflict with the ADA requirements.
If there is a State or local law that would exclude an individual with a
disability from a particular job or profession because of a health or safety
risk, the employer still must assess whether a particular individual would
pose a "direct threat" to health or safety under the ADA standard.
If such a "direct threat" exists, the employer must consider whether
it could be eliminated or reduced below the level of a "direct threat"
by reasonable accommodation. An employer cannot rely on a State or local
law that conflicts with ADA requirements as a defense to a charge of discrimination.
Q. How does the ADA affect workers' compensation programs?
A. Only injured workers who meet the ADA's definition of an "individual
with a disability" will be considered disabled under the ADA, regardless
of whether they satisfy criteria for receiving benefits under workers' compensation
or other disability laws. A worker also must be "qualified" (with
or without reasonable accommodation) to be protected by the ADA. Work-related
injuries do not always cause physical or mental impairments severe enough
to "substantially limit" a major life activity. Also, many on-the-job
injuries cause temporary impairments which heal within a short period of
time with little or no long-term or permanent impact. Therefore, many injured
workers who qualify for benefits under workers' compensation or other disability
benefits laws may not be protected by the ADA. An employer must consider
work-related injuries on a case-by-case basis to know if a worker is protected
by the ADA.
An employer may not inquire into an applicant's workers' compensation history
before making a conditional offer of employment. After making a conditional
job offer, an employer may inquire about a person's workers compensation
history in a medical inquiry or examination that is required of all applicants
in the same job category. However, even after a conditional offer has been
made, an employer cannot require a potential employee to have a medical
examination because a response to a medical inquiry (as opposed to results
from a medical examination) shows a previous on-the-job injury unless all
applicants in the same job category are required to have an examination.
Also, an employer may not base an employment decision on the speculation
that an applicant may cause increased workers' compensation costs in the
future. However, an employer may refuse to hire, or may discharge an individual
who is not currently able to perform a job without posing a significant
risk of substantial harm to the health or safety of the individual or others,
if the risk cannot be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation.
An employer may refuse to hire or may fire a person who knowingly provides
a false answer to a lawful post-offer inquiry about his/her condition or
worker's compensation history.
An employer also may submit medical information and records concerning employees
and applicants (obtained after a conditional job offer) to state workers'
compensation offices and "second injury" funds without violating
ADA confidentiality requirements.
Q. What is discrimination based on "relationship or association"
under the ADA?
A. The ADA prohibits discrimination based on relationship or association
in order to protect individuals from actions based on unfounded assumptions
that their relationship to a person with a disability would affect their
job performance, and from actions caused by bias or misinformation concerning
certain disabilities. For example, this provision would protect a person
whose spouse has a disability from being denied employment because of an
employer's unfounded assumption that the applicant would use excessive leave
to care for the spouse. It also would protect an individual who does volunteer
work for people with AIDS from a discriminatory employment action motivated
by that relationship or association.
Q. How are the employment provisions enforced?
A. The employment provisions of the ADA are enforced under the same
procedures now applicable to race, color, sex, national origin, and religious
discrimination under title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended,
and the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Complaints regarding actions that occurred
on or after July 26, 1992, may be filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission or designated State human rights agencies. Available remedies
will include hiring, reinstatement, promotion, back pay, front pay, restored
benefits, reasonable accommodation, attorneys' fees, expert witness fees,
and court costs. Compensatory and punitive damages also may be available
in cases of intentional discrimination or where an employer fails to make
a good faith effort to provide a reasonable accommodation.
Q. What financial assistance is available to employers to help them make
reasonable accommodations and comply with the ADA?
A. A special tax credit is available to help smaller employers make
accommodations required by the ADA. An eligible small business may take
a tax credit of up to $5,000 per year for accommodations made to comply
with the ADA. The credit is available for one-half the cost of "eligible
access expenditures" that are more than $250 but less than $10,250.
A full tax deduction, up to $15,000 per year, also is available to any business
for expenses of removing qualified architectural or transportation barriers.
