A Quick Look at ADA Title III: Public Accommodations

We continue our commemoration of the 30th Anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with a look at Title III: Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability by Public Accommodations and in Commercial Facilities. What is a “public accommodation”? According to this factsheet from the Department of Justice, public accommodations are businesses that are generally open to the public and fall into one of 12 categories including places of lodging, places of exhibition or entertainment, service establishments, and places of education, among others. It also includes commercial facilities such as warehouses, factories, and office buildings. Title III may also be applied to some nonprofit organizations that offer services or own and manage facilities, such as community and social service centers (note that organizations which offer services funded by state or federal agencies may be covered by Title II of the ADA or other civil rights laws and may also be covered under Title I as employers).

Title III, which is enforced by the Department of Justice, sets minimum requirements for accessibility for any updates or alterations to a facility and for new construction. It requires these businesses and facilities to remove barriers in existing spaces where it’s easy to do so without much difficulty or expense. It also covers services, requiring that business provide reasonable accommodations to their usual business practices when serving people with disabilities and that they take steps to communicate effectively with customers or clients with hearing, vision, or speech disabilities. Most recently, this Title has also been applied to websites where business or services are conducted, such as retail sales.

The NIDILRR-funded ADA National Network has ten regional centers ready to assist business and facility owners in understanding their responsibilities under the ADA. Many of the questions they receive fall under some common topics: service animals, incentives for removing barriers and accommodating customers, website accessibility, and (especially recently) providing accessible healthcare. Here are a few resources to help answer these questions:

Service Animal Resource Hub – A collection of resources divided in to 9 topic areas including basic information, workplace issues, traveling, emergency planning, and the difference between service and support animals. This hub as a section covering service animals, small businesses and other public accommodations.

ADA Quick Tips: Tax Incentives – This brief factsheet describes several incentive programs from Federal and state governments to encourage compliance with the ADA.

Digital Accessibility: What Have We Learned and What Does the Future Hold – Join the Great Lakes ADA Regional Center for a webinar July 23rd to look back at how the ADA has been applied to a digital world that did not exist when the law was written in 1990 and what the future may hold. This webinar will be archived for future viewing.

Health Care and the ADA – This collection from the Pacific ADA Regional Center covers the main areas of accessibility in health care including modification of policies, practices, and procedures; effective communication; and issues in substance and alcohol use disorder treatment. In addition, this center hosts regularly scheduled webinars on health care and the ADA which are archived for on-demand viewing.

Learn more:

At Your Service: Welcoming Customers with Disabilities is a self-paced webcourse for people interested in discovering best practices for working with customers with disabilities. The course is free. Educational credits are available for a fee.

ADA Checklist for Existing Facilities helps identify opportunities for readily achievable barrier removal. The checklist has a list of the 12 categories of public accommodations that fall under this Title.

Our Research In Focus series highlighted research on Key Factors in Successfully Integrating Service Dogs in the Workplace and the fact that Many Fitness Facilities May Not Be Fully Accessible to People with Disabilities.

The Department of Justice, the US Access Board, and the ADA National Network offer a wealth of resources to assist businesses and organizations to understand their responsibilities under the ADA and other civil rights laws to provide access to physical and virtual spaces and to services for their customers and clients with disabilities.

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