Guest Author - Monica J. Foster
Title III of the ADA applies to public accommodations, which are private entities that are open to the public. Some examples of public accommodations are as restaurants, hotels, theaters, retail stores and shopping centers, grocery stores, parks that are not owned by the government, hospitals and doctor's offices and law offices to name a few. There are many other examples of private facilities that would fall under Title III.
All public accommodations must make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, and procedures that deny equal access to people with disabilities. An example of modifying a policy is allowing service animals in a place that would not normally allow pets, such as a hotel or restaurant. A public accommodation does not have to modify a policy if it would greatly alter that establishmentís goods, services, or operations. Letís say a doctor who specializes exclusively in burn treatment may refer one of their patients with a disability to another doctor, if the individual is seeking something beyond or other than burn treatment. A burn specialist, however, could not refuse to provide burn treatment to, for example, an individual who also happens to have AIDS or is HIV positive.
Public places must provide auxiliary aids and services when they are necessary to ensure effective communication with people who are deaf, blind or have similar sensory or communication disabilities. Examples of auxiliary aids may include such things as a qualified interpreter, closed captioning on TVs, assistive listening headsets during a meeting, and Braille materials as alternate format handouts. An auxiliary aid is not required if it would result in an undue burden or fundamentally alter the businessí operations.
Undue burden is evaluated by weighing various things, including the nature and net cost of the accommodation, the overall financial resources of the facility or business, and the impact of the accommodation on the operation of the facility.
The ADA requires the removal of architectural barriers in facilities where "readily achievable." Some examples include putting in ramps, making curbs on sidewalks and building entrances accessible, rearranging furniture, widening doorways, installing grab bars in restrooms, insulating pipes for roll-under sinks, lowering towel dispenses in restrooms and more. What is readily achievable? Readily achievable means it is easy to accomplish and can be done without much difficulty or expense.
New buildings that are designed and constructed to be first occupied by a public accommodation after January 26, 1993 are required to be accessible to people with disabilities under Title III. The specific architectural standards for accessibility in new construction are contained in the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) issued by the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board), an independent federal agency. For more about the ADAAG, contact the Access Board at the website below.
If you are being discriminated against by a public accommodation covered under Title III of the ADA, there have several options. A person may begin by contacting the manager and/or owner of the facility that he or she thinks is discriminating against them. The best way to notify a business manager or owner is in writing so you have dated written proof of all your correspondence in the event things escalate. Have written proof of contacts. Keep a log of calls listing when the call was made, the number, the location and the name and position of the person that was reached. If resolving the problem with a business is not possible alone, the person has the right to file a formal complaint with the Department of Justice or file a lawsuit.
If you feel you or another person have been discriminated against by an entity covered by title III, send a letter to the Department of Justice, at the address below, including the following information:
- Your full name, address, and telephone number, and the name of the party discriminated against;
- The name of the business, organization, or institution that you believe has discriminated;
- A description of the act or acts of discrimination, the date or dates of the discriminatory acts, and the name or names of the individuals who you believe discriminated; and
- Other information that you believe necessary to support your complaint. Please send copies of relevant documents. Do not send original documents. Keep a copy.
Sign and send the letter to the address below:
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Civil Rights Division
Disability Rights - NYAVE
Washington, D.C. 20530
The Disability Rights Section will consider your complaint and inform you of its action. The office will investigate the complaint and determine whether to begin litigation. We will not necessarily make a determination on each complaint about whether or not there is an ADA violation. If we believe there is a pattern or practice of discrimination or the complaint raises an issue of general public importance, we may attempt to negotiate a settlement of the matter or we may bring an action in U.S. District Court. Any such action would be taken on behalf of the Unites States. We do not act as an attorney for, or representative of, the complainant.
You also have the option of filing your own case in U.S. District Court. Depending on the nature of your complaint, other information would also be helpful to our investigation. Small businesses have limited protection from lawsuits. Except with respect to new construction and alterations, no lawsuit can be filed concerning acts or omissions that occur before July 26, 1992, by businesses with 25 or fewer employees and gross receipts of $1,000,000 or less. Also, no lawsuit can be filed concerning acts before January 26, 1993, by businesses with 10 or fewer employees and gross receipts of $500,000 or less.
Do include the name or names of the individuals or entities who have an ownership and/or managerial interest in each facility or business that is the subject of your complaint, with phone numbers and addresses, including zip codes, if you have them. Get information specifying whether the facility is owned and/or operated by a private entity or a state or local government. Include the nature of the activity or service provided by the business.
If the allegation is failure to remove architectural barriers, a description, including as much detail as possible (even photo evidence) of the barriers should be included. In addition to photos, videotapes, diagrams, or other illustrations that accurately set forth the alleged violation can and should be included.
Suggestions for remedying the alleged violations of the ADA are also allowed to be included and are welcome. Be sure to include Information about whether a related complaint was filed with a U.S. Attorney Office, or any other Federal, State, or local agency, or any court, or whether you intend to file such a complaint.
For more information about Title III, please use the links below.