Expenses covered include costs of removing barriers created by steps, narrow
doors, inaccessible parking spaces, restroom facilities, and transportation
vehicles. Information about the tax credit and the tax deduction can be
obtained from a local IRS office, or by contacting the Office of Chief Counsel,
Internal Revenue Service.
Tax credits are available under the Targeted Jobs Tax Credit Program (TJTCP)
for employers who hire individuals with disabilities referred by State or
local vocational rehabilitation agencies, State Commissions on the Blind,
or the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and certified by a State Employment
Service. Under the TJTCP, a tax credit may be taken for up to 40 percent
of the first $6,000 of first-year wages of a new employee with a disability.
This program must be reauthorized each year by Congress. Further information
about the TJTCP can be obtained from the State Employment Services or from
State Governors' Committees on the Employment of People with Disabilities.
Q. What are an employer's recordkeeping requirements under the
employment provisions of the ADA?
A. An employer must maintain records such as application forms submitted
by applicants and other records related to hiring, requests for reasonable
accommodation, promotion, demotion, transfer, lay-off or termination, rates
of pay or other terms of compensation, and selection for training or apprenticeship
for one year after making the record or taking the action described (whichever
occurs later). If a charge of discrimination is filed or an action is brought
by EEOC, an employer must save all personnel records related to the charge
until final disposition of the charge.
Q. Does the ADA require that an employer post a notice explaining its
A. The ADA requires that employers post a notice describing the provisions
of the ADA. It must be made accessible, as needed, to individuals with disabilities.
A poster is available from EEOC summarizing the requirements of the ADA
and other Federal legal requirements for nondiscrimination for which EEOC
has enforcement responsibility. EEOC also provides guidance on making this
information available in accessible formats for people with disabilities.
Q. What resources does the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have
available to help employers and people with disabilities understand and
comply with the employment requirements of the ADA?
A. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has developed several
resources to help employers and people with disabilities understand and
comply with the employment provisions of the ADA.
A Technical Assistance Manual that provides "how-to"
guidance on the employment provisions of the ADA as well as a resource directory
to help individuals find specific information.
A variety of brochures, booklets, and fact sheets.
For information on how to contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,
see page 30.
State and Local Governments
Q. Does the ADA apply to State and local governments?
A. Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals
with disabilities in all programs, activities, and services of public entities.
It applies to all State and local governments, their departments and agencies,
and any other instrumentalities or special purpose districts of State or
local governments. It clarifies the requirements of section 504 of the Rehabilitation
Act of 1973 for public transportation systems that receive Federal financial
assistance, and extends coverage to all public entities that provide public
transportation, whether or not they receive Federal financial assistance.
It establishes detailed standards for the operation of public transit systems,
including commuter and intercity rail (AMTRAK).
Q. When do the requirements for State and local governments become effective?
A. In general, they became effective on January 26, 1992.
Q. How does title II affect participation in a State or local government's
programs, activities, and services?
A. A state or local government must eliminate any eligibility criteria
for participation in programs, activities, and services that screen out
or tend to screen out persons with disabilities, unless it can establish
that the requirements are necessary for the provision of the service, program,
or activity. The State or local government may, however, adopt legitimate
safety requirements necessary for safe operation if they are based on real
risks, not on stereotypes or generalizations about individuals with disabilities.
Finally, a public entity must reasonably modify its policies, practices,
or procedures to avoid discrimination. If the public entity can demonstrate
that a particular modification would fundamentally alter the nature of its
service, program, or activity, it is not required to make that modification.
Q. Does title II cover a public entity's employment policies and practices?
A. Yes. Title II prohibits all public entities, regardless of the size
of their work force, from discriminating in employment against qualified
individuals with disabilities. In addition to title II's employment coverage,
title I of the ADA and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibit
employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities
by certain public entities
Q. What changes must a public entity make to its existing facilities
to make them accessible?
A. A public entity must ensure that individuals with disabilities are
not excluded from services, programs, and activities because existing buildings
are inaccessible. A State or local government's programs, when viewed in
their entirety, must be readily accessible to and usable by individuals
with disabilities. This standard, known as "program accessibility,"
applies to facilities of a public entity that existed on January 26,
1992. Public entities do not necessarily have to make each of their existing
facilities accessible. They may provide program accessibility by a number
of methods including alteration of existing facilities, acquisition or construction
of additional facilities, relocation of a service or program to an accessible
facility, or provision of services at alternate accessible sites.
Q. When must structural changes be made to attain program accessibility?
A. Structural changes needed for program accessibility must be made
as expeditiously as possible, but no later than January 26, 1995. This three-year
time period is not a grace period; all alterations must be accomplished
as expeditiously as possible. A public entity that employs 50 or more persons
must have developed a transition plan by July 26, 1992, setting forth the
steps necessary to complete such changes.
Q. What is a self-evaluation?
A. A self-evaluation is a public entity's assessment of its current
policies and practices. The self-evaluation identifies and corrects those
policies and practices that are inconsistent with title II's requirements.
All public entities must complete a self-evaluation by January 26, 1993.
A public entity that employs 50 or more employees must retain its self-evaluation
for three years. Other public entities are not required to retain their
self-evaluations, but are encouraged to do so because these documents evidence
a public entity's good faith efforts to comply with title II's requirements.
Q. What does title II require for new construction and alterations?
A. The ADA requires that all new buildings constructed by a State or
local government be accessible. In addition, when a State or local government
undertakes alterations to a building, it must make the altered portions
Q. How will a State or local government know that a new building is accessible?
A. A State or local government will be in compliance with the ADA for
new construction and alterations if it follows either of two accessibility
standards. It can choose either the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards
or the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings
and Facilities, which is the standard that must be used for public accommodations
and commercial facilities under title III of the ADA. If the State or local
government chooses the ADA Accessibility Guidelines, it is not entitled
to the elevator exemption (which permits certain private buildings under
three stories or under 3,000 square feet per floor to be constructed without
Q. What requirements apply to a public entity's emergency telephone services,
such as 911?
A. State and local agencies that provide emergency telephone services
must provide "direct access" to individuals who rely on a TDD
or computer modem for telephone communication. Telephone access through
a third party or through a relay service does not satisfy the requirement
for direct access. Where a public entity provides 911 telephone service,
it may not substitute a separate seven-digit telephone line as the sole
means for access to 911 services by nonvoice users. A public entity may,
however, provide a separate seven-digit line for the exclusive use of nonvoice
callers in addition to providing direct access for such calls to its 911
Q. Does title II require that telephone emergency service systems be
compatible with all formats used for nonvoice communications?
A. No. At present, telephone emergency services must only be compatible
with the Baudot format. Until it can be technically proven that communications
in another format can operate in a reliable and compatible manner in a given
telephone emergency environment, a public entity would not be required to
provide direct access to computer modems using formats other than Baudot.
Q. How will the ADA's requirements for State and local governments be
A. Private individuals may bring lawsuits to enforce their rights under
title II and may receive the same remedies as those provided under section
504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, including reasonable attorney's fees.
Individuals may also file complaints with eight designated Federal agencies,
including the Department of Justice and the Department of Transportation.
Q. What are public accommodations?
A. A public accommodation is a private entity that owns, operates, leases,
or leases to, a place of public accommodation. Places of public accommodation
include a wide range of entities, such as restaurants, hotels, theaters,
doctors' offices, pharmacies, retail stores, museums, libraries, parks,
private schools, and day care centers. Private clubs and religious organizations
are exempt from the ADA's title III requirements for public accommodations.
Q. Will the ADA have any effect on the eligibility criteria used by public
accommodations to determine who may receive services?
A. Yes. If a criterion screens out or tends to screen out individuals
with disabilities, it may only be used if necessary for the provision of
the services. For instance, it would be a violation for a retail store to
have a rule excluding all deaf persons from entering the premises, or for
a movie theater to exclude all individuals with cerebral palsy. More subtle
forms of discrimination are also prohibited. For example, requiring presentation
of a driver's license as the sole acceptable means of identification for
purposes of paying by check could constitute discrimination against individuals
with vision impairments. This would be true if such individuals are ineligible
to receive licenses and the use of an alternative means of identification
Q. Does the ADA allow public accommodations to take safety factors into
consideration in providing services to individuals with disabilities?
A. The ADA expressly provides that a public accommodation may exclude
an individual, if that individual poses a direct threat to the health or
safety of others that cannot be mitigated by appropriate modifications in
the public accommodation's policies or procedures, or by the provision of
auxiliary aids. A public accommodation will be permitted to establish objective
safety criteria for the operation of its business; however, any safety standard
must be based on objective requirements rather than stereotypes or generalizations
about the ability of persons with disabilities to participate in an activity.
Q. Are there any limits on the kinds of modifications in policies, practices,
and procedures required by the ADA?
A. Yes. The ADA does not require modifications that would fundamentally
alter the nature of the services provided by the public accommodation. For
example, it would not be discriminatory for a physician specialist who treats
only burn patients to refer a deaf individual to another physician for treatment
of a broken limb or respiratory ailment. To require a physician to accept
patients outside of his or her specialty would fundamentally alter the nature
of the medical practice.
Q. What kinds of auxiliary aids and services are required by the ADA
to ensure effective communication with individuals with hearing or vision
A. Appropriate auxiliary aids and services may include services and
devices such as qualified interpreters, assistive listening devices, notetakers,
and written materials for individuals with hearing impairments; and qualified
readers, taped texts, and Brailled or large print materials for individuals
with vision impairments.
Q. Are there any limitations on the ADA's auxiliary aids requirements?
A. Yes. The ADA does not require the provision of any auxiliary aid
that would result in an undue burden or in a fundamental alteration in the
nature of the goods or services provided by a public accommodation. However,
the public accommodation is not relieved from the duty to furnish an alternative
auxiliary aid, if available, that would not result in a fundamental alteration
or undue burden. Both of these limitations are derived from existing regulations
and caselaw under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and are to be determined
on a case-by-case basis.
Q. Will restaurants be required to have brailled menus?
A. No, not if waiters or other employees are made available to read
the menu to a blind customer.
Q. Will a clothing store be required to have brailled price tags?
A. No, not if sales personnel could provide price information orally
Q. Will a bookstore be required to maintain a sign language interpreter
on its staff in order to communicate with deaf customers?
A. No, not if employees communicate by pen and notepad when necessary.
Q. Are there any limitations on the ADA's barrier removal requirements
for existing facilities?
A. Yes. Barrier removal need be accomplished only when it is "readily
achievable" to do so.
Q. What does the term "readily achievable" mean?
A. It means "easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without
much difficulty or expense."
Q. What are examples of the types of modifications that would be readily
achievable in most cases?
A. Examples include the simple ramping of a few steps, the installation
of grab bars where only routine reinforcement of the wall is required, the
lowering of telephones, and similar modest adjustments.
Q. Will businesses need to rearrange furniture and display racks?
A. Possibly. For example, restaurants may need to rearrange tables and
department stores may need to adjust their layout of racks and shelves in
order to permit access to wheelchair users.
Q. Will businesses need to install elevators?
A. Businesses are not required to retrofit their facilities to install
elevators unless such installation is readily achievable, which is unlikely
in most cases.
Q. When barrier removal is not readily achievable, what kinds of alternative
steps are required by the ADA?
A. Alternatives may include such measures as in-store assistance for
removing articles from inaccessible shelves, home delivery of groceries,
or coming to the door to receive or return dry cleaning.
Q. Must alternative steps be taken without regard to cost?
A. No, only readily achievable alternative steps must be undertaken.
Q. How is "readily achievable" determined in a multisite business?
A. In determining whether an action to make a public accommodation accessible
would be "readily achievable," the overall size of the parent
corporation or entity is only one factor to be considered. The ADA also
permits consideration of the financial resources of the particular facility
or facilities involved and the administrative or fiscal relationship of
the facility or facilities to the parent entity.
Q. Who has responsibility for ADA compliance in leased places of public
accommodation, the landlord or the tenant?
A. The ADA places the legal obligation to remove barriers or provide
auxiliary aids and services on both the landlord and the tenant. The landlord
and the tenant may decide by lease who will actually make the changes and
provide the aids and services, but both remain legally responsible.
Q. What does the ADA require in new construction?
A. The ADA requires that all new construction of places of public accommodation,
as well as of "commercial facilities" such as office buildings,
be accessible. Elevators are generally not required in facilities under
three stories or with fewer than 3,000 square feet per floor, unless the
building is a shopping center or mall; the professional office of a health
care provider; a terminal, depot, or other public transit station; or an
airport passenger terminal.
Q. Is it expensive to make all newly constructed places of public accommodation
and commercial facilities accessible?
A. The cost of incorporating accessibility features in new construction
is less than one percent of construction costs. This is a small price in
relation to the economic benefits to be derived from full accessibility
in the future, such as increased employment and consumer spending and decreased
Q. Must every feature of a new facility be accessible?
A. No, only a specified number of elements such as parking spaces and
drinking fountains must be made accessible in order for a facility to be
"readily accessible." Certain nonoccupiable spaces such as elevator
pits, elevator penthouses, and piping or equipment catwalks need not be
Q. What are the ADA requirements for altering facilities?
A. All alterations that could affect the usability of a facility must
be made in an accessible manner to the maximum extent feasible. For example,
if during renovations a doorway is being relocated, the new doorway must
be wide enough to meet the new construction standard for accessibility.
When alterations are made to a primary function area, such as the lobby
of a bank or the dining area of a cafeteria, an accessible path of travel
to the altered area must also be provided. The bathrooms, telephones, and
drinking fountains serving that area must also be made accessible. These
additional accessibility alterations are only required to the extent that
the added accessibility costs do not exceed 20% of the cost of the original
alteration. Elevators are generally not required in facilities under three
stories or with fewer than 3,000 square feet per floor, unless the building
is a shopping center or mall; the professional office of a health care provider;
a terminal, depot, or other public transit station; or an airport passenger
Q. Does the ADA permit an individual with a disability to sue a business
when that individual believes that discrimination is about to occur, or
must the individual wait for the discrimination to occur?
A. The ADA public accommodations provisions permit an individual to
allege discrimination based on a reasonable belief that discrimination is
about to occur. This provision, for example, allows a person who uses a
wheelchair to challenge the planned construction of a new place of public
accommodation, such as a shopping mall, that would not be accessible to
individuals who use wheelchairs. The resolution of such challenges prior
to the construction of an inaccessible facility would enable any necessary
remedial measures to be incorporated in the building at the planning stage,
when such changes would be relatively inexpensive.
Q. How does the ADA affect existing State and local building codes?
A. Existing codes remain in effect. The ADA allows the Attorney General
to certify that a State law, local building code, or similar ordinance that
establishes accessibility requirements meets or exceeds the minimum accessibility
requirements for public accommodations and commercial facilities. Any State
or local government may apply for certification of its code or ordinance.
The Attorney General can certify a code or ordinance only after prior notice
and a public hearing at which interested people, including individuals with
disabilities, are provided an opportunity to testify against the certification.
Q. What is the effect of certification of a State or local code or ordinance?
A. Certification can be advantageous if an entity has constructed or
altered a facility according to a certified code or ordinance. If someone
later brings an enforcement proceeding against the entity, the certification
is considered "rebuttable evidence" that the State law or local
ordinance meets or exceeds the minimum requirements of the ADA. In other
words, the entity can argue that the construction or alteration met the
requirements of the ADA because it was done in compliance with the State
or local code that had been certified.
Q. When are the public accommodations provisions effective?
A. In general, they became effective on January 26, 1992.
Q. How will the public accommodations provisions be enforced?
A. Private individuals may bring lawsuits in which they can obtain court
orders to stop discrimination. Individuals may also file complaints with
the Attorney General, who is authorized to bring lawsuits in cases of general
public importance or where a oepattern o practiceÓ of discrimination
is alleged. In these cases, the Attorney General may seek monetary damages
and civil penalties. Civil penalties may not exceed $50,000 for a first
violation or $100,000 for any subsequent violation.
Q. Is the Federal government covered by the ADA?
A. The ADA does not cover the executive branch of the Federal government.
The executive branch continues to be covered by title V of the Rehabilitation
Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination in services and employment on
the basis of handicap and which is a model for the requirements of the ADA.
The ADA, however, does cover Congress and other entities in the legislative
branch of the Federal government.
Q. Does the ADA cover private apartments and private homes?
A. The ADA does not cover strictly residential private apartments and
homes. If, however, a place of public accommodation, such as a doctor's
office or day care center, is located in a private residence, those portions
of the residence used for that purpose are subject to the ADA's requirements.
Q. Does the ADA cover air transportation?
A. Discrimination by air carriers in areas other than employment is
not covered by the ADA but rather by the Air Carrier Access Act (49 U.S.C.
Q. What are the ADA's requirements for public transit buses?
A. The Department of Transportation has issued regulations mandating
accessible public transit vehicles and facilities. The regulations include
requirements that all new fixed-route, public transit buses be accessible
and that supplementary paratransit services be provided for those individuals
with disabilities who cannot use fixed-route bus service. For information
on how to contact the Department of Transportation, see page 30.
Q. How will the ADA make telecommunications accessible?
A. The ADA requires the establishment of telephone relay services for
individuals who use telecommunications devices for deaf persons (TDD's)
or similar devices. The Federal Communications Commission has issued regulations
specifying standards for the operation of these services.
Q. Are businesses entitled to any tax benefit to help pay for the cost
A. As amended in 1990, the Internal Revenue Code allows a deduction
of up to $15,000 per year for expenses associated with the removal of qualified
architectural and transportation barriers. The 1990 amendment also permits
eligible small businesses to receive a tax credit for certain costs of compliance
with the ADA. An eligible small business is one whose gross receipts do
not exceed $1,000,000 or whose workforce does not consist of more than 30
full-time workers. Qualifying businesses may claim a credit of up to 50
percent of eligible access expenditures that exceed $250 but do not exceed
$10,250. Examples of eligible access expenditures include the necessary
and reasonable costs of removing architectural, physical, communications,
and transportation barriers; providing readers, interpreters, and other
auxiliary aids; and acquiring or modifying equipment or devices.
This list contains the telephone numbers of Federal agencies that are responsible
for providing information to the public about the Americans with Disabilities
Act and organizations that have been funded by the Federal government to
provide information through staffed information centers. The agencies and
organizations listed are sources for obtaining information about the law's
requirements and informal guidance in understanding and complying with the
Telephone Numbers for ADA Information
ADA Information Line
U.S. Department of Justice
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
For ADA documents and questions
For ADA documents
U.S. Department of Transportation
For ADA questions
ADA documents and information
Federal Communications Commission
ADA legal questions
TDD: use relay service
Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
Job Accommodation Network
President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities
U.S. Department of Education
Regional Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers
Call automatically connects to your regional center
Addresses for ADA Information
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Disability Rights Section
P.O. Box 66738
Washington, DC 20035-6738
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
1801 L Street, NW
Washington, DC 20507
U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Transit Administration
400 Seventh Street, SW
Washington, DC 20590
Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
1331 F Street, NW Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20004-1111
Federal Communications Commission
1919 M Street, NW
Washington, DC 20554
This document is available in the following alternate formats:
- Large print
- Electronic file on computer disk and electronic bulletin board (202) 514-6193.
Note: Reproduction of this document is encouraged.