The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed by Congress to make discrimination based on disability illegal. It has four main components, or Titles, that lay out specific guidelines for compliance with the ADA. Titles I and II deal with Employment and State and Local Government Activities/Public Transportation.
ADA Title III – Public Accommodations
Of all the Titles, this one is the most far ranging, impacting more people on a day-to-day basis than any of the others. Title III refers to public accommodations and states that businesses and nonprofits must offer physical access to goods and services that prohibit disabled people from being excluded, segregated or being subjected to unequal treatment in any way, shape or form.
Public accommodations include the owners and operators of just about every public entity including restaurants, retail stores, gas stations, hotels, doctor’s offices, movie theatres, homeless shelters, office buildings, libraries, and recreation facilities, among many others. In all, it is estimated that Title III covers more than five million private and public establishments. One notable exception is that religious organizations, including churches, synagogues or other places of worship, are not covered. In addition, state and local governments are not covered by Title III, but they are covered by ADA Title II.
These businesses are required to comply with architectural standards for new or retrofitted facilities and also must make reasonable modifications and efforts to provide accommodations that allow for the effective communication and provision of services for those who are hearing, visually, physically or mentally impaired. Physical barriers must also be removed to the extent that a business can reasonably do so. Some of these barrier removals include installing ramps, making curb cuts on sidewalks, widening doorways, adding braille to elevators, installing grab bars in toilet stalls and other similar measures.
Rules for new construction have many requirements, some of which include:
- 50% of all public entrances must be disabled accessible.
- Every bathroom must be accessible, with at least one stall in the bathroom deemed as disabled accessible.
- Where ATM machines are located, at least one must be disabled friendly.
- In clothing stores, at least one fitting room must be disabled accessible.
- In restaurants, all dining areas must be accessible.
- In libraries, all public and common areas must be accessible.
- In hotels, 4 percent of the first 100 rooms must be accessible for persons with hearing impairments.
- Where public phone banks are located, at least one must be disabled friendly.
Title III complaint violations can be filed with the Disability Rights Section of the U.S. Department of Justice. The DOJ may file a lawsuit where a pattern of discrimination is noted. Private parties can also file lawsuits to force compliance with Title III requirements. The Department of Justice maintains an ADA Information Line at (800) 514-0301 (voice) or (800) 514-0383 (TTY).
ADA Title IV – Telecommunications
Title IV deals with television and telephone access for individuals with speech and hearing disabilities. It ensures that people with disabilities have access to services such as cell phones, call-waiting services and other related functions.
At the time it was enacted, Title IV required telephone companies to establish telecommunications relay services so that callers with speech or hearing disabilities who use text telephones (TTY’s or TDD’s) could communicate with each other.
Title IV also requires closed captioning for public service announcements funded by the Federal government.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) enforces Title IV and handles complaints through its website here or by calling (888) 225-5322 (voice) or (888) 835-5322 (TTY